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Booking.com’s Asian sister Agoda is also moving beyond selling just accommodations to selling flights. But unlike Booking.com, which has just introduced air in Europe through a partnership with eTraveli, Agoda has built its own flights product where travelers can book airfares on its site without having to leave the platform.
The move pits Agoda against the likes of Expedia and Asia’s well-rounded online travel agencies such as Traveloka, a Southeast Asian online travel unicorn that touts itself as “the number one solution for all your travel needs” by offering flights, accommodation, and even lifestyle products.
Agoda CEO John Wroughton Brown casually mentioned the introduction of a new flights product during a session at the Web In Travel conference in Singapore this week, saying the accommodation platform previously offered flights through Kayak, another brand of Booking Holdings, but it was an “experiment” that proved to him that customers “really want flights.”
Brown said Kayak was great, but it’s a click-through model. “If a customer can book on Agoda, with our UX [user experience], price capability, and payment methods, we believe we can give customers a superior product, not to mention package [air] with other things,” he said.
Agoda and Priceline, another Booking Holdings’ brand, said they both have collaborated on a flights product that offers “the best prices and widest choice of flights, from low-cost and full-service airlines,” in a project that went from concept to real bookings in five months.
Agoda started testing the flights product around August in limited markets and on limited platforms. It is now live in Thailand, Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, India, and Singapore, and is available on desktop, mobile and app booking platforms.
Priceline will go live with its own Asia-Pacific flights product in November. Asked if Booking.com will be offering flights in Asia using the new flights product, a spokesperson speaking on behalf of Agoda and Priceline said, “I can’t really speak for Booking, they have their own strategy, but each brand is working to improve the connected traveler experience. Kayak will take Agoda and Priceline’s inventory.”
Agoda declined to disclose bookings data since the product went live two months ago. “It’s still very early days, and we are learning, experimenting, and testing all the time, but we are already seeing bookings coming through,” said the spokesperson.
“But suffice to say in Asia-Pacific alone the air industry represents $27.4 billion, and the online travel agency share of this has immense growth opportunities for the right company. We have ambitions to lead many Asian markets by 2021 and capture a significant share of the 800 million arrivals to the region.”
Asked how extensive its air content is, the spokesperson said, “We are fast on-boarding new suppliers to constantly improve the breadth of airline partners and routes available, as well as rolling the product out to more markets across the globe.”
A check on Agoda shows a fairly good inventory thus far, competitive pricing, neat listing of fares going by cheapest first, and effortless booking.
A short-haul flight search from Singapore to Bangkok departing October 22 and returning October 31 features Cathay Pacific, IndiGo, Jetstar Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Scoot, Singapore Airlines, and Thai AirAsia. The cheapest, on Scoot, is S$181, round trip (Suvarnabhumi), including taxes and fees.
A long-haul flight from Singapore to New York for the same period features Air China, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, China Southern, Etihad, Philippine Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and United. The cheapest, on Philippine Airlines, is priced at S$875 (JFK), including taxes and fees.
Agoda also offers airport transfers in partnership with Mozio.
“Customers still want the best price. And the secret sauce is we have spent the last decade and more optimizing accommodation on Agoda to get the best prices for our customers. We will use that tech expertise to do the same with flights too and also have the additional opportunity to offer package trips to add even greater value for our customers,” said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Agoda’s Brown said its partnership with Grab is seeing “great uptake” and he foresees Agoda providing Grab with flights “eventually,” from just accommodation currently.