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Skyscanner takes battle for flight search ascendancy to its US rival

Move to Miami, Florida, by Shane Corstorphine and Skyscanner signals new campaign for flight search market. Picture: Getty

Move to Miami, Florida, by Shane Corstorphine and Skyscanner signals new campaign for flight search market. Picture: Getty

  • by ERIKKA ASKELAND
 

SKYSCANNER has unveiled plans to take on the giant US flight search market when it opens an office in Miami, Florida, this year.

The new office, which will make a third and final global hub for the Edinburgh-based flight search company, will enable Skyscanner to target the growing South American market as well as bring it head-to-head with US industry leader, Kayak Software.

In addition to offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Singapore and the new office in the US, Skyscanner opened a base in Beijing last year following a tie-up with Chinese search company, Baidu.

The firm’s move into the Americas came as it revealed another year of record growth. According to accounts for the year ended 2012 which are soon to be published at Companies House, the company generated travel bookings for airline partners in excess of £2.3 billion in 2012.

Revenues jumped by 65 per cent to £33.5 million in the year. It increased EBITDA – which is expected to be similar to its pre-tax profit figure which has not yet been disclosed – by 153 per cent to £12m.

Last year, Connecticut-based Kayak was acquired by US online travel search giant Priceline.com for $1.8bn (£1.1bn).

Shane Corstorphine, finance director, said the Edinburgh-based company was “absolutely up for the challenge” and that Skyscanner was growing “significantly” faster than its rival.

He said: “We are above Kayak in every other market worldwide, which I don’t think people realise. We have 40 core markets now, all of which will be growing aggressively through 2013.”
He estimates that following Kayak’s
acquisition by Priceline, it has a warchest of $4bn to fund expansion from its offices in London and Zurich.

However, Corstorphine is not worried about the competition. He said: “We have a different model. Skyscanner spent ten years building up the direct connect model, which means we connect with all the airlines as opposed to going to their global distribution systems (GDSs). In Europe, where you have more budget airlines that won’t use GDSs, to get the coverage you have got to take the time to build up the platform. It makes us a tough nut to crack.

“We feel we are in an immensely robust position here in Europe, Asia is growing really quickly.

“We are excited about taking
the game to Kayak and Priceline in the US.”

Skyscanner said it had trebled the number of visitors to the site from Asia-Pacific in 2012, with Asia representing 18 per cent of overall traffic to the site.

In August, the company established its Beijing office following its agreement to provide international search services to China’s Baidu.

Skyscanner is seeking similar partnerships with companies in the Far East and further abroad, potentially Yandex in Russia.

The company employs 180 staff across its five sites. It plans to recruit 100 this year, with a further 70 to 80 set to be based at Skyscanner’s headquarters in Edinburgh’s Quartermile. The new Miami office will initially employ around ten people and is due to be open this summer.

 

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