Integrating your Construction Data with Integrity

Integrating your Construction Data with Integrity

There is arguably no more important step in the data lifecycle process than integration. When we move to a new city, into a new home, or start a new career, we are effectively taking all our economic, social, and cultural values into an established but an also unfamiliar environment that we now call our own.

Collecting construction project information is no different. As-builts, schedules, budgets, and contracts are all fluid as the unique data associated with them. Therefore, it’s critical that as your organization or project evolves, there is a reliable system in place to fulfill all your project information needs.

Integrating Your Construction Data with Integrity

What is data integrity?

Data integrity refers to the accuracy, reliability, and consistency of stored data over its entire lifecycle. With construction projects, data can be unknowingly duplicated, outdated, or outright false delaying project milestone deadlines and inflating a project’s construction budget. Adding to the complication, complex infrastructure projects such as airport terminal expansion can have tens of thousands of physical assets from taxiway centerline light cans to air handler units that all need to be inventoried and be included in close-out submittals. Plans can always change, and unexpected audits can always happen. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Why is integration important?

When integrating any data, we must understand that data is dynamic and may not necessarily be suited for an Excel spreadsheet or Access relational database that we all know and love. Data integration makes data more freely available and easier to consume and process by systems and users. If done properly, it can reduce IT costs, free-up resources, improve data quality, and foster innovation all without drastic changes to existing applications or data structures. Certain aspects of projects may involve sensitive security information (SSI) or contain proprietary information that requires limited access. In this era of information security, preventing data leaks and breaches is more important than ever. When the integrity of data is secure, the information stored in a database will remain complete, accurate, and reliable no matter how long it’s stored or how often it’s accessed. You need a system that can put your data security first.

How to integrate actionable data

Data is only useful if it is timely and actionable. Modern organizations and construction projects are drowning in data but starving for information. Data can also take the form of dates, numbers, text, and files holding that data from a variety of applications that are only accessible to certain parties. If data is cleaned, organized, and archived it not only becomes useful throughout the construction project but after closeout too. You can integrate your project data into software from the Acquisition and Planning Phase into the Bidding Phase, Construction Execution Phase to the Project Closeout and Punch List Phase and Digital Twin Turnover.

Who is going to use this data?

Stakeholders have different data needs. A specification sheet showing an airfield electrician the model numbers of all the newly installed taxiway signs is nice to have but a spreadsheet created by the contractor detailing the preventative maintenance plan for the sign panels is far more beneficial. Imagine having this data right at your fingertips without the wait or figuring out who to call. By having a robust and secure system in place to store all your project information, all team members on a project can collaborate on objectives and accomplish tasks on time. Have your data audit ready. All the time.

How can the project team benefit?

Having the project team identify their data needs is essential for the integration process of a project to succeed. This can be a subcontractor wanting to share a multi-layered plumbing blueprint with an engineer or the airport security coordinator needing product warranty information from the security camera vendor. For a project team to benefit from data integration, management must support the system that is under development and involve users in the development process. This can ultimately save the two most important things to a project: time and money.


Luke Fowler, C.M Aviation Practice Lead at MySmartPlans

How Air Malta is Reinventing Their Digital Experience

How Air Malta is Reinventing Their Digital Experience

We’re hearing the church bells ringing, the waves of the Mediterranean Sea crashing into one of Europe’s most ancient forts, the smell of pasta is in the air, and the sky has not even one cloud. In case you haven’t guessed it by now, we’re in Malta, one of the smallest countries in the world, with a history that goes back thousands of years, and where new history is being made.

Exploring the island’s roads we’re taken back in time by seeing megaliths older than pyramids or the knights of Malta. But in a country full of ancient history, something really innovative is happening.

Like so many travels in the history of the Mediterranean Sea, embarking on the digital journey can be quite a challenge for many companies, and if we add a pandemic in the process it might seem like an impossible mission. Well, that was not the case for Air Malta. The determination this team has shown to make this digital dream come true was an example of how companies should face the many challenges that come in the way.

We had the pleasure to meet two of the members of this airline, Antoine Vella, Head of Digital Commerce at Air Malta, and Stephen Gauci, Head of Corporate Communications at Air Malta. Both are ready to be part of the change coming to the travel industry.

