Travel & Mobility Tech Newsletter

Dear Readers

In recent months, media attention in the airline industry has focused heavily on sustainability and the effects of air travel on our climate. In fact, the number of stories in international mainstream media outlets discussing airlines in this context has more than doubled in the last two months compared to the historical average over the past four years.

What the graphic also shows: spikes in environmental news coverage have occurred regularly in the past, for instance in October 2016, when the UN agreed its first deal to limit airline emissions. 

Without a doubt, the airline industry has to play an important role in combating climate change as air travel accounts for more than 2% of human-made CO2 emissions worldwide.

Today's newsletter features the first results of a real-world experiment ran by flight-booking platform Hopper with the help of our Research Team to test travelers' interest in booking greener flight options. Find out more below and don't miss our latest Airline Digital Index (ADiX) results as well as details on Uber's plan to expand into an aviation company. Enjoy.

Lennart Dobravsky
Director Research & Intelligence

Airline Radar

The Airline Digital Index (ADiX)

Our ADiX aims to set a new quality standard for digitalization in the airline industry.

Each metric has both pros and cons, which we discuss in detail. Check out our metric repository in previous newsletter editions: 

Just like every two weeks, today we publish a new criteria.


Definition: Number of keywords for which an airline ranks in the top 10 results on Google Search in its home market

Here are the leading ten airlines: 
Congrats to Norwegian, Turkish Airlines and Eurowings for dominating the search engine optimization (SEO) game in their respective home markets.

This metric measures how easily an airline is to be found through Google Search (both branded and non-branded keywords). Several factors impact how well your domain ranks on Google: 
  • Keywords in header tags (so-called H1 tags), which reveal the relevance of the main content 
  • Keywords on description tags as they impact click-through-rate, which is an important ranking factor
  • Keyword density, meaning how many search keywords appear on a page (less important than it used to be)
  • Website loading speed as fast websites are ranked higher as they provide better user experiences
  • Keyword prominence, meaning how often a keyword appears in the first 100 words of a given page
These are just some random examples, hundreds of other factors are considered by Google when ranking websites. For a more comprehensive list, check out Google's 200 Ranking Factors 2019.

What's clear from these selected examples: a website can actively influence the number of keywords for which it ranks in the top 10 results. Therefore, our metric can be taken as indicative of digital success in terms of SEO and online visibility. 

Is SEO relevant in the airline industry?   

The online search for flights begins in various different places and is a multi-step process. According to a McKinsey study of the online customer journey for booking air travel, a typical airline consumer will accumulate 34 pre-booking touchpoints before deciding which ticket to buy. And carriers own fewer than 20% of them while more than half of these touchpoints belong to Google and other air travel sites. There is no doubt: carriers rely heavily on Google to drive traffic their way.

No wonder airlines actively engage in both SEO and SEA (Search Engine Advertising) to ensure they rank top in searches that might lead to a flight booking. 

Moreover, as Google increasingly becomes less of a gateway for flight-searching only and actually turns into a flight-booking platform itself, ensuring appearance in the top 10 results might prove highly critical. 
Disclaimer: This metric measures the keywords for which the airline appears amongst the top 10 results in their home market. Countries with few airlines face less competition for airline-related keywords and are therefore more likely to see their domain in the top 10. For instance, this applies to Turkish Airlines, which largely dominates its home market. As a result, this metric has some bias against airlines in countries with more competition (i.e. the U.S.). However, even if slightly unfair, our metric still reflects the de-facto visibility of airlines in Google Searches.
Trend Radar

Are passengers interested in greener air travel? A digital experiment

Amongst many initiatives, biofuels are one of the most promising ways of curbing CO2 emissions while still connecting the world through the air. However, with the current state of technology, bio-fuelled air travel would certainly be more expensive. Airlines might be reluctant to adopt biofuels as consumers could shy away from greener, yet pricier airfares. 

Together with our research partner Hopper – a price-prediction booking platform we covered many times before in our newsletter – we conducted a real-world flight-search experiment to identify the extent to which price-sensitive consumers might be interested in more sustainable flight options. 

The preliminary results are promising as we explain in our blog post.

 Read our full analysis on Medium
Event Radar

Uber takes off to the skies

Last week, we visited the Uber Elevate Conference in Washington, DC – a hallmark get-together for various high-profile key players working toward making affordable, accessible inner-city aerial transit a reality. Check out Uber's 3-minute vision-illustrating video below:
It's Uber's biggest and boldest bet so far: The 10-year old company that took on taxis now aims for air transportation by trying to seed an ecosystem to support the world's first urban air-taxi network, thereby becoming a three-dimensional multi-modal transportation provider.

The rationale behind this strategy: growing congestion in cities is increasingly limiting the car-based trips the company sells.

On-stage announcements by the world's #1 ride hailer included: Lufthansa joins the conversation

Our parent company also participated in the on-stage discussions as Lufthansa Group's VP Corporate Safety & Safety Pilot Andreas Flaig joined a panel on the highly critical issue of safety and what Uber can learn from the airline industry. The panel can be re-watched on Youtube (see the 5:22:42 mark) and provides a highly insightful history lesson on how the airline industry built its outstanding safety culture and systems.

Many open questions remain

As we outlined in our blog article on regulation for air taxis, many hurdles and challenges for inner-city air travel remain. For example, the pathway to the multiple approvals needed to certify these new vehicles and the airline-like companies that will operate them isn’t clear. While numerous companies have built prototypes capable of carrying people (incl. German startup Lilium), none have developed a version that they’ve submitted to the regulating bodies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, for approval.

