Skift Take

Supplemental flight data like Wi-Fi availability and seat pitch is slowly coming to online search. Ctrip's entry may accelerate that.

Ctrip, one of China’s largest online travel booking agents, is adding new functionality to its flight search tool that will tell frequent flyers how many miles each trip will earn.

The new functionality comes through an API made by 30K, a California-based company that delivers tools for displaying ancillary flight information against online searches. Traditionally, online travel agents like Orbitz or Kayak only show specific display results for flight search that include timing and flight information. Increasingly, however, consumers are asking for additional flight data such as availability of Wi-Fi, seat pitch and in-flight entertainment options.

Many of those amenities have already been loaded into worldwide online travel agents through services like Routehappy, which carefully curates and shares flight amenity data. The display of mileage earning rates, however, has so far been relatively unexplored among domestic travel agents with the exception of The Hipmunk.

The utility from 30K is becoming particularly relevant as airlines increase the pricing segmentation and change the way that miles are earned across loyalty programs. Since 2015, legacy carriers in the U.S. have started using models that allocate award miles based on the cost of the ticket versus the actual mileage flown. That reward can multiply dramatically, however, based on the class of service in which the traveler is flying. A last-minute ticket in a full-fare economy seat, for example, might earn twice as many award miles as a discount basic economy fare – but a casual shopper through a traditional online travel agent wouldn’t be shown the difference when browsing for flights.

An example of 30K’s flight search augmentation, which shows the number of miles earned on each searched-flight

It also may make sense for 30K to integrate with a Chinese travel agent before growing aggressively in the United States. China’s travel market is growing at a dramatic rate, and many in that segment put a great deal of value in loyalty programs. Just last month several air carriers struck deals with Fliggy, a competitor to Ctrip, to extend loyalty benefits across programs. By contrast, most travelers in the United States have de-prioritized loyalty programs, instead choosing to book based on experience and lowest cost.

According to a release from the group Thursday, mileage-earning data is already available on Ctrip’s Chinese language site. U.S travelers interested in similar data can search on The Hipmunk.


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Tags: ctrip

Photo credit: Ctrip offers new information for frequent flyers. Bloomberg

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