AA.com Stays Ahead of the Game?

For the last 18 months, AA.com
has undergone extensive reconstruction. During this time, the AA.com team have been talking to customers about their needs, reviewing and selecting various technologies, and developing complex applications. The new site has been rolled out in a phased process to allow customers to adapt. It currently receives 700,000 visitors on average per day. In an exclusive interview, Scott Hyden
, Managing Director of AA Interactive Marketing tells Internet Travel News about AA`s new baby.

1. Who designed the new AA.com?

Our internal development team at AA.com, working in conjunction with several “best in class” vendors, with input and validation from our best customers designed the new AA.com.

2. I understand that AA.com is the result of customer feedback. How did you approach your customers and by what means did you get this information?

Throughout the entire project, we were absolutely committed to getting feedback from our customers along the way.  We first conducted focus groups in Dallas, Newark, Chicago, San Jose, New York City and Detroit to determine what our customers liked/disliked about our old site and other commerce Web sites.  After incorporating their thoughts, we reviewed creative designs with another set of focus groups, and after the completion of a working prototype, we conducted usability studies with customers to make adjustments to the new design.
3. What was the main objective of the AA.com enhancements?

We had three main objectives for the AA.com redesign: to make the site easier to navigate; to make finding fare sales and other specials more convenient; and to provide an easy tool for managing an AAdvantage account online.

4. While other sectors of the travel industry have reduced spending for technology developments in light of September 11th, American Airlines have obviously continued to make a considerable investment in e-commerce.  Can you tell Internet Travel News why American Airlines felt this was justified at this time?

AA.com is not just a booking tool for American Airlines; it is an important informational and customer service resource for our customers.  Especially since September 11, it has been a priority for American to provide our customers with the most up-to-date airline news and information, including flight status and airport security policies.  The redesigned AA.com - with its new Search functionality and robust FAQs - provides a convenient tool for finding important information.

5.  Can you compare the enhanced AA.com to the previous site (what features make it more user-friendly)?

The new and improved AA.com -which includes a new booking engine and improved user interface - offers greater personalization, more intuitive navigation and a search function making it easier for customers to find information and book travel.  New “fly-out?Emenus on the home page put all information just one click away.  Additionally, a Net SAAver Search feature allows users to search all discounted fares posted on AA.com by departure and/or arrival city.  Plus, the Net SAAver Alert feature which appears in the My Account section allows users to select up to 30 of their favorite destinations, and the site will notify them of sales in these markets.



6. What features are the most popular?

Perhaps the most popular feature is the enhanced Net SAAver & Special OffersSM section. This section offers a bigger, better selection of low fares, the latest AAdvantage bonus mileage offers, discount vacation packages, special promotions and sweepstakes especially designed for our customers.  The Net SAAver Search feature found within this section allows the user to search all discounted fares posted on AA.com by origin and/or destination. The Net SAAver Alert feature which appears in the My Account section allows users to select up to 30 of their favorite destinations regarding fare sales, and the site will notify them of sales in these markets.

7. How important is it to provide users with a multi-lingual web presence?

The new AA.com includes the most important features that existed on the previous site, including reservations, online management of AAdvantage accounts, award booking, flight status notification and Net SAAver & Special OffersSM.  While booking and pricing capabilities existed for U.K. residents, the addition of these capabilities for Canadian customers has been added to the new AA.com.  We believe this is a complete, robust offering, and we will continue to monitor and add new features - including a multi-lingual capability as appropriate.
8. As the industry has become more competitive, have you achieved any cost-savings by developing your online channel?

Convenient features including award-booking, online upgrade purchasing, flight status notification and gates and times information are valuable tools for customers that result in cost savings.
9.  How has the Internet changed the way that you communicate with your

AA.com has an increased ability to deliver messaging that is relevant customers.  For example, the Net SAAver Alert feature which appears in the My Account section allows users to select up to 30 of their favorite destinations, and the site will notify them of sales in these markets.  Additionally, AA.com offers e-mail products tailored for the customer.  The AAdvantage eSummarySM provides current account information include mileage balance and the Net SAAver Fares® e-mail which is sent weekly, lists special discounted fares and more for domestic and international destinations.  Also, AAirmailSM contains personalized travel information, updates about American Airlines service and current promotions.

10. Have you embarked upon any Email/SMS promotional activities and if so what?
We currently offer three opt-in e-mail products on AA.com - Net SAAver Fares®, AAdvantage eSummarySM and AAirmailSM.  Our customers voluntarily provide us with personal information - such as their e-mail addresses, favorite destinations, hometown airports and travel preferences - within their personal profiles on the `My Account` page, which can be updated anytime on AA.com.  They can opt-in to receive personalized e-mail products announcing fare sales, promotions and other airline news and information.  Currently, customers can earn 1,000 miles when they opt-in for the AAdvantage eSummary.  These are great services that our customers find valuable.

11. What have you found to be the most effective forms of online promotion?

We use a mix of online marketing formats to promote AA.com, including banner ads, search engines, joint marketing partnerships, e-mail marketing, site personalization and sweepstakes.  All of these formats have been effective for different goals and calls to action.  For example, sweepstakes are useful in stimulating new trial traffic to the site, while ad banners are effective when promoting great fare sales.

Our highly successful campaigns generally revolve around special offers and promotions -available via AA.com.  We heavily promote specials to ensure our customers are aware of the great values found on our Web site. 


12. You have clearly recognised the importance of Customer Service.  Do you feel that online business gives you the opportunity to address this?

The redesigned AA.com offers more than just online reservations - it provides our customers with an invaluable informational and customer service resource.  In fact, the enhanced Customer Service section on the new AA.com provides password help, baggage and refund information, and `contact AA,` a detailed list of Customer Service, Ticket Office and AAdvantage e-mail addresses and phone numbers. In addition to providing outstanding customer service through telephone and email channels, AA.com has begun working on pre-emptive online help through effective search and self-help knowledge base systems.
13. AA.com has won several awards.  How have you managed to stay ahead of the competition?

AA.com has received many awards including being recognized as one of the largest e-commerce sites on the Internet (Media Metrix), named one of Yahoo! Internet Life `10 Most Popular Travel Sites,` and earned a Bronze iNova Award in the Corporate Web site category.  Popular AAdvantage features like award-booking, online upgrade purchasing and other features such as flight status notification have provided AA.com a competitive edge.  However, the key differentiator for AA.com is our ongoing commitment to the site`s personalization features, which allow us to provide a customer with the information most relevant to their individual needs.


14. What effect, if any, do you expect the zero-commission announcements to have on the future of airline websites?

Travel agents will continue to be an important partner and integral part of our business at American Airlines.  With the redesign of our Web site, we want AA.com to be the most convenient, personalized and rewarding place for customers and AAdvantage members to conduct business online with American Airlines.

15.  Do you feel that the travel industry has fully embraced the Internet?

Since the `dot-com boom` ended, airline and travel Web sites represent some of the few success stories.  In fact, airline Web sites are growing in popularity everyday.AA.com has experienced a 90% growth rate year over year in revenue.  Additionally, since January, AA.com has experienced record daily site traffic with a peak of one million site visitors on 2 consecutive business days.

16. Do you have plans to further expand your online presence?

Yes, our platform was built to allow for future enhancements.  An emphasis is placed on ensuring all enhancements offer ease and flexibility.