By Maria Paravantes
Google, Ryanair and Uber were the perhaps the three words that dominated the sessions of this year’s CAPA Airlines in Transition Summit held in Dublin last week, where the world’s top industry players got together to discuss challenges and offer solutions.
The three companies were repeatedly brought up throughout the three-day event by aviation big-wigs because they have successfully tapped into the needs of the customer, managing meanwhile to win over a big piece of the travel industry pie with their market penetration activities.
So how does this affect the industry? Well, it really is all about the customer at the end of the day: how to get their attention from the start and keep it to the end. And companies left and right, particularly technology services, distribution and solutions providers like Travelport and Sabre, which work with airlines, are continuously looking into ways to make products more engaging. Airlines, meanwhile, are exploring ways to bring in more customers and keep their loyalties. In unison, CAPA delegates concluded on Friday, that for there to be growth and expansion, the price must be alluring, the overall travel experience must be as smooth as possible and carriers must be able to collect on their investment.
From B2B to B2C
“The most important thing is to allow customers to buy the way they want to and the freedom to do so when they want to,” Travelport Senior VP and MD Air Commerce, Derek Sharp said, adding that people still don’t know how to fully use the the market tools available.
Taking it a step further by looking back, Datalex Chief Marketing Officer Ornaugh Hoban told the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) on the sidelines of the event, that in this fast-paced environment of change, it’s vital that companies “re-invent the offer and the development of the offer, which first means identifying the customer’s profile and personalizing that offer”.
Ms Hoban described it as a move from a B2B to a B2C era, and stressed that for this to truly take shape and be effective all shareholders involved must “converge into a single experience”.
To do so, distribution of services must go one step further with providers offering better technology for the user, who once satisfied will through loyalty “fuel” airlines into boosting their revenues and then in turn offer increased and improved services, Amadeus VP Distribution Marketing Decius Valmorbida said.
This, however, means changing obsolete back-end systems (on the airlines’ side), a costly decision for carriers wishing to upgrade, and bringing them up to par in order to be able to operate effectively and in tune with the full breadth of services available on the front end (what you get as a customer through providers and distributors).
This, according to the experts, is what’s holding back the advent of the next generation of air travel. “We’ll be moving into the new era when we replace those dull back offices which are ill suited and bog down the system. We are living in a mobile era; customers can now make their own decisions because they have access to many channels of information, airlines will gain ground once they meet these increasing demands versus the channels available,” IATA Director and CEO Tony Tyler explains.
What the traveler wants
Services providers across the board have pulled up their sleeves and been frantically working towards identifying the travelers’ needs at every step of the travel experience. “Travel is now a user-oriented self-serve business, giving the customer the chance to research and analyze and then after that perhaps call on a third party to assist in the booking or do it alone,” David Moran, who only recently stepped in as CEO of digital travel services and mobile travel commerce company mtt, told the GTP.
“You have to be able to cover the overall trip cycle, increase online usage and in your quest for loyalty, tap into the decision-making process of the customers, who are continuously going to new channels for information and options,” Amadeus’ Valmorbida explains.
To conclude, Travelport Global Head of Product and Marketing, Air Commerce, Ian Heywood, told the GTP that the industry is now “customer-driven and technology-enabled, so it’s our job to identify and assess the trends, step into the process with effective and efficient tools which provide value to the customer and which will in turn ensure value to the airlines”.
What does all this mean for the traveler? Well the good news is, the industry is indeed working hard to figure out what you – the traveler – want and to deliver. With innovation companies like mtt and many others manned by fresh talent already looking to the future, it is now up to the airlines to do their part, commit and invest in full, doing away with outdated systems and mentalities and finally giving air travel the much-need boost to get it off the ground.