A new player is joining the online travel search engine business and it is a most unlikely candidate. Airbus will launch its iflya380 web site this week (it is expected to go live on 13 July), hoping to capitalize on what the airframer sees as strong customer preference for travel on the super jumbo A380 aircraft.
In advance of the launch, Airbus today provided a preview of the search engine’s portal to media at the Farnborough Airshow, demonstrated its capabilities and talked about the justification for the project.
The new site is not just about A380 routes or destinations, though those details drive its underlying operation. Selecting a flight in the search results brings up content that is focused on inflight amenities, in addition to the flight duration and price. Of course, the results are limited to routes that offer A380 service, either non-stop or via a connection.
“We have witnessed a true appetite for the [A380] aircraft. The silence and space of the cabin is making it unique for competing in the airline space for something that is not fare only, for the experience. We are answering passenger demand to make sure that they can select the cabin they want which is the A380 today,” explained Airbus digital transformation officer Marc Fontaine in today’s briefing.
For those travelers who feel a sense of wanderlust but do not have a specific destination in mind, the iflya380 site offers up what the company calls “inspirational information about each city” to go with the list of all the A380 routes and operators available. For those who prefer to fly with a specific airline, the site presents all 13 A380 operators and allows travelers to see the cabin amenities and routes available. And if it’s just aeroporn you’re after, there are photos from across social media channels with the #A380 hashtag on the site, too.
Ultimately Airbus does not particularly care which A380 route or airline a traveler chooses; it simply wants passengers to treat the aircraft type as their primary focus when shopping, a stiff challenge given that travelers typically pay attention to fare and schedule first. It is an uphill battle but the airframer is not alone in fighting for passengers to consider their comfort and overall #PaxEx first (and there is plenty of unscientific evidence to suggest that tech-savvy travelers are paying very close attention, and planning accordingly: see the comments section of this article on the 9-abreast 787).
Fortunately, even though travelers may be slow to adopt ‘aircraft-type first’ booking habits, Airbus was able to secure buy-in from its airline partners relatively easily. Stephane Dupont, the project lead, today described the offering as a “win-win for Airbus and the A380 operators”, and suggested that securing their participation was relatively easy.
We visited with the 13 operators and had the support of all of them. For Airbus it was new but for the airlines they are familiar with [metasearch engines]. For them it is an opportunity to showcase their product.
The underlying technology is built on the QPX search engine from Google’s ITA Software group. Bookings are handled directly through the operating airlines with deep-link click-through available on nine of the 13 carriers. Airbus is not looking to take a direct commission on the sales or otherwise participate financially in the process. The goal is simply to drive more A380 bookings and use that as a carrot to attract more airlines to the product while also helping passengers find those flights, something the airframer believes travelers are looking for and having trouble finding.
And, while it is possible for similar sites to be built for other aircraft types, Fontaine does not see that as likely, at least for now, noting, “We think that the A380 has a unique value proposition.”