United Airlines Expands E-Commerce Operations

In an effort to bolster its overall e-commerce effort, airline giant United Airlines has revamped its Web site and has added a new flight-paging service that notifies travelers of any flight delays.

Last year, United’s Web site generated bookings of about $500 million (US$), or four percent the airline’s revenue. However, the carrier hopes that its Web redesign will boost that percentage to at least 20 percent by 2003.

“Our goal was to improve navigation and ease of use and create the most customer-friendly environment possible by building on the broad functionality we already offered,” said Rick Collins, United’s director of Internet marketing.

New Flight-Paging Service

The St. Paul, Minnesota-based airline is apparently betting that its new proactive flight paging service will please its customers.

Travelers simply complete a paging request form at the airline’s Web site whenever they book or change a reservation. Individuals can also tailor the service to suit their preferences by choosing different options on the form, such as whether to be alerted when a flight is delayed more than 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. Gate information can be provided within one to four hours of the scheduled arrival or departure time.

The service, Collins points out, is an extension of United’s wireless strategy, which began when the carrier became the first to offer flight status information via the 3Com Palm VII. The service allowed Palm owners to use the Internet to retrieve the latest flight arrival and departure information directly from United’s reservation system.

Travel Sites Also Offer Flight Paging

Travel portals such as Travelocity.com and Biztravel.com already offer flight paging services, and other airlines are expected to follow.

In particular, Alaska Airlines has already said that it is evaluating ways to use wireless devices to allow passengers to book travel and check on fights.

United has also expanded travel offerings on its Web site to include 45 car rental companies and 30,000 hotels worldwide. Additionally, the airline said that it is partnering with Buy.com to create a new travel site to be launched early in the year.

United is also a member of the consortium of more than 20 airlines who are banding together to create a travel site. Other members include American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta Airlines.

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