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Nowfly.co.uk is a newly launched flights search engine which aggregates flights from 340 airlines.

I reviewed the website yesterday, and have also been finding out more from founder and CEO Dan Hart...

When did you launch?

We launch officially this week, after having been in beta for the last three months, testing the site with a closed user group, though we did attract some outside traffic during this time.

How important was usability in the design of the site?

It's crucial to the success of the site; we have been making a conscious effort to make the site as familiar as possible to users without doing a direct rehash of existing websites.

You have to make the proposition compelling and hook the user into the site as quickly as possible. Customers have to be able to get from A to B quickly and generate a large number of results quickly.

Clear presentation and the core functionality are crucial - when using Ajax, there is a risk of trying to do too much with slider tools and other gizmos but we have tried to keep it minimal and easy to use at the moment.

The website does look quite basic at the moment, will you be adding more functionality later?

The aim is to add more features as we go along to give the site more personality, but for the moment it is a deliberate policy to keep it simple and easy to use. More layers will be added later.

Background information, travel tips and community content will all be added to help customers make decisions about flights and destinations.

How do you ensure that flight availability and prices are kept up to date?

All the searches made by customers on the site are live, so we search the available flights at that moment to ensure that all information is correct at that time, and there shouldn’t be any discrepancies.

We use the TRAVELfusion API, which is an automated content management system which interrogates as many flight operators to provide as much content as possible for people searching on the site.

What are you doing that is different to other travel comparison websites?

We are hoping to make the site as usable as possible, and by providing users with a very extensive flight search as quickly as possible. The most important aspect of the site is the usability, and we have gone through extensive testing to make sure it performs well.  Nowfly has an airline-style search, showing results for outbound and inbound flights separately to make it easier to choose the cheapest option.

Also, using Ajax means that the results page loads updates quickly, with minimal interference for the user.

How many different flight operators are on the site?

The site presents flights from 340 different airlines, with budget airlines as well as charter and scheduled flights.

Do you have affiliate deals with all of the airlines on the site?

Some of the airlines pay us a referral fee when customers book flights, but this is not the case for every operator on the site.

Do the search results reflect this?  

No, the system doesn’t work that way, and simply displays the cheapest and most relevant flights for the customer’s search. It’s still worthwhile listing all of the operators we can to give customers as wide a choice as possible.

Being impartial is key, so we won’t be pushing one airline over another when users search for flights.

What was your background before launching Nowfly?

My last role before this was with The Trainline; I worked there for seven years as Head of Commercial with responsibility for online revenue and marketing. When I joined I was the eleventh or twelfth member of staff, and we had grown significantly when I left.

Before that I worked for Virgin Atlantic in Corporate Sales and also for Lastminute.com.

Are you concerned about launching a business during an economic downturn?

We have a relatively small team and we are very cost-conscious, and have the flexibility to change products without significant impact so we have the set up to cope with the recession.

As far as travel is concerned, there are still opportunities; people still want holidays, though we may find that they will look closer to home, and look for more value when booking flights.

How are you funded?

Cash has been raised through angel investment to get the business off the ground, and we have had interest from other potential investors should we require further funding.

How does the site make money?

  • Through suppliers that pay commission for customer referrals from the site.
  • From advertising revenues, though we are trying to keep the banner ads as relevant as possible to the content on the site. 
  • We also get income from product placement such as insurance and car hire in the ‘travel essentials’ section of the site.

When do you expect to be profitable?

The forecast is such that, if we can control our costs, we should be profitable within 12 months.

How are you promoting the site? Paid search?

Yes, we’re currently looking to hire a search marketing agency for this. We will look to SEO but as a new entrant in a competitive market, getting high organic rankings will take time, so we will initially look to build traffic through paid search, though we need to be savvy with our tactics, as we can’t afford to go head to head with the big boys.

Related articles:
Q&A: Gareth Williams, CEO of Skyscanner

Related research:
Travel Website Benchmarks 2007

Graham Charlton

Published 11 December, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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