Can you tell us what this Air Malta project in terms of digital transformation entails?

We come from a legacy background where we were extremely tight down in our technology. We decided to reinvent the way we do digital, with a new website and a new e-commerce platform. We felt we needed to really move forward with our digital and leave the traditional legacy behind. The new way we’re doing things now gives us the flexibility we want from our technology to move quickly and grow faster and reduce our costs of distribution.

 

What is so special and innovative about the solution you implemented?

It’s modular so we can choose exactly what we want to take, for example just the website or just the e-commerce platform, or the mobile app. Apart from that, there’s also the personalization aspect which is very important. When you have data on your customers you can focus on creating products just for them. The engine will help us to provide the right product at the right time of the customer journey. It’s flexible, so it gives the airline people to change things as they want without having to wait for the traditional release cycle. All these aspects will help Air Malta to grow quickly and since the designs were very clear, UI was very good, it helped us in terms of conversion rate.

 

That’s amazing. Are you saying that before the digital team from the airline couldn’t just change something as part of the booking process themselves?

It was very limited. They could change some things like text or translations, but they couldn’t change big items because the previous platform was shared among airlines so it couldn’t be customized to a specific airline as much as we wanted to. So, if we wanted to introduce a new product it could take months because we had to follow a release plan and wait to see if that product would also make sense for the other airlines attached to this platform.

 

What does it mean for Air Malta’s customers? What’s different for them now?

The products are now clearly displayed, the way the customer flows from one page to another page is more user-friendly, so they see their flights first then they can move to select extras. These things are not constantly showing to customers so everything is well displayed. That improves conversion because there is no opportunity for the customer to get lost in the product offer. Everything is clearer.

 

You said you saw the results in conversion quite fast.

Yes, after two weeks. We went live in August and each month the results were better. We have more sales, better conversion rates, and more revenue.

 

I assume you compared it with the pre-covid time, so it was not just the peak season.

Yes, it was not just because of the peak season. The results were visible immediately after we launched the platform.

 

How long did it take to launch the platform?

We started working with the technology, in January 2021, and we went live in August. We’re talking about seven or eight months to implement a new website and a new booking engine. In my opinion, that’s extremely fast.

 

Yes, it’s fast. Particularly, if we consider that Air Malta faces all the complexity of connecting flights or interlining.

And we’re not just selling Air Malta-operated flights. We have to consider ancillaries like bags, seats, sports equipment, fast track. All of these were incorporated in the booking engine. We have the website operating in seven different languages so it’s quite complex. Being able to do this in just eight months is quite an achievement.

 

There must have been some problems as well. What were the problems and did you manage to solve them?

Problems were mainly related to APIs and getting the right information based on our PSS APIs. We had some issues, but with the Brachspace team, we were able to fix them quickly. Seeing the two teams working together was really important to see the results and get things working.

 

Air Malta has a big team in digital, it requires people with the right know-how and experience, right?

Definitely. In terms of the number of resources in Air Malta I would say we were a small team, but everyone was super immersed in building this project, and we had good support from the developing team and of course the Branchspace team.

 

So, collaboration is key.

Yes, collaboration was key. There was never a team trying to take over the other one so to have a clear synergy between teams is really important. The whole project was handled like a big family project so that’s nice.

 

This was more like a partnership than just a supplier-vendor deal.

It was much more. It was a big team.

 

That’s what makes this even more amazing. I understand you started this project amid covid so the team couldn’t really meet personally.

Yes, all the preparation was done online.

 

And now it was the first time that the Branchspace team could come to Malta and meet everyone personally.

To think about a project of this size, you’d think we need to meet personally, but we managed to do it successfully without any physical meeting.

 

And there must have been a lot of trust in the process.

Trust was very important. It was a very transparent project and everyone stuck to their timelines. That’s how we managed to deliver it on time.

 

Is there anything you would do differently if you had to start again?

Maybe invest in more resources for Air Malta. I think that would have allowed us to do more. And maybe the physical aspect of being able to meet would also have helped.

 

There are innovative things still coming up, some game-changing areas, what is happening?

