The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.
NEW YORK (
) -- With the increasing buzz about social networking, many companies are thinking of novel ways to monetize this platform. One such way is to capitalize on "social shopping," and
has tapped into this for air travel via a recently launched
app called FlyingSocial. The app intends to leverage the benefits of "social travel," which typically entails sharing travel experiences and information with friends through social networking sites. Alaska hopes this will help generate additional traffic as well as drive engagement and loyalty for customers. Alaska Airlines competes with major U.S. passenger airlines including
Delta Air Lines
Alaska Airlines CEO Bill Ayer
, about 20% ahead of the current market price.
FlyingSocial allows a Facebook user to book flights at the lowest available fares with Alaska Airlines to places where their friends have either traveled or currently live. A whole trip can be planned through the app as it also assists the user in searching and booking hotels and rental cars via Alaska Airlines. The fare information can be sent to a friend or posted on one's Facebook profile. With FlyingSocial, the shopping process begins on Facebook and ends on the airline's website.
How Does FlyingSocial Benefit?
With social networking sites witnessing huge traffic, airlines have an opportunity to monetize the phenomenon by making themselves more accessible at the point of demand. This means that while travel plans are being made, discussed and shared on Facebook, the app can actually be a next step in the process by acting as an immediate booking platform with attractive price options for travelers.
FlyingSocial further allows Alaska to better market its best fares and increase visibility as people share their flying information on their profiles. This can aid the airline in boosting passenger volumes and open a new booking channel.
Direct channels help airlines save significant commissions by skipping intermediaries like the Global Distribution System and online travel agencies. The strategy makes sense in the airline market where there is fierce competition and volatile energy prices make profit margins razor thin for many carriers. Airlines need to keep pace with changing customer behavior to tap additional channels for their sales.
Alaska is also
to tap the mobile channel to attract travelers to directly book through Alaska Airlines rather than on OTA websites.
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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.