Airlines’ Web Site Review Flies

Boston Group Handling Search for Joint Venture Travel Service
CHICAGO–A Web-based travel site being developed by major air carriers United, Delta, Northwest and Continental is seeking an advertising agency, sources said.
The review is being handled by Boston Consulting Group’s Chicago office, which is the interim management company of the new site. A representative for the consultancy confirmed the review but would not offer details. Spending was not disclosed. Ben Burnett, a BCG vice president who is interviewing agencies, could not be reached.
The site, announced in November, will enable consumers to compare prices of travel services and purchase tickets for air travel. The name of the venture, scheduled to launch in the second quarter, is expected to be unveiled by mid-April.
Earlier this month, 23 additional airlines signed letters of intent to become charter associates. Among the U.S.-based participants are American, US Airways, ATA and Vanguard. International carriers that recently signed on include Air Canada, Mexicana and Korean. Discussions are ongoing with other travel service providers, such as hotel operators, cruise lines and car rental companies.
The site will not replace the airlines’ existing Web endeavors, but will compete with travel sites such as Preview Travel, Travelocity and Expedia. Ad spending among those three category leaders has been on the rise since 1998.
Preview Travel, whose advertising is handled by Think New Ideas in Los Angeles, spent $10 million through the first 10 months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Travelocity, handled by The Richards Group in Dallas, was backed by $8 million over the same period.
The account of Microsoft-owned Expedia, serviced by Deutsch/LA, Marina del Rey, Calif., had been estimated at $25 million, but the Seattle-based outfit spent only $3 million in the first 10 months of 1999, per CMR.
According to industry groups, online leisure travel bookings are estimated to grow from $3 billion in 1998 to nearly $30 billion in 2003.