One of the things is our mobile app. It will be the very first mobile app for the airline so it’s important for us. This will help not just with sales, but also so customers can have all the necessary information in their hands. Another thing is the loyalty program. For the first time, customers will be able to redeem points online. This can grow to other areas outside Air Malta and build a community in the country. That’s our vision.

 

That’s quite unique and that’s what customers are looking for.

We want customers to earn points not just by special travel dates or classes, we want to move away from the old manual process.

 

So this program will be applied in a much wider area, not just flying.

Exactly. We’re talking about restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, supermarkets maybe even car rentals. The more options the customer has to spend these points the better it will be for the airline.

 

It’s a lot of good customer-centric initiatives.

We’re trying to become more customer-focused in our approach. And through every channel not just digitally. Our focus should be the customer because, ultimately, we’re here to serve the customer. We need to provide a good service and the technology to serve that purpose.

 

It can make a difference to your competition. It must be great for you Stephen to be able to communicate about the project. It is a journey so over time there are so many new things happening.

Definitely. We’re having positive news and news that benefits the customers. The website has been having a great impact on the customers which ultimately will benefit the airline with loyalty and repeat visitors.

 

How did the cooperation in other areas work? There are elements linked to this project like loyalty, distribution, strategy…

It was very important from day one that there was internal alignment between all departments. Everyone knew what the end result was, so all were working in the same direction. Even though it was difficult with covid, the project brought the employees together, so it wasn’t just a digital department success, it was an Air Malta success.

 

I’ve been in contact with the chairman, David Curmi, and he said this is the beginning of your digital transformation journey. So, it’s a very important element.

It’s one of the most important parts for the airline in terms of how it should grow and how quickly. Digital is really important.

 

Looking back to January 2021 and now May 2022, in one word, what comes to your mind about the project?

Exciting. It had so many new things and it was happening so fast that sometimes we don’t even have time to process it all. So, that was very exciting.


Dario Martinho, Communication Team, Branchspace

Take Air Passenger Experiences to a Higher Plane with Smart Data Capture

Take Air Passenger Experiences to a Higher Plane with Smart Data Capture

The air travel industry was hit hard by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. Among the challenges for airports and airlines to overcome were red zone restrictions, vaccine passports, social distancing, and uncertainties around passenger volume. In fact, a McKinsey report found that the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in airlines haemorrhaging $168 billion in economic losses in 2020. While the leisure air travel market is now showing signs of recovery, the once-lucrative business travel sector has been slower (for now).

As restrictions have eased across the globe, the industry is working hard to build back confidence but also meet changed customer expectations around frictionless journeys. To achieve this, revive growth and ensure continued profitability, air travel operators are looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage that captures more of the available market while also minimising their costs.

Technological innovations are at the heart of improving efficiency and productivity for customer-facing airline operations. Automating processes on smart devices can enhance customer experience at every touchpoint, while actively reducing costs.

 

Winning the hearts of passengers

After two years of disruption, a smooth, frictionless journey is highly desirable for passengers, and offering this experience differentiates an airline. When facing unpredictable passenger volumes and changing safety requirements – which, let’s be honest, might return at any point – airlines need flexible and easy-to-implement solutions.

Using smart data capture on mobile devices has multiple benefits. Unlike fixed scanners, it enables customer service agents to perform multiple tasks anywhere in the airport. Airlines can automate processes such as check-in, security queues, lounge access, and luggage management, providing a modern, sleek impression from the first moment a passenger enters the terminal.

Compared with the old approach of using rugged devices at fixed stations, smart data capture on mobile devices delivers significant customer benefits and staff efficiencies.  Airport queues have been big news recently, but with staff equipped with smart mobile devices, waiting times can be cut as they can patrol queues and scan IDs, passports and QR codes to speed passengers through check-in and deliver a more personalised experience – accessing details about a passenger’s seat preferences or dietary requirements, for example.

Customer service agents using smart mobile devices can easily manage oversized luggage presented at the gate and quickly check it into the hold. They can instantly issue vouchers to delayed or inconvenienced passengers by scanning boarding cards or codes, and provide smarter assistance when it comes to lost luggage. Giving an agent the power of mobility during check-in ensures that passengers who require assistance can be served at their seats, rather than requiring them to come to a podium.

