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AOL Pinpoint: Shopping Tax Jurisdictions, Not Brands

PinpointtravelAOL Travel launches the beta of Pinpoint travel, ostensibly targeting price-conscious consumers who prefer search-engine shopping. Consumers would be wrong if they believed that Pinpoint's major innovation involves letting consumers "shop" between aggregators like Orbitz and every major airline and most hotel chains. 

You might just believe that, unless you knew that Orbitz is really owned by five of the major airlines. With operation costs rising, the number of airline brands is going to be winnowed down, and soon.

No, the real innovation lies in Pinpoint's attempt to train consumers to shop between airports (and their fees), not airline brands. Despite clearly stating my preference for Denver International, the interface provided a cursory entry from DIA, and then showed a page full of fares that made it clear that it was once again about $100 cheaper for Denverites to fly from Colorado Springs instead.

I tried it with LAX. Same result. The search results were again gamed to prominently feature flights in and out of Orange County or Ontario.

"You don't want to fly out of Los Angeles Airport! In fact, we don't even recognize that airport!" it seems to be saying. "Why don't you try Burbank instead?" Try it yourself.

The bottom line: if you think the big dollars in search are with CPC propositions like AdWords, you may want to rethink your definition of search. And, if you're a municipality with a medium- to large-sized airport, you may want to understand how this might impact your revenue outlook for the next two to four years.


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