Helicopters are the beginning

For the time being, Uber is sticking with a more traditional approach to its aviation ambitions. Also announced during Elevate, Uber is starting a service in NYC to fly people to JFK Airport via helicopters operated by an already-approved charter company.

The new Uber service is a promising connection with ground transportation at both ends, and it's also anticipating travel times to provide on-demand transportation as needed to get passengers to their destination at the time they request. For instance, Uber Copter customers could say they need to be at JFK by 5 PM and the app will figure out when they need to get an Uber car ride to get to the heliport to make that work. This new 8-minute helicopter shuttle between Manhattan and JFK is expected to cost around $200 when it launches next month.

There is no such thing as bad press

In the wake of a helicopter crash last week on the roof of a building in Manhattan – which wasn't mentioned during the Uber summit – timing for the announcement of Uber Copter from a publicity perspective couldn't have been any worse one could argue. 

However, maybe there really is no such thing as bad publicity – at least that’s what app traffic data from earlier this year might teach us. In May, one of the helicopters operated by company Blade – which already runs an Uber-Copter style offering in NYC  –  crashed in the Hudson River (nobody was seriously injured). While the company faced a lot of questions about safety, their downloads on the App Store soared in the days after the accident, reaching a 194% increase vs. average daily download figures.

Whilst there is no doubt that some of these downloads are from people who don’t intend to use the service, it showcases the curiosity around the future of aerial mobility.
Press Radar

Our Recommended Must Reads 

A TRUE MUST READ – Many in the digital and wider industrial world await Mary Meeker’s annual trends report with anticipation for what can be expected for their sector. What are the travel-related elements? Five things to watch in travel technology.
 Read more in PhocusWire
AIRBUS GOES ELECTRIC HYBRID – Airbus is considering bringing the world’s first hybrid-electric airliner to market as it weighs its strategy for replacing the bread-and-butter A320neo narrowbody in the next 15 years – a move that would mark a technological leap for the aerospace industry.
 Read more in Bloomberg
WHAT MICROMOBILITY IN CHINA CAN TEACH US – In recent months, safety concerns and deep operating losses have cast doubt on the long-term prospects of the electric scooter and bike-share industry. But while individual companies may struggle, such micromobility isn't doomed. For proof, we only need to look to China.
 Read more in Wired
OUR WORLD IN CO2 EMISSION DATA  Carbon dioxide is a gas that absorbs and emits thermal radiation, creating the 'greenhouse effect'. While CO2 is important in sustaining a habitable temperature for the planet, our consumption of fossil fuels has increased emissions, dangerously disrupting the global carbon cycle. Click to see all the data.
 Read more in Our World in Data
Funding Radar

Most Recent Venture Capital Deals

 = Exit Alert (Startup listed at stock exchange or acquired)
 = Unicorn Alert (post-deal company valuation at >$1B) 

 Yanolja – the Korean operator of an online motel-booking application raised $180M in funding from Booking Holdings, GIC Private, and Agoda Company.

Bounce – the Indian developer of a bike renting platform raised $72M in funding from B Capital Group, Falcon Edge Capital, and others as part of their series C round. 

Getaway – the American designer of tiny house rentals raised $22.5M in funding from Starwood Capital Group, L Catterton, and further investors. 

Duffel – the English developer of a travel platform intended to redefine the nature of travel experiences booked online or by mobile device raised $21.5M in funding from Benchmark, Blossom Capital, and Index Ventures.

Sure – an American mobile application designed to get commercial flight insurance raised $15M in funding from Berkeley Ventures and ff Venture Capital.

Fortem Technologies  an American Developer of an AI-enabled drone object-detection system for airspace security and safety raised $14.5M in funding from undisclosed investors.

Pangea  a Spanish operator of a travel agency intended to design trips and offer travel assistance raised $10.5M in funding from Axon Partners Group, Javier Rubió, and further undisclosed investors.

Swiftly  an American developer of data-driven enterprise software designed to improve urban mobility raised $11.3M in funding from Aster Capital, Wind Capital, and further investors.

e.Sat  a German developer of a hybrid-electric plane raised $11.2M in funding from MTU Aero Engines.

GuestReady  a Swiss online platform designed to offer short-term accommodation management services raised $6M in funding from ImpulseVC, VentureSouq, and further investors.

MagicStay  a French provider of accommodation booking platform designed for professionals business travels raised $3.5M in funding from Jérôme Patenotte, Sophie Mesnier Teissèdre, Florent Guillermain, and Rodolphe Besserve.

Stride Travel  a San Francisco-based provider of a meta-search platform intended to help travelers search and review sites for tours and adventure trips raised $2.5M in seed funding from JetBlue Technology Ventures and NFX.

VerdeGo Aero  an American developer of aircraft designed to provide on-demand aerial mobility raised $310K of convertible debt financing from undisclosed investors.

SWAT  a Singaporean provider of an online platform designed to offer intelligent and cost effective way to commute raised an undisclosed amount of funding from ComfortDelGro Ventures.

 Scoot  an American operator of electric scooters network intended to facilitate zero-emission mobility was acquired by Bird for an undisclosed amount.

 Samsara Luggage  an American designer of a smart suitcase intended to enhance the traveling experience was acquired by Darkstar Ventures for an undisclosed amount.

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