Be it ultra-low-cost, low cost, or full service traditional airlines, scrapers are pushing nearly half the Internet traffic to airline’s websites. Many airlines see as much as 40% of their bookings come from scraping. Profits for dynamic packaging of ancillary services for flight insurance, car rentals, hotels, and holiday packages are enough financial motivation for scrapers to continually adapt their scraping technology to get past any anti scraping measures put in place. Scrapers account for billions of dollars in travel sales.
Do Scrapers Help or Hurt Your Business?
Screen scraping is a somewhat controversial subject for the airlines and the views range from welcoming it, encouraging it with rebates, to fiercely trying to fight it both in court and by technical means.
Historically, the view amongst many traditional airlines that scrapers are helping them to fill their seats, and are therefore welcome on their websites. Traditional airlines using GDS systems on their back end still have a problem with scrapers. Scrapers will exponentially do more searches for flight availability than a normal customer. These excess web requests drive up the look to book ratio, and significantly increases their costs.
The huge success of several low cost airline’s own internal dynamic packaging practices has many traditional full service airlines rethinking their own business models and in turn their position on scraping.
Keeping Control Over the Sales Channel
If Online Travel Agents (OLTAs) are left unchecked, an airline’s brand can suffer. Without a direct relationship with the end client, problems can arise when communicating flight changes whether those changes are welcomed or not. There is a real value in owning a direct relationship with the traveller with the ability to send emails directly to the flyer with special offers. Controlling that channel will allow effective tailored marketing.
Handling the problem
When addressing the scraping problem it is as much of a business issue as it is a technical issue. Left unattended OLTAs may make up as much as 40% of bookings through the use of web scraping tools and it could have a significant impact on seat sales if that were to stop over night. Selectively targeting and blocking scrapers a few at a time while at the same time communicating with them to address concerns is the best tactic. Some airlines choose to let scrapers book through APIs where they can be controlled and the damages they normally cause to ancillary sales can be compensated. Another option is to selectively stop scraping OLTAs from booking on specific routes that are easy to fill without their help.
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