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Orbitz flies ahead

New competitive intelligence from Keynote Systems reveals an increasingly tight competition among the leading online travel agencies with Orbitz edging out its competitors with the highest customer satisfaction rankings among online airline travel customers. According to the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings for Online Travel and Airline Web Sites, Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia are the top sites in the online travel and airline industry in delivering a positive online customer experience and in customer acquisition success.
Keynote’s annual study of the online travel and airline industry is based on research with 2,000 customers as they completed flight research, reservations and customer support tasks at 16 leading online travel agency and airline Web sites. Keynote’s proprietary research technology allows for the collection of detailed quantitative, qualitative and behavioral data from actual customers as they perform tasks at each site.

Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia were ranked as the leading sites in the online travel and airline industry based on the Keynote Customer Experience Rankings, an overall measure of online customer experience based on evaluation of more than 250 metrics for each of the 16 sites in the study. The online travel agency sites, such as Orbitz and Travelocity, dominated the study ranking ahead of all airline sites in terms of customer satisfaction and customer acquisition success. The agency sites’ success is driven by their strong lead helping customers search for a flight and in perceptions of flight availability and price satisfaction. In fact, after price, the ability to compare flights across carriers was the most important factor for online consumers searching for a flight, with 61% of online consumers saying this was a key consideration. Less than half of all airline site visitors (49%) described those sites as “helpful” in their flight search and booking process, whereas an average of 67% of visitors to leading online travel agency sites described them as helpful.
On a similar basis, Orbitz edged out the competition based on its online flight search and booking process, as well as positive perceptions about flight availability and prices on the site. Expedia, which has consistently been the pace setter in the online travel industry, also performed strongly in ease of finding a flight and flight availability. Expedia has received the top customer experience ranking in Keynote studies of the travel planning, cruise, hotel and lodging industries, as well as the previous airline industry study. Expedia also garners the highest industry brand perceptions according to Keynote studies.
Excluding travel agency sites, Southwest, American and JetBlue were the leading airline sites in terms of both the online customer experience and customer acquisition success. This marks the second consecutive year in which Southwest led all airline sites, and marks a significant improvement in performance for the American Airlines Web site. Southwest and JetBlue were the only airline sites to closely compete with the online travel agency sites in terms of price satisfaction.
When consumers have a positive online experience, it typically increases their perceptions of the overall brand, and Keynote reported that online travel and airline sites universally saw significant brand reputation increases based on the customer’s online experience. One leading online travel agency site saw its positive brand perception double from just 30% before the prospective customers used the site to 70% positive brand perception after their online experience.
“Once consumers use an online travel agency or airline site their perceptions of the company’s brand tend to increase dramatically,” said Dr. Brown. “In the airline industry, promoting your Web site not only serves to drive revenue, but also to increase brand reputation.”

“Over the past year we have seen the competition among the leading online travel agency sites draw tighter,” said Dr. Bonny Brown, director of research at Keynote. “At the same time, these agency sites have really consolidated their lead over pure airline sites.”