Digital Natives: LCCs still rule in online engagement

This analysis initially appeared as a guest post on travolution, entitled Low-cost carriers still rule in online engagement

One innovation that low-cost carriers brought to the airline industry is a staunch focus on direct online sales, at a time when the established full-service carriers still relied largely on the GDS. But strategy differences are narrowing, with Lufthansa looking to slap a surcharge on indirect bookings, and Ryanair opening up their seat inventory for sales partners.

What does this strategy shift mean for airline online engagement? Do LCCs have a towering lead in online visits, or did the legacy carriers catch up with their direct brand traffic?

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Digital Airlines: Online traffic predicts 75% of passenger volume

From fashion to aviation, brands are longing to increase their direct to consumer (D2C) sales. Back in 2012, airlines paid more in fees to the global distribution systems (GDS) than the total profit in their industry – and the IATA predicted that the future of airline distribution is increasing direct sales, through the carrier’s own booking site. With Lufthansa introducing a surcharge for GDS bookings, airlines are undoubtedly serious about driving consumers to buy directly from them.

But how far has the industry come along? Do eyeballs on the carrier’s web site translate to people in the plane? And what are the secrets of the most successful digital airlines?

To find this out, we have created a dataset of 40 leading airlines – including the top 10 in the world and most European LCCs – and collected their online traffic data from SimilarWeb. We then run this data through a linear regression model to get some insight on the industry trends.

We could hardly imagine what we would learn from this model:
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