Travel Agents don’t target cheap flights

Recently a leading UK travel site went bust stranding thousands of passengers throughout Europe, which I would have assumed would have lead to a spike in search traffic for “cheap flights” but checking Google insights for search showed over the last 30 days a drop in the Travel category. With a monthly estimate in the UK of 5,000,000 searches a month it is the top search term none of the high street travel agencies are shown.

The only airlines who feature in the top 10 results for “cheap flights” are EasyJet #4 and FlyBe #10 but many airlines buy traffic around this term using Google AdWords such as BritishAirways, AirCanada and EgyptAir for around $2.50/click.  If travel agents want to increase their share of the travel market they need to ensure that they are visible in the search results for high travel terms such as “cheap flights”.

While it is likely that this is not a high conversion keyword that leads to guaranteed sales, it is likely to be a keyword used early in the decision making process which can guide the final purchase decision.

Checking how travel agents and airlines performed in even higher profile searches such as “flights” with 25,000,000 searches/month in the UK shows a little more hope for airlines but a failure from travel agents to capture any of this traffic.  Along with social media feed and news results showing the top 10 results for “flights” are FlyBe #3, EasyJet #5 and BritishAirways #6.  Again a number of airlines such as BritishAirways, Continental, and Lufthansa are buying traffic with Google AdWords at around $1.90/click.

With the massive spike in prices for air travel leading up to Christmas, I would expect to see more of the known travel agencies shown in the organic search results considering the sheer volume of traffic.  The leader in the market appears to be who also features #1 in the organic results and #1 of the AdWords results for “cheap flights” for most air travel related searches.  This makes it clear that their online marketing team understand the value of search to their business and have invested resources to ensure they have volume.  Once you have sufficient volume you can then examine improved returns using complex multivariate conversion optimisation.

What was interesting is that compared to the travel sector from the 15th December the Travel category actually grew bucking the trend of falling interest in cheap flights. Still around 75% of the searches were for Air Travel with the remainder of interest going to Vacation Destinations & Hotels/Accommodations subcategories of Travel. What this does show that air travel still represents a massive portion of the market and likely an important area for early cross-selling of add-ons such as destination activities and accommodation.

It is likely that many of the high street travel agencies missed out on the spike in bookings with the collapse of FlyGlobespan and this money has gone direct to the affiliates, wholesaler’s and airlines direct.  It is likely that “cheap flights” is one of the many terms that stranded passengers used when trying to return home after the company collapsed.  Another popular term that would have been used would be “domestic flights” as travellers look to get as close to home as possible.  Even the use of Google AdWords advising of offers of rescue for stranded passengers such as EasyJet’s “special rescue fee” of 60 pounds for Flyglobespan passengers stuck in France, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal or Balearic Islands would have made sense. There are a number of interesting books around Aviation marketing that if you work for a travel company in their online marketing area I suggest that you read if you want to learn more.

If you are one of those who had booked with FlyGlobespan they have advised in the event that you do wish to make your own travel arrangements, some carriers are offering special fares to Globespan passengers:

  • BMI Baby – 0844 245 0055
  • Easyjet – 0871 244 2366
  • FlyBe – 0871 700 2000
  • Ryanair – 0871 246 0000
  • – 0871 226 1737

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