Technology running amok: what impact will recent innovations have on airline retailing? CAPA-ACTE Global Summit insights

A host of new apps and techniques are being developed across the spectrum of retailing, payments and generally controlling customer behaviour – or at least offering an array of attractive alternatives. These increasingly include Artificial Intelligence and chatbots, in ways that transform one-on-one communication with customers.

Typically they do not cover the range of conventional distribution, but the sheer number of new ideas and applications in this area is starting to change the shape of the relationship between airline and traveller. Then there are the online retail behemoths like Google, Amazon, Facebook, along with Airbnb and others rapidly accumulating massive data sets and the ability to use them to target buyers more effectively.

Mezi, vice president travel strategy and partnerships, Johnny Thorsen moderated a panel at last week’s CAPA-ACTE Global Summit entitled ‘Technology running amok: what impact will recent innovations have on airline retailing? ‘ where experts reviewed the main non-airline and airline innovations in the sector and how “outside” players will change the rules of the game.  Here’s some of the insights delivered by the panellists during the session…

Amadeus IT Group, strategic marketing director, Robert Sinclair-Barnes

24-48 hour window exists to request information/advertise after ticket bookings
There is a 24 to 48 hour window to remind and request information from customers after making a ticket booking. There is “then a massive gap”, he said, followed by another 24 to 48 hour time frame before the flight itself. Mr Sinclair-Barnes said the second timeframe is a good time to remind of potential ancillaries, such as car hire or airport parking.

Suppliers should aim to build trust from customers
Technology is “not running amok”, though companies are still working to integrate technology into every state of booking. Mr Sinclair-Barnes stated the application of data should entail a customer trusting a supplier to make travel better. “That’s what it comes down to – trust”, he said.

Amadeus: KLM has a ‘clear focus’ on how to serve customers
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has a “clear focus” on how to serve customers. According to Mr Sinclair-Barnes, KLM aims to serve customers in an “interactive way”, while also collecting data.

CarTrawler, CTO, Bobby Healy

‘Search engines are not unbiased like GDSs are forced to be’
Bobby Healy expects Google could “extract” USD15 to USD20 from bookings “once taking over” the user interface. Mr Healy said this is “pretty serious” from the perspective of a GDS, with Amadeus taking around USD3 per booking. “Search engines are not unbiased like GDSs are forced to be”, he added.

Google on the ‘cusp of abusing its market power’ in travel industry
He urged the EU to require Google to divest Google Flights. Mr Healy said Google is a “monopoly with unprecedented access”, on the “cusp of abusing its market power”. Mr Healy said alternately to divestiture, the EU could require Google to prevent from preferencing its own travel products in searches.

Airlines often suffer from multiple ancillary distribution partnerships
Bobby Healy emphasised the need for strong brand effectiveness and engagement in marketing ancillaries. Mr Healy believes the timing and positioning of products is “so important” relative to their success, and airlines often suffer from multiple relationships with different ancillary distribution partners. Mr Healy said there is a “role for somebody to assist airlines in putting all that together”.

Skyscanner, CEO & co-founder, Gareth Williams

Bots need to connect data from ‘every single part of your business’
The issue with bots is not processing words, but having the ability to give a reasonable answer. Mr Williams said a bot must be able to connect data from “every single part of your business”. Mr Williams noted some bots are “getting to stage you can think about merging automated responses with more complex and intent based queries”.

Chinese customer undergoing digital experiences ‘rest of the world will get tomorrow’
The Chinese customer is not an “outlier”, and is rather facing digital experiences “that the rest of the world will get tomorrow”. Mr Williams emphasised the ability of the Chinese supply side to brand, and offer a level of service not “provided in the rest of the world”.