Orbitz President Barney Harford stood up on stage at Travelcom in Atlanta last week talking about all of the checks that Orbitz has sent out in recent months. He said the amount of the checks was substantial and that customers were loving it. The online travel agency has been sending out refunds to customers who find lower prices on airline tickets after they book on Orbitz. Orbitz was in the news recently when they announced an end to their booking fees, which generate up to 60 percent of the company’s profit.
Since Travelocity, Expedia and Priceline dropped them, and the climate for air travel is a tough as after 9/11, it was time for Orbitz to do the same–at least through the spring. Harford told the Wall Street Journal that he has a number of ways to save in other ways to ‘make sure business is right-sized’ (he’s English), but declined to elaborate.
Among the facts that were the most intriguing at the meeting we attended in Atlanta was a graphic that showed a downward trend for the number of travelers using online travel agencies like Orbitz and Expedia to book trips. More and more people are gravitating to airline and hotel sites directly. Comscore research also showed that people are taking much longer and looking at more and more sites and more pages per site to do their research. Another finding was that people with lower incomes like things that are free–and the words complimentary, as in complimentary rooms–appeals more to higher income travelers.
A representative from Google also said that searches including the words ‘discount’ and budget are showing up more and more in records of traveler’s Google searches.