In the power game that is flight metasearch, steps forward can be measured in inches.
These incremental improvements fall into two categories: building the shop (including sourcing flight product) and marketing the shop (e.g. driving consumer traffic).
Skyscanner, one of Europe's largest consumer-facing flight search utilities, revealed a couple of products that will assist with marketing its shop. This will help Skyscanner build on its 14.5 million unique visits per month (on web & mobile platforms combined) and 50 million monthly flight searches.
First up, is an updated iPhone app.
The key change from version 1 is a new "fly everywhere" search. Effectively you can run an open destination search and find where you could go and on what date the cheapest flight might be available. This is a little like the original Farecast concept (now incorporated into Bing Travel).
Skyscanner sources the data via 240 direct-connects with online travel agencies and airlines.
Living in the South of the UK (Southampton), I have 5 airports all within a couple of hundred miles. They are Southampton, Bristol, London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London Stansted.
The Skyscanner iPhone app now enables me to search outbound routes from all of these airports at once. However, this is only if I search using the full UK airport list.
Kayak still wears the crown for a multi-starting point flight search as you can explicitly state upto four airports to search from.
Although Kayak has a multi-starting point search, a single destination must be provided (for a flexible date search). So neither Kayak nor Skyscanner quite do what I want yet, although both are well ahead of others in this area.
Another Skyscanner announcement June 24 pertained to its new Facebook flight search tool.
This enables searches to be made within a Facebook page using a free text query. For example, a customer can post "London to Edinburgh on 29 June" and get a quote for the cheapest price for that route on that day.
This service is not an application. To activate it, all a user must do is "like" Skycanner Flight Search on Facebook. (But, be careful: The flight search is a separate profile and not to be confused with the main Skyscanner profile page.)
This new service is built on functionality that was initially trialled on Twitter (@flyscan). I had a play with it then and it certainly works, although it is a long way off from passing the Turing test. Fun though.
When it comes to marketing the shop, in a third development, Skyscanner announced it would open a Singapore-based operation in September.
Skyscanner already provide services (including the recent iPhone app) in 23 languages.
The new office will enable them to push on in Singapore, China, Indonesia, Japan, India and Malaysia, all countries where Skyscanner already is seeing good growth.
So that's one and a half inches and a big step to the East....