Two airline sites hit “reboot” — but is it for the better?

By | June 30th, 2010

I usually leave the stories about site redesigns to my capable friends over at Tnooz, but during the last 24 hours I’ve caught wind of two airline site upgrades (at least that’s what they’re calling it) that could affect your next trip.

If you fly on Spirit Airlines or AirTran Airways, that is.

But before I get to that, I wanted to also mention that the airline fee site I wrote about a few weeks ago, TruPrice, is launching today.

The site will allow you to check all optional items before you conduct an online fare search, offering the ability to see the real cost of a ticket and compare ticket prices side by side. You can read more about it here.

I heard about the AirTran reboot from reader David Ziskind.

It includes info on flight performance and the pricing appears to be a little more transparent, at least as far as what you get. They also tell you how many seats are left at the sale / low price.

I’m not sure if they plan to start cutting back on Elite benefits — usually moves like this have an ulterior motive!

They also refer to ‘priority boarding’ when looking at a comparison on a non-Elite account, I wonder if they are getting ready to debut that?

I asked AirTran about the move. A representative responded:

The new parts include the mandatory DOT on time performance data so consumers can see the actual performance of each flight. We also made the pricing more transparent by listing how many seats are left for a sale fare and some other changes.

Don’t worry, we are not about to cut back on Elite benefits.

In fact, we have been enhancing Elite benefits – we just added a dedicated phone number, complimentary Hertz #1 Club Gold membership, and most importantly, upgrades on any fare 40 minutes prior to departure (they get upgrade at time of booking on Y and B fares).

Elites generate a disproportionate amount of our revenue – they are our best customers.

Here’s AirTran’s new site.

Spirit Air’s new site has a lot of potential, if its rhetoric actually matches reality. When I interviewed Ben Baldanza, the airline’s CEO, a few weeks ago, he alluded to these upgrades.

Pledging to make it “even easier” for customers to know exactly what they are buying, Spirit unveiled what it calls a “full disclosure” website.

Customers select their preferred itinerary, and then select from a variety of optional add-ons, according to the airline. From checked bags to carry-ons, seat assignments or travel insurance, all options are, it promises, “fully disclosed to customers” before their final purchase.

Then Spirit’s Chief Marketing Officer Barry Biffle takes a shot at his less-upfront competitors.

It’s all about giving customers options and fully disclosing those options. Airlines that hide the price of services and other fees in the fare are fooling their passengers into paying more for services they may not even want or need.

Spirit is all about giving our customers the power to choose what they do and don’t want to pay for without subsidizing the choices of others. Our new website fully discloses these options in a shopping cart format so our customers know exactly what they are paying for before they finalize their purchase.

Uh huh.

I checked Spirit’s site. Once I got past the pop-up credit card offer and the picture of the naked woman — with her private parts “censored” — I found that Spirit appears to actually do what it says. Still can’t resist quoting an unbookable “base” fare at the end of the process, but it’s done in small type, presumably to show that some of your money is going to taxes. Which is fine with me.

What do you think? Are you likelier to book through Spirit or AirTran, now that they’ve fixed their sites? Or will you head over to TruPrice?

(Photo: Reverend Aviator/Flickr Creative Commons)

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