5 years ago

Will airlines step up and provide a better hotel booking experience?

With an obvious interest in the results, the Expedia Affiliate Network has released research highlighting consumer appetite for booking hotels and other ancillary services as part of an integrated experience on airline websites.

The survey, carried out by YouGov with 2,000 US and UK consumers, has been aggregated into an infographic at the end of this article.

The principal results show that the vast majority of consumers – 90% – would book hotels through airline websites if they found the offers “compelling and convenient.” That’s a big IF, especially when looking at many of the current hotel booking experiences on airline websites.

Respondents said their current frustrations with booking hotels on airline websites are: Hidden costs, unclear pricing and limited options.

Of course, EAN would prefer that the hotels use their network to create a customized solution for airlines looking to boost revenues, so let’s take a look at the current state of ancillary bookings on airline websites.

The Good: JetBlue

JetBlue has one of the most compelling and convenient offers in the industry with JetBlue Getaways. Clean, crisp and easy-to-navigate, the product provides a simple way to buy a full packaged vacation, including flight and hotel.

The inventory is easy to explore, with the Top 10 Deals highlighting the most popular getaways available. Travelers are also provided with guaranteed 360 Support, which provides peace-of-mind when booking a hotel through the airline.

It’s always a risk to hand off customer service to a 3rd-party and losing control of the end-to-end consumer experience.


United’s hotel booking engine is deceptively straightforward. The branding is simple and the layout decluttered with plenty of white space. The key information is the focus here – there’s the map, the hotel rating and related reviews, the room category and price, and a simple slider to sort results.

By keeping the product clean and straightforward, United actually provides one of the most useful interfaces in the airline ancillary revenue landscape. Especially useful for the user is the ability to book a specific room category from the main search results – one less click to purchase a desired room.

United also offers a robust vacation package booking tool, which provides car rental, hotel and flight together in an attractive layout.

American Airlines

American Airlines has a decent hotel booking tool, but could benefit from some of United’s de-cluttering. Hotels can be easily selected visually according to amenity icon, TripAdvisor review rating, address or location, which is useful information to have when booking a hotel.

Reviews, photos and maps are also easily toggled, and provides more granular information control than United’s booking experience.

The Step Tracker at the top of the screen is also generally a nice thing to have, although it occupies a lot of prime real estate that may be better served to move the results up.

AA also offers car rentals, vacations, cruises and activities – and each of those interfaces could use a modern facelift to deliver the more direct, less complex experience users are familiar with.

The Bad: Delta

Compared with the interfaces of their airborne brethren, Delta just isn’t cutting it. It’s not inherently bad – just bad by comparison. The “Reviewer Score” is unclear, for example, and the various available rates and fees are hidden from the main search results. For example, why is the “Total Price” hidden in a small font below the nightly rate?

Delta has some work to do on their ancillary offering, especially given the general attractiveness and utility of their redesigned homepage experience. The Delta homepage was redesigned back in August 2010; as we reported then, Delta said that “we’ll be making more updates in the coming months to give you a better, more consistent experience throughout our site.” What happened?

The Ugly: Virgin America

Virgin is usually on the receiving end of compliments for their user experience. Hotel bookings, not so much.

Virgin America should take a second look at the appearance of this product, because it is surprisingly ugly, difficult to use and just plain unfriendly to users looking for a consistent, straightforward experience for booking hotels along with their flights.

EAN Infographic:

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick is the Editorial Director for Tnooz. Prior to this role, Nick has multi-hyphenated his way through a variety of passions: restaurateur, photographer, filmmaker, corporate communicator, Lyft driver, Airbnb host, journalist, and event organizer.



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  1. Amy Silverston

    I do desk research for advertising agencies, which led to an agency giving my number to their client, the then affiliate marketing lady of Expedia in London. It promised to be a small, undemanding chore, looking at the main airlines’ web sites to see if/when/how they offer hotels to people booking plane tickets; plus whether they provide destination info to encourage people to go where they fly.

    Then I received the list of airlines. All 146 of them.

    It took a fortnight. A tedious two week revelation of where incompetent marketers and those who gained their post as a result of nepotism within small dictatorships go to demonstrate their ineptitude to a worldwide audience.

    Airline web sites are probably doing more to combat global warming than any legislation; deterring people from travelling by making it harder to buy a plane ticket than leaping on to the back of a passing flying pig.

    I found what I needed from the few well-designed web sites in 10 minutes; others took up to three quarters of an hour, going from screen to screen, deducing what euphemism they had invented for ‘information on where you are going’. Site maps? Useless.

    Light relief – for anyone not flying with them – came from Aeropostal, the Venezuelan airline. Travellers’ blog sites warned of brazen theft by employees – wrap a suitcase in plastic to deter tampering and they slice through it. The entire company was described as ‘airborne delinquents’.

    Aeropostal’s customer service included reducing the fleet of 22 planes to three overnight, blaming currency controls for preventing them from maintaining the fleet or making a profit, leaving thousands stranded in the peak holiday season. The following year owners and employees of the airline were arrested on Interpol drug trafficking warrants. The fibbers – they had been making a profit, and from something with no currency controls at all.

    The best airline web site for making places sound worth visiting was Qantas (see travelinsider.qantas.com.au).

    Apparently the info was to be used for a press release aimed at airlines, to get them to smarten up their act, though the lady commissioning the study left soon after and I have yet to see anything.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      If you’re ever interested in revisiting that analysis, please share with us!

      Definitely sounds like there is an opportunity here for many airlines to do much better.

  2. Andy Keeley

    Really interesting article. Thanks.

    EasyJet Holidays have a nice integration of hotels to deliver the Holidays tab on their website. Also, Webjet in Australia have a strong hotel only offering and integrated hotel upsell in the flight booking journey.

    (p.s. this is flagrant self promotion as we (intuitive) wrote both websites and our technology powers the hotel booking engine)

  3. Disarm Doors

    Qantas’ “HooRoo” is another interesting one.

    Really nice combination of product, inspiration and social content/interactivity.

    Great post.

    Happy Travels,


  4. Matt Alsbury-Morris

    I’m also surprised not to see British Airways in the mix, as one of very few airlines that actually does offer dynamic packaging of hotels and cars. They’ve been in this market for the past 4 years… as still offer the option to book the items separately too.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      I focused primarily on the US carriers, and given that there were UK consumers in this study as well, I should have looked a little further!


  5. Margaret Jastrebski

    I’m surprised to see Southwest missing from this list. They’ve made a huge investment in their hotel path over the past 2-3 years and have created a really competitive, compelling user experience. They have Hotels front and center on their home page, have hotel-specific email and marketing campaigns, and have a slick booking path – all while maintaining their promise of great customer service and no hidden fees. Definitely worth having a second look.

    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Definitely a good looking product, with plenty of options. I like the way they show you all available group discounts and room categories once you select a property, and the compare function is also nice since you can’t see much about each property on page.

      Thanks for pointing this out! I’m interested to explore this topic further.



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