Cathay Pacific Airways increases online bookings and extranet adoption, and saves over $1,000,000 annually
Cathay Pacific Airways is an award-winning, international airline based in Hong Kong that offers scheduled passenger and cargo services to destinations around the world, and carries almost one million passengers every month. The company’s consumer, agent and cargo websites offer a convenient and low-cost way of communicating with over two million customers and partners every month, and provide a critical and secure communications channel with nearly 35,000 travel agents.
Ensuring Site Usage Takes Off
“In 2003, we employed monitoring tools from Mercury that allowed us to understand what download times looked like from the perspective of end users around the world. In Hong Kong, our site downloaded quickly, but outside of Hong Kong, performance degraded quite quickly,” explains Scott Ohman, Manager, E-Business Commercial for Cathay Pacific. The airline knew that slow website performance would hinder future business growth.
Cathay Pacific’s websites needed to meet three key requirements to support the brand and the company’s objectives:
High-Performing Sites at All Times:
By improving website performance, Cathay Pacific knew it could increase usage of online booking and check-in, resulting in additional revenues, cost savings, and enhanced customer loyalty.
Boost Site Adoption Rates:
The airline wanted to support more travel agents online in order to reach more customers and reduce business costs.
Support Peak Traffic without Infrastructure Buildout:
Cathay Pacific wanted the ability to support any amount of site traffic without expanding its web infrastructure.
The Clear Choice
“We realized that building out our infrastructure to address site performance would be astronomically expensive. Besides that, it ultimately wouldn’t help us overcome our global performance issues,” explains Ohman.
Cathay Pacific assessed three content delivery network (CDN) and cloud service providers. “In the end, the Akamai solution was the clear choice. It came down to three ‘Cs’– cost, comfort and confidence. The cost was reasonable; we were very comfortable with Akamai as a solution provider we could trust; and we were quite confident that Akamai had a proven solution that would be easy to implement,” says Ohman.
High Performance Boosts Customer Satisfaction and Online Bookings
Like most airlines, Cathay Pacific realizes savings of anywhere from 10-30% by serving its customers online, so optimizing the web experience is key. “Within the realm of what I can act on most quickly to increase use of our sites, performance rose to the top of the list,” says Ohman.
According to Ohman: “We know from surveys we’ve conducted that increased site usage increases people’s satisfaction with our company and makes them more willing to buy tickets from us.”
As soon as the Akamai solution was turned on, the booking and flight availability pages displayed in half the time, and overall page download times improved by up to 65%.
Bookings are up 100% compared to earlier in 2004. “This is due to a combination of an updated booking engine and bonus miles we award for online booking, in addition to the enhanced site performance. But I think it’s fair to say that passengers and agents wouldn’t choose to book online if the site didn’t perform well,” says Ohman.“Altogether, these improvements should lead to more bookings online and proportionally fewer calls to our call center, generating an estimated savings of up to $1,500,000 annually,” continues Ohman.
“We no longer receive complaints about our sites being slow. That’s off the list of worries now,” says Ohman. “Increased site speed undoubtedly has been a major contributor to all of the beneficial effects we’ve seen on our sites over the past few months. Without Akamai, there is no way that a 100% increase in online bookings could have occurred.”
Increased Site Usage Means More Ticket Sales and Lower Costs
Travel agents serve as an important intermediary between Cathay Pacific and its passengers, helping serve customers and handle logistics such as bookings.
“Ultimately, agents can help us process more business, but that benefit is offset the more we have to interact with them offline,” explains Ohman. At the same time, the more passengers who use online check-in, the more money the airline saves.
“It reduces the number of employees required to handle airport check-in, and enables increased productivity for those employees who are working the counters,” continues Ohman.
Easy to Manage, Spike-Proof Sites
Akamai supports Internet traffic spikes on the Cathay Pacific website, insulating the company’s web infrastructure even in the face of a huge increase in traffic, whether it is for a new product or marketing offer, or to ensure site uptime during a crisis, such as an accident.
“To spike-proof the site on our own, we would have had to buy a lot of hardware, such as servers, routers and firewalls. Not only would that have been expensive and complex to implement, but then we would have to manage all of that going forward,” explains Ohman. “Because our sites are spike-proof and content is delivered quickly, we have the flexibility to add any functionality we want.”
Flexibility for Future Growth
“Rolling out the Akamai solution for our consumer, agent, cargo, and holiday sites was a smooth and simple process. In early 2005, we plan to implement the Akamai solution on our Asia Miles loyalty site,” says Ohman.
“Because our sites are fast, we can add more complex applications, such as video and Flash. In the past we were reluctant to add these because we were afraid it would slow the site down,” continues Ohman.
“Akamai provides us with a complete, cost effective solution that addresses our requirements for improved performance, massive reach to support our worldwide client base, and an on demand infrastructure to support varying and unpredictable traffic levels. They are a crucial part of our e-business strategy as our online presence continues to grow,” concludes Ohman.
About Cathay Pacific Airways
Cathay Pacific Airways is an international airline based airline registered and based in Hong Kong, offering scheduled passenger and cargo services to over 90 destinations around the world. We are deeply committed to Hong Kong, where the Company was founded in 1946. We continue to make substantial investments to develop Hong Kong’s aviation industry and enhance Hong Kong’s position as a regional transportation hub. In addition to our fleet of 88 aircraft, these investments include catering, aircraft maintenance and ground handling companies, as well as our corporate headquarters at Hong Kong International Airport. Cathay Pacific and its subsidiaries and associates employ more than 21,000 staff in Hong Kong. The airline’s two major shareholders are both Hong Kong companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, as is Cathay Pacific itself. Cathay Pacific is the major shareholder in AHK Air Hong Kong Limited, an all-cargo carrier that offers scheduled services in the Asia region, and is a shareholder in Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Limited. We are also a founder member of the oneworld global alliance whose combined network serves over 570 destinations worldwide. For more information, visit www.cathaypacific.com.