Direct web sales to account for a third of airline seats by 2013

More than one-third of all seats will be sold directly to consumers by airline websites in three year’s time, according to SITA’s annual look at aviation IT trends.

It also predicts that in 2013 the majority of airline tickets – 55% – will be sold by airlines. Currently, just under 60% of seats are sold by third parties.

The current distribution breakdown of the 40.8% of tickets sold direct is 25.8% internet, 10.7% call centres and 4.3% interlining.

Call centres and interlining will remain static, while the internet grows to 37.6% of all ticket sales by 2013.

Other predictions for 2013 confirm that mobile is viewed by airlines not only as a customer service tool but also a sales channel. 70% of the airlines expect to be selling tickets on mobiles by 2013 compared with the 18% that are currently doing so.

But despite the move towards direct bookings, the industry continues to work with third-party distributors. Forty-one percent of the airlines have an agent booking portal, with another 43% planning one. For business travel, 44% already have portals for corporate customers;  by 2013 this will be 82%.

One area where investment appears off the agenda is social media. Currently around one-in-five airlines have some presence. However, 45% of the survey said they had no plans in place for social media capabilities.

SITA polled 129 senior IT-based executives in the aviation industry for its 2010 Airline IT Trends. Overall, 56% of airlines will increase their IT spend next year, although this growth is being driven by carriers in Asia-Pacific rather than North America and western Europe, where sending growth is below average.

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