Alternative Airlines has released its 2020 financial results. The financial year saw Alternative Airlines generate a total of £9.4m in revenue in 2020, which - while down from 2019’s revenue figure of £19m - is almost identical to 2018’s revenue of £9.9m and far above £5.4m in 2017. This shows that despite the colossal obstacle that COVID-19 has put in front of the travel industry, the flight-search and booking site is still moving forward in its goal to build a £100m revenue company by 2025.
It’s no secret that travel has been among the most impacted industries by the coronavirus pandemic. And things have been no different for Alternative Airlines. Booking volume dropped by 90% from January 2020 to April 2020. But, thanks to its adaptability, Alternative Airlines was able to survive when flights were almost completely stopped and has since been able to grow and increase it’s booking volume and gross profit substantially. In October 2020, at the end of the financial year, booking volume had increased by 409% from April 2020 and gross profit was only down 34% from January 2020, pre-pandemic.
Alternative Airlines has long been a global business. But, its global reach was never more important than in 2020. Coronavirus affected different countries at different times throughout the year. And Alternative Airlines’ global reach allowed it to fluidly switch its focus to markets that were doing well in controlling the virus at any point in time and sell flights in countries where travel was not restricted and it was safe to do so. In 2020, for the second year running, the flight-booking site generated bookings from more than 160 countries and even saw an increase in bookings from a number of markets when compared to 2019, including Pakistan (+56%), Egypt (+40%) Australia (+39%) and Nigeria (+11%).
Alternative Airlines Managing Director, Sam Argyle, stated, “We’ve always put effort into ensuring that our flight booking experience is as convenient as possible no matter where in the world you’re buying from - whether that’s by giving a choice of local payment methods and currencies or by offering flights from regional airlines that fly unserved routes. This last year was a case of making sure that we focused on the right areas at the right time and were doing all that we could to best-serve those customers.”
Some of the key markets that Alternative Airlines saw opportunity in were in larger countries where people were looking to purchase domestic flights. Argyle continued “When countries were coming out of lockdowns after the initial outbreak across the world, we noticed that people in large countries such as Australia, the US and Canada still needed to travel within their countries for reasons other than leisure.”
Alternative Airlines made various improvements to serve customers in these countries, both by improving its choice of domestic airlines on its site and by adding payment options such as Sezzle and Quadpay to its list of growing buy now, pay later payment solutions, which already included the likes of Affirm and Klarna. This has given its customers a comfortable and affordable way to pay for their flights at a time when many have been financially unstable. Between April 20–October 20 (post-COVID), 40% of Alternative Airlines' overall bookings were from customers travelling domestically.
Reduced-demand wasn’t the only challenge that Alternative Airlines faced. With an abundance of flight cancellations, Alternative Airlines saw demand for refund requests and customer support at unprecedented levels. As a result, Alternative Airlines heavily invested in tech to help better serve its customers by automating some of its customer service processes. This allowed its team to correctly prioritise and process each customer refund and query. In total, Alternative Airlines processed more than £1.1m in refunds in 2020 and was able to give customers the support that they needed in a quick and efficient manner.
As well as switching its focus to active markets and enhancing its customer service processes, Alternative Airlines made various improvements to its airline content in 2020. In January 20, it launched NDC content on its site through a new partnership with Duffel. In addition to this, Alternative Airlines has used its own technology to produce innovative flight content that combines two or more carriers under the same itinerary that do not ordinarily cooperate. For example, customers can now book an outbound flight on one airline and return on another airline all under the same booking, even when these airlines have no existing agreement. This has given its customers a greater choice of flight options.
Finally, with COVID-19 causing a shift in customer’s priorities when booking a flight, Alternative Airlines has accommodated the change in consumer behaviour by adding Routehappy’s structured Universal Product Attributes (UPAs) to its flight results. The structured UPAs allow Alternative Airlines to display dynamic information for flights that relate to each individual airline’s COVID-19 cleaning and safety practices. During Alternative Airlines’ booking process, customers are now given important information on whether face masks and temperature checks are required for their flight, as well as aircraft cleaning procedures, temporary flight change policies and more.
Argyle concluded, "We were presented with the ultimate challenge when airlines stopped flying due to the pandemic and people stopped buying flights. Before COVID-19, I was always confident that with our business model and the team of people that we have to implement our strategy, we have the ability to adapt, survive and grow out of any crisis. 2020 certainly put that to test and - although this crisis is far from over - I’m extremely proud of every employee and how we’ve been able to shift our focus and make huge improvements to the flight booking experience at Alternative Airlines.”
With international travel not expected to return until much later in the year, for Alternative Airlines, 2021 still presents big challenges. But, with 2020’s revenue figure (£9.4m) almost exactly matching 2018’s (£9.9m) and far exceeding 2017’s (£5.7m), Alternative Airlines has proved that despite reduced-demand, it’s still a growing business with an aptitude for adapting to the circumstances around itself.