Delta wants to drive more direct traffic to its website and to make a Delta.com visit a unique experience — sort of like the distinct shopping experience consumers get walking into an Apple store, one official said.
Delta, like American, also wants to reduce its distribution costs, and Delta’s pullout from the three OTA sites could be a negotiating ploy.
When asked about Delta’s withdrawal, Bill Miller, senior vice president of strategic partnerships for Travelong, which operates, CheapOair, said: “We’ve had a 10-plus-year partnership with Delta and we fully expect to renew our contract with Delta in 2011. Â This is our only comment at this time.”
Several searches this morning for JFK to Atlanta Delta flights through CheapOair and OneTravel Â turned up United Airlines, US Airways and AmericanÂ flights instead. Â Here are CheapOAir search results from a Delta query. Notice the DL airline code at bottom left and United and US Airways featured in search results.
Unlike American, which pulled its flights off Orbitz, Delta hasn’t publicly proclaimed its intent to pursue a direct-connect strategy, although that can’t be ruled out as a future goal.
Instead, Delta is getting a tad more Southwest-like and explains its exit from the three smaller OTAs as a bid to drive more traffic to Delta.com.
Speaking at a Delta investor event Dec. 17,Â Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s executive vice president of network planning, revenue management and marketing, said the airline wants to drive more direct traffic to its website and will do so through enhancements, and offering loyalty currency and other exclusive website features.
“You are purchasing our product [and] the most robust experience you should have in that transactionÂ should theoretically be our website,” Hauenstein said. “We look at it very much like an Apple store versus Best Buy. You can buy components orÂ Apple products at both. Your experience in an Apple store is obviously quite different than it is at a Best Buy store. That modelÂ is what we think about when we think about Delta.com.â€ť
The one thing that the Delta and American moves have in common is that both airlines are pushing to reduce distribution costs. Thus, Delta’s pullout from BookIt.com, CheapOair.com and OneTravel may give the airline leverage with the likes of Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline.
And, don’t underestimate the import of Delta’s decision to withdraw inventory from lesser-known OTAs — they own a piece of the pie.
CheapOair consistently ranks among the most-visited U.S. travel websites. In a recent tally, CheapOair ranked just behind Orbitz and Travelocity in percentage of visits at No. 6, and ahead of Hotwire, Kayak, Bing Travel and Cheap Tickets among the top 10.