As a brand with a dominant affiliate channel, Thomas Cook Airlines knew that the key to achieving its goal of performance marketing excellence lay with the affiliates it worked with. Identifying their individual strengths and unlocking their potential to meet business goals would result in a more profitable partnership for merchant, network and affiliates alike. In particular, the airline and the network looked to take an innovative approach within the performance marketing channel to mitigate revenue losses due to unsold seats.


Working with affilinet, the objective of this project was to establish and utilise the value of each individual affiliate and to interpret these findings into actions which supported Thomas Cook Airlines’ key business objectives.

The objectives for the year were split into three focus areas:

  1. Minimise the average cost per sale (CPS) 
  2. Increase the number of long haul bookings
  3. Increase the profitability of distressed routes


In order to unlock the value of affiliates on the programme, Thomas Cook Airlines and affilinet set the project out into two strategic areas :

Evaluating the role each affiliate plays in the customer journey – Each affiliate adds value to a different part of the customer journey, depending on the nature of their site and the interests of their audience. The strategic thinking was that understanding this value would allow the airline to fully utilise their existing affiliate base, capitalising on their strengths to push the right type of bookings. 

Using performance marketing excellence to sell seats on distressed routes – Every plane that flies with unsold seats represents a loss of potential revenue. Some routes suffer more than others with this affliction and an innovative approach could be taken with the affiliates to mitigate some of this loss. 


In order to achieve business objectives, affilinet launched three key streams of activity:

1. Defining the criteria that show the value of the affiliates beyond the revenue they generate 

Affiliates who could drive more long haul bookings were deemed of greater value.

Affiliates who often assisted sales by being involved higher up the purchase funnel were considered of greater value than those who didn’t.

Affiliates who regularly delivered high passenger numbers per booking were deemed more valuable.

2. Mapping out the affiliates’ value 

Routes, passenger numbers, booking classes and booking dates were analysed to determine the flights to push with each affiliate. This allowed costs to be adjusted by route, increasing bookings on high-margin flights as well as struggling routes.

All bookings made in 2014 had their path to conversion analysed, focusing on the final six clicks before sale completion. This helped to identify each affiliate’s contribution and actual CPS.

Best-performing campaigns (particularly those that succeeded in selling higher margin or underperforming routes) were identified, forming an ongoing part of the marketing plan.

3. Utilising the knowledge gained from mapping out the value of affiliates

Using the findings, merchant, network and affiliate worked together to develop a strategy that would allow partners to unlock the full potential of the programme according to their strengths.

Affiliates were granted higher commissions on particular routes, dates and booking classes. This gave a personalised feel to the programme for affiliates and their users, providing increased commissions for affiliates and increased sales of higher-margin products for the merchant.


Thanks to this in-depth data analysis, affiliate mapping and programme performance enhancements, Thomas Cook Airlines and affilinet were able to achieve the following:

  • Increased in the long haul share by 19%
  • Kept the average CPS below 2% of revenue and reduced cost per click costs by 73% 
  • Increase the affiliate effective cost per click (eCPC) by 11%
  • Sold thousands of seats on underperforming routes

The changes made on the programme with regards to the insight gathered and the prioritisation of affiliates was an important part of Thomas Cook Airlines’ long term aim to step out of the shadow of the larger Thomas Cook brand and differentiate themselves as a successful, high performing and competitive programme for affiliates to work with.

This campaign won affilinet and Thomas Cook Airlines The Travel & Leisure Award at the Performance Marketing Awards this year. With entries open for the PMAs in 2016 closing on January 22nd, you can view the full list of categories and enter your best campaign today.