Airlines Get Online Boost from Airfare Wars

Summer airfare wars drove U.S. Web surfers to the Web sites of almost all the major airlines in August 2001, according to data from Nielsen//NetRatings. Late summer airfare wars put several U.S. air carriers among the fastest growing Web properties for the week ending Aug. 19.

US Airways’ Web site saw its Web traffic rise 72 percent to 503,000 unique visitors, making it the fastest growing airline site. Continental Airlines grew 34 percent to 344,000 unique visitors, while Northwest Airlines recorded 21 percent growth and attracted 406,000 surfers. United Airlines jumped 18 percent to 561,000 surfers.

“Airfare wars entice consumers to take action on flight deals usually reserved for travelers who book tickets in advance,” said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst at NetRatings. “The Internet provides an ideal medium for airlines to advertise special promotions and provide hassle-free travel planning. With Labor Day around the corner, surfers are taking advantage of these special offers.”

Traffic to Airline Sites, August 2001
Property Unique Audience
Week Ending
Week Ending
US Airways 292 503 72%
Continental Airlines 257 344 34%
Northwest Airlines 335 406 21%
United Airlines 477 561 18%
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Airline sites aren’t the only ones benefiting from the sale of discount ticket sales. A one-day sale of discount American Airlines airfares through Yahoo and Travelocity on August 23 drove an increase of 71 percent in same day sales, according to comScore Networks. The results were nearly triple the 24 percent growth shown by the previous one-day sale from the partnership.

The price of the average American Airlines ticket booked at Travelocity dropped 19 percent (from $405 to $330), reflecting the promotional package, comScore found. But the low prices resulted in a fourfold increase in American Airlines sales growth for the day, including what comScore called a “halo effect” — an increase in overall site sales courtesy of the aggressive promotion.

The discount fares were also available at American Airlines’ own Web site, where the number of bookings more than doubled and dollar sales soared 93 percent for the day.

ComScore’s data is obtained from its confidential monitoring of the online buying activity of a representative cross-section of 1.5 million Internet users.

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