Finding the right time to buy tickets is often the biggest stress factor for travelers. Expedia wants to help with new technology.
The pandemic also caused sales at Expedia to collapse. While that was brutal, it also made certain things possible in the first place, says John Kim. He is responsible for the strategy, design, technology and operation of all services at the online travel agency, including booking flights.
On the one hand, the crisis has revealed certain difficulties in the customer experience, such as how to deal with refunds. These problems could be corrected in the quieter time. On the other hand, it has become possible to finally implement ideas that previously partially existed but were repeatedly postponed, Kim said.
An accurate price forecast
The result is a new technology platform called Open World. Expedia has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in them. The most important new feature when searching for flights is an intelligent price alert. “We’ve noticed that one of the biggest stressors for customers is when exactly they should book to get the best deal,” says Kim.
In the app, which has only been published in the USA and Canada so far (the rest of the world is to follow), Expedia now shows how prices have developed over the past few weeks. Users can then create an alert on a specific flight to find out if the price changes.
“This is the lowest price we expect”
At the same time they receive a prognosis. “We expect that the prices will only increase until departure,” it says. Or: «This is the lowest price that we expect for this search». This is made possible by the huge amount of data that the online travel agency has and evaluates with artificial intelligence and turns into a forecast.
The second improvement Expedia made was with refunds. It was not uncommon for travelers to have outstanding balances with several airlines during the pandemic. You can now display the online travel agency directly to logged-in customers when searching for a flight. If you want, you can use the credit to pay immediately.
It’s about more than price and flight time
But it shouldn’t stop there. Expedia plans to significantly improve flight search again next year. The company is currently testing prototypes that can do even more than the current, already improved range. “We have to improve the search results,” says Julie Kyse, who is responsible for cooperation with the airlines at the American giant.
For a long time, offers like Expedia could only sort their results by price and flight time. In the meantime, however, there are many more criteria that are decisive for travelers. Is seat reservation included? Can I rebook? Does this include checked baggage? “They have to know exactly what they’re getting,” says Kyse.
Mobile bookings have doubled
In the future versions of Expedia’s flight search, users will be able to select these extras individually. And depending on what you select, the prices change immediately. “So there are no more surprises at check-in,” says Kyse.
There is a clear reason why her company relies primarily on the app: “Mobile bookings have doubled compared to the time before the pandemic.”