United vs. Continental: Which is the better global web site?

When I read about the announced merger between United Airlines and Continental, I began wondering which web site would win out over the other.

As of now, there is a new merger web site that features a hideously merged logo:

The United name lives on, merged with the Continental logo. this is a lose/lose scenario in my opinion. I liked the United logo better:

But what I really want to talk about are the two web sites — and which is the better one from a globalization perspective.

Although this merger is called a “merger of equals,” when it comes to the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card, the two sites did not score equally.

As I noted awhile back, the airline industry as a whole is not a leader in web globalization. American Airlines emerged on top overall in this category. United finished in sixth place, but Continental finished in last place. So United is the better of the two sites — though I would recommend that both sites learn from American and Emirates, or, better yet,  look beyond their competitors altogether.

Airlines seem to have forgotten that people visit their sites to accomplish something quickly, and then leave. Case in point: Why in the world is there an ad for FTD flowers on the United Airlines web site?

The merging of the United and Continental web sites presents an excellent opportunity to start over. About ten years ago, airline web sites were considered fairly innovative. But they have largely stagnated since, replaced by more innovative travel sites such as Kayak and Tripit.

There’s a great opportunity for an airline web site to effectively reinvent airline web sites — not just in one language, but across all languages. The new United may not be off the best first step with this logo, but we shall see.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.