Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cheapflights in Australia - but this is not open territory

UK flight meta-search leader Cheapflights has announced and launched a holding site for an Australian version of the business. The Australian version of Travel Today claims the site is beta but as there is no booking engine it yet in place it is clear there is still a lot of work to do if they are to meet the planned end of year launch date a launch date next year.

Cheapflights is the first of the global players to announce a meta-search launch in Australia. Kayak and Sidestep have made European moves but are so far silent on Asia. Bezurk is the only local player targeting Australia. Sprice have an Asian business launched but have lost out on the chance for the Australia URL (currently owned by an Australian based Asian grocery store).

That does not mean they have a first mover advantage or guaranteed meta-search product lead in Australia. By the very nature of the Australian market all of the major online air players (Webjet,, Flight Centre, Expedia and Bestflights) have built there domestic (and trans-Tasman) air businesses around meta-search principles. As neither Virgin-Blue or Jetstar (the number two and three domestic carriers) participate to any meaningful degree in the GDS', the only way for the local full service agents to access their inventory through screen scraping and API based aggregation technologies that result in the booking actually being made directly with the carrier. In many respects the whole of the domestic online intermediary air business is already a version of meta-search. Welcome to the party Cheapflights.

Also of interest from the article is they are already quoting the pricing for the Australian offering - AU 70 cents for a click on a short haul route and AU 81 cents for a long haul route. Though there is some confusion on this number as they are quoting 81 cents as equalling GBP 81 pence. My guess is that the 81 pence is right - making the long haul click price closer to AU$2.

UPDATE - made some minor changes to the launch date note above based on comments from (I think) an insider at Cheapflights.


John BC said...

Hi Tim

Thanks for your comments on Steve Jones' article about Cheapflights' intention to launch an Australian site. I'd just like to correct the idea that we will be launching this year. You are correct Tim in saying the site is not yet in Beta.....To explain the current situation, the Australian site is in embryonic form with very few features on it. We would not like the site in its current form to be taken as our normal product.
As you say, a tremendous amount of work would need to be done to bring it up to our usual content and standard before we would "Launch" the site.

The phrase used internally is that the site will not be launched in the current calendar year. Beyond that we cannot say apart from it is our intention to develop and launch the site.

One other point we are not a meta-search site per se. We do scrape sites subject the host's permission and technology allowing. However we do not restrict ourselves to scraping as many advertising "partners" such as small specialist agencies are only able to submit deals via other routes - we like to have as many (bonded) sources of deals as possible. Accordingly our advertisers names read like a Who's Who of the Travel Industry including Kayak US and UK (which you mentioned in your piece. This means in the UK we collate around 15 million deals a day which are sorted by our algorithms into about 1.5 million deals for publication on our site. We like to think we serve both the public and the flights sales industry and are looking forward to taking up the challenge of launching in Australia but NOT in this calendar Year.

Tim Hughes said...


Thanks for you comments. Would be very interested in discussing further. Send me an email at timsboot [at] gmail [dot] com and maybe we can set up an interview

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim, is a travel meta-search site which focuses solely on Australian domestic flights.

We have been around since 2003, and are about to have our first major facelift - If you have any comments or suggestions I would be interested in hearing them.

Gath Adams