Online Travel: The man who bought ba.com

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The Independent Travel

You may not know Martin Lock, but you will know his initials: BA, one and the same as ba.com. The current high-profile British Airways advertising campaign ("Have you clicked yet?") makes much of the airline's improved online offering. You can check-in any time between one and 24 hours in advance; you can modify existing bookings; and on some domestic flights, you can dispense with the check-in procedure altogether, print out your boarding pass at home and go straight to the airport security check. And all through one of the simplest-to-remember websites in the business: ba.com.

That's Bell Atlantic's site - or at least it was, before Martin Lock got involved. Today he is marketing and e-commerce director for Excel Airways, but six years ago, while heading UK e-commerce for British Airways, he realised it was crucial for the airline to own the web address ba.com.

Lock spent a year wresting ba.com from its previous owners (the price remains a secret), then had to spend months persuading BA executives that simple was best, and that britishairways.com was too cumbersome. He has been vindicated by the airline's emphasis on ba.com - but Lock now finds himself in competition with the site he created.

One of his first acts upon starting work for Excel Airways was to procure XL.com from a firm manufacturing switching equipment. The site is now at the heart of Excel's operation. "We looked at some of the best sites in the world, decided what the easiest sites were for customers, took that and built XL.com," says Lock. "It's an incredibly transparent site."

SIMON CALDER

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