Insight into flight load factors allows DMOs to monitor the performance of routes to their destination to support negotiations with airlines. When this data is combined with information on flight searches, the resultant dataset can provide an even greater competitive advantage by helping to identify unserved routes.
Route negotiation is a key responsibility of destination marketing organisations (DMOs). Ensuring that a destination is well served by international and, to a lesser extent, domestic air corridors is crucial to maximising its potential and sustaining healthy levels of tourism.
In any negotiation, the negotiating parties require strong arguments that draw on accurate information to boost their chances of a favourable outcome. The same applies to DMOs in discussions with airlines about whether to maintain or discontinue a route.
In this case, knowledge of how the route is performing is essential. An airline may have its reasons for wanting to discontinue an air corridor, but if the DMO can demonstrate that the route remains in good health, the airline may be convinced to continue operating it. Insight into the performance of competing routes is also a potentially valuable resource at the negotiating table.
However, for DMOs looking to generate more inbound tourism, opening new routes is as important as maintaining existing ones. In discussions to establish new air corridors, the DMO gains a significant competitive advantage if it can bring to the table data revealing considerable unserved demand for connectivity to its destination from a particular location.
The lowdown on load factors
As an air travel intelligence specialist, ForwardKeys provides unparalleled insight into not only global travellers but also the overall seat capacity offered by 99% of commercial airlines worldwide. It combines this information – in the form of Total Air Market for the overview of travellers and Capacity for scheduled seat capacity – to produce a ‘data smart’ called Load Factors.
Displaying the estimated average share of seats occupied by passengers in relation to the number of offered seats on a given route, Load Factors offer a reliable means of assessing route performance. If the data shows a route to be in good health, the DMO is well positioned to negotiate its continued operation with the relevant airline.
When results are less positive, and a route deemed important to the destination is shown to be underperforming, the DMO knows that work must be done – in terms of strategic marketing – to re-energise interest from the point of origin and maintain a strong negotiating position with the airline.
Capacity and competition
The Load Factors data smart is a key feature of the Connectivity module in ForwardKeys’ DMO-targeted business intelligence solution, Destination Gateway. Alongside route health, Connectivity provides a near-real-time overview of capacity by flight origin and operating airline, as well as in terms of the total number of seats on scheduled flights to the destination.
Where flight capacity from a particular point of origin to the destination is relatively low, but the route is performing well – i.e. its load factors are high – the DMO can use this information to encourage airlines to operate more frequent flights. Similarly, if an airline is offering a relatively high number of seats, and a large proportion of those seats are being filled, the DMO is well placed to convince other airlines to increase their offering, thereby boosting overall capacity to the destination.
DMOs can also view the corresponding data for other destinations, to identify, for example, competing routes that are better served by an airline but not performing as well as their own – information that could persuade the airline to increase capacity to their destination.
Identifying unserved and indirect routes
Perhaps the most significant competitive advantage that air connectivity data can provide is the ability to identify new route opportunities based on demand that is not currently fulfilled by existing air corridors. A forthcoming data smart from ForwardKeys, Unserved Routes, offers exactly that.
Combining Load Factors with ForwardKeys’ Search dataset, Unserved Routes will compare searches from a point of origin to a destination with connectivity for the same route. If an unserved route is generating considerable search interest online, it suggests that, should an airline begin operating flights on that corridor, it would prove successful. Moreover, where search interest is high for an active route offering low capacity, the implication is that this route would benefit from more frequent flights.
Also in the pipeline for Destination Gateway’s Connectivity module is a feature that will allow DMOs to view entire trip itineraries to determine whether new direct air corridors might be established to serve popular indirect routes. For example, if there is high demand for travel from Valencia to New York via Madrid, the likelihood is that a direct corridor from Valencia to New York would perform well. Streamlining connectivity in this way has the added benefit of minimising emissions, which could strengthen a DMO’s negotiating position in talks to open new routes.