Momondo Group CEO Hugo Burge thinks a plan by rival Skyscanner to enable airlines to open branded storefronts with their own look and feel on metasearch sites would confuse consumers and gut the essence of the sector — comparison shopping.

Speaking at Skift Global Forum at Tobacco Dock in London Tuesday, Burge told Skift Research Director Luke Bujarski that it can be confusing for a metasearch site to collect consumers’ credit card details but it’s the airline that does the selling.

Burge likened Skyscanner’s recent whitepaper on turning metasearch into TMall-like storefronts for airlines to being “a bit like eating a Chinese meal” and you’re hungry an hour later.

Later, he “applauded” the whitepaper for triggering new debate on the topic.

Burge’s Momondo Group has two metasearch brands, Momondo and Cheapflights, and he said the sector needs to remember that the essence of metasearch is being transparent, and giving consumers the ability to compare prices and make informed decisions.

In a separate session at the Forum, Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams argued that the storefront model, which would resemble the look and feel of individual airlines’ websites, would not be confusing because there would be a uniform search experience.

Burge said he is not writing off facilitated bookings, where transactions take place on meta sites but the suppliers handle customer service, but added that it has not been perfected and needs further testing, which Momondo is doing.

Burge said he believes in assisted bookings, “but I wouldn’t signal it as the holy grail.”

Addressing the state of the sector, Burge said there is a lot of sameness to tech and product in metasearch today, and brands can differentiate themselves by providing personalization and creating an emotional connection with consumers.

Momondo’s Cheapflights brand has been transitioning from a deal publisher to metasearch sites over the last few years.

“We didn’t invent the metasearch category, Burge said, adding “we see ourselves as an underdog.”

The challenge for Momondo was to create a brand that’s emotionally engaging, and the company took a big step toward it, Burge says, with Momondo’s The DNA Journey.

Photo Credit: Momondo Group CEO Hugo Burge speaking with Skift's Luke Bujarski (R) at Skift Forum Europe in London on April 4, 2017 Russell Harper / Skift