Gaining altitude: How to deliver higher value to airline customers


By Tim West & Derek Janu-Chossek

If booking an overseas trip fills you with trepidation, you are not alone. Ironically, at a time when there is greater choice of destinations, accommodation and carriers than ever before – combined with a significant reduction in the cost of airline tickets – the romance of travel is wearing extremely thin.

This waning enthusiasm is partly due to the poor experience airlines offer customers when they are booking their journey. While the internet has enabled airlines to digitise the travel booking process, they have done so in a way that is devoid of any real human understanding. Instead of reducing the burden on the consumer and providing a personalised experience – two key benchmarks of successful retailing in the digital economy – airlines seem to expect travellers to have a solid understanding of itinerary and amenity options.

Too many trees, not enough forest

Sure, purchasing a ticket online is convenient, but the process is still fraught. So many questions go unasked. Is the travel for business or leisure? Is it a family holiday or a solo adventure? How much money is in the budget and exactly how does the traveller wish to spend it?

The customer is forced to make a series of administrative decisions. Navigating a path through the offerings of the airline’s partners – such as travel insurance, accommodation and airport transport options – can be distracting, and all the nuances that are important to booking the trip get lost in the rush to secure the plane ticket. The whole booking experience misses context and meaningful interaction.  This anonymous process is just the first step in what’s become a commoditised travel experience.

Creating a first-class experience

The challenge for airlines is to better position their customer experience and align their offerings to match the traveller’s objectives and styles. To do this, the airlines need to consider the outcomes travellers really want.

Airlines are aware of the issues, but progress has up to this point been slow. From a change management point of view, airline systems are hard to modernise. They are constantly in use and are just one part of a complicated travel ecosystem.

Additionally, third-party booking sites play a critical role in distribution today. That said, regular traveller is aware that the products and services available through an airline’s website aren’t always available through these channels. To fully maximise revenue, an airline needs to chart a path to support the distribution of all their services.

Fortunately, technology now exists to smooth this upgrade path. The latest evolution of digital travel platforms enables airlines to interoperate across both legacy and new standards – the guidelines airlines abide by when it comes to ticketing, distribution and other passenger-related services.

The new standards set out a brighter future for passengers and remedy many of the back-office and customer-facing processing problems that exist today. Reducing information silos across reservations, ticketing and other core systems will allow airlines to provide a more individual offering to the traveller. Imagine being able to book a business class meal on an economy flight. With the right digital travel platform, that type of passenger request will be achievable.

Being different means not standing still

Meal improvements are one thing, but understanding how technology can improve the entire travel experience by delivering tangible, high-value benefits is the secret sauce that will provide real competitive differentiation.

Currently, airlines are grappling to articulate their objectives. They know they must do better, but what does a personalized travel experience really look like? How can they change flight operations, fleet management, route planning, sales and partner operations to provide tangible improvements for the traveller? Solution providers can provide a key role here by developing a vision for how airlines can transition from today’s legacy infrastructure to new retail platforms.

Becoming more relevant to the traveller’s experience and more personal in interactions are only two elements for airlines to create and then maintain differentiation. The arrival of powerful end-user technologies will see consumers gain more control over their travel plans and in turn demand more from their existing providers. In the experience economy, if traditional operators don’t learn how to do things differently, new players will seek to disrupt the status quo, redefine the experience for consumers and possibly, in the process, reignite the romance of travel.

Derek Janu-Chossek headshotDerek Janu-Chossek is an offering leader for DXC Technology. He is part of a high performance team responsible for the development of new solutions to support travel, transportation and hospitality providers’ digital transformations. Specific expertise includes: pricing, inventory, availability, merchandise and ancillary revenue, shopping and e-commerce. In addition, he serves as a consultant and industry expert on these topics for providers as they implement new initiatives.

Tim West headshotTim West is Global Offerings Leader, SAP Practice for DXC. Tim has over 20 years of experience in front office digital applications spanning almost every continent. His varied background has seen him leading strategy, technical, customer experience, infrastructure and project management teams but always focused on delivering the outcomes clients require. He has worked in most industry verticals for companies such as BBC, Audi and Travel Inn in both client side and consulting.

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