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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Mobile preferred for travel searches but only two Mena airlines fully compliant

Sixty per cent of residents check out travel information on their smartphones, yet only Etihad.com and flydubai.com are fully mobile friendly

According to the digital marketing agency RBBi, 60 per cent of all travel searches come from mobile devices yet only Etihad.com and flydubai.com are fully compliant for mobile searches and bookings. Kamran Jebreili/AP
According to the digital marketing agency RBBi, 60 per cent of all travel searches come from mobile devices yet only Etihad.com and flydubai.com are fully compliant for mobile searches and bookings. Kamran Jebreili/AP

While the majority of Mena residents use mobile devices to search for travel information, a new study claims only two regional airlines have fully mobile-friendly websites.

According to the digital marketing agency RBBi’s whitepaper "State of search in the Mena airlines industry", 60 per cent of all travel searches come from mobile devices yet only Etihad.com and flydubai.com are fully compliant for mobile searches and bookings.

“People think that by having the home page mobile friendly that is enough, but that is not the case. Most of the airlines have the mobile friendly home page but none of the inner pages are,” said Naguib Toihiri, the head of the digital department at RBBi.

“The airlines focus on the home page, but that’s not the entrance point for most of the website. Most of the traffic goes to the inner pages, so when someone types in ‘flights to Paris’, they want to go to the Paris page and this doesn’t happen."

Mr Toihiri said both Etihad and flydubai have followed the best practices on their websites, such as optimising all inner pages for mobile and paying special attention to their main landing pages (country and city pages)

However Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at StategicAero Research, said the findings are not a concern.

“Many, if not all GCC carriers, have some form of mobile site functionality. While there is always room for improvement, the current state of play is not a worry because airlines are investing all the time in smartphone and Web apps that are designed to make life easier for customers,” said Mr Ahmad.

The RBBi study also found that 60 per cent of leisure and 55 per cent of business travellers turn to search engines to initiate their search for travel information, followed by hotel sites and apps at 48 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively. Online travel agencies were the third most preferred option.

In the UAE, where the smartphone penetration rate is over 100 per cent ,according to RBBi, Mr Ahmad said the use of the internet to search for and book flights and holidays “comes as no surprise”.

“The explosion in intra-GCC traffic along with airport, airline and social media development has meant that the Web has become a key resource tool for making enquiries that may well have otherwise been conducted in a classic travel agents' office.”

But while mobile dominates the search side of travel, when it comes to making a booking, Mena consumers switch to their desktop devices.

“They use the mobile to find information but whenever they want to book or make a transaction, they go to the desktop," said Mr Toihiri. "So desktop is still the most preferable device for transactions.”

He said the region's airlines are also ignoring the power of video for their online channels.

Saudi Arabia has the world’s most avid YouTube users, with 90 million views per day, he said, yet the airlines “have not taken advantage of this by increasing their visibility" on YouTube.

“When people are looking for information they are looking for videos that describe those destinations and at the moment none of the airlines have done the proper work to get this visibility online with the video,” Mr Toihiri added.

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