 

Reducing operational costs with multifunctional devices

Managing the bottom line is critical, post-Covid. Replacing fixed hardware, like boarding gate readers, with scanning-enabled apps that work on mobile devices reduces the total cost of ownership by between 35% and 50%.

In the airport, efficiency is of the utmost importance. Freed from bulky hardware, agents can ensure ​​faster flight boarding avoiding costly delays. Should a flight transfer from one gate to another, it’s a quick and easy task for customer service agents to pick up their mobile devices and walk to the new gate.

Using smart data capture solutions allows air travel operators to provide passengers with cost-efficient self-service options. By integrating smart scanning into a customer app or website, passengers can check in online, confirm their COVID certification or vaccination status, check in their bags and receive flight information. This helps to reduce congestion in the airport, ensuring a seamless experience and reducing costs incurred by delays or time-consuming procedures.

Employee onboarding and training is also improved when using a single smart device. The intuitive experience from a mobile app that employees are already familiar with eases acceptance and minimises the training required.

Smart scanning also provides opportunities for more upsells and cross-sells. More passenger insights are captured from the scans, and are available instantly, while the transaction can be easily completed with mobile point of sale.

 

Predicting the unpredictable

The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of future-proofing air travel operations. With customers flocking to airport gates in a post-pandemic world plus the risk of sudden changes in travel rules, having a scalable, flexible and cost-effective solution is the key to managing unpredictable passenger numbers in the coming months.

Scalability and flexibility are two significant advantages of smart data capture. Every staff member with a smart device can become a mobile agent delivering passenger services, so handling fluctuating passenger numbers and new operational demands is easy. It eliminates the need to have extra bespoke and expensive equipment to cope with peaks in demand.

With passenger experiences taken to new heights, businesses benefiting from reduced costs and increased efficiencies and employees transformed into customer service superheroes, smart data capture technology is the answer for a seamless, cost-effective travel experience.


By Christian Floerkemeier, CTO at Scandit

Last Call for Customer-Centric Retailing

Last Call for Customer-Centric Retailing

From this week, face masks are not mandatory anymore on European Union flights and airports (except in Spain and Italy), more than two years since the start of the pandemic. We may all feel like the pandemic days are about to be something of the past and that things are now getting back to normal. The truth is that some things may actually be changed forever. People worldwide spent these last two years adapting to the “new normal” and, although most of us wanted our lives to get back just as they were, some changes came with interesting challenges. It’s not just about people adapting to a new world. When people start to have new habits and think in different ways, the global market has to adapt as well.

One of the most affected areas was, without a doubt, the travel industry and now, two years later, things seem to be moving forward in a new direction instead of going back to the same place. Last year, online traffic increased by 11% in the travel industry, more than any other (ContentSquare, 2021). Airlines must face the reality of a changing travel experience in a post-pandemic world and create flexible solutions to meet the needs of the “new normal customer”.

change in online traffic of selected industries worldwide

The world was already on a fast-paced journey to digital transformation and the pandemic came to accelerate the rhythm of change. Many customers who were hesitant regarding online shopping are now comfortable with that new habit, and generations Y (millennials) and Z were already shopping online not only for plane tickets but for everyday things like groceries. These times, when the world stopped for a moment, brought much uncertainty, and a strong effort to strengthen digital solutions can be quite a challenge. Fortunately, many airlines are facing this situation as an opportunity and that can only lead us to an exciting future in travel.

 

Flying Above and Beyond Expectations

Customer-centric OTAs and travel suppliers are moving to the next level. Let’s take the example of Airbnb which just launched a new way of selling travel, based on the experience that customers are looking for. Or Amazon introducing a beta in the US to sell digital travel experiences. Airlines such as Southwest which was already leading in digital experiences just introduced additional mobile self-service options to enhance and personalize the customer experience along the travel journey. Travelers will be able to add for example an upgrade for priority boarding before leaving to the airport, instead of having to queue at the airport or call the contact center. All airlines understand now that their business model and digital ecosystem needs a serious revision.

flