Nielsen//NetRatings reported that while the majority, or 54%, of online travel shoppers begin travel research with an online travel agency, consumers are evenly split between travel agencies and airline Web sites when it comes to the actual purchase of online travel. As far as researching goes, 37% of online travel shoppers begin research at a travel supplier Web site, and 9% begin with a travel meta-search provider.
With nearly 50% of airline ticket sales and reservations conducted exclusively online in the first half of 2005, online airline suppliers have a stronger foothold in conversion. Agencies fared better in drawing visitors to the site for price comparison shopping, destination searches and multi-trip bookings.
Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Delta ranked as the three most visited airline Web sites during April 2005. Southwest led with 8.1 mln unique Web surfers, compared to 5.7 mln and 4.9 mln that visited American and Delta, respectively. Southwest converted the most lookers into bookers with a 14% visitor conversion rate, followed by Delta and American with 10 and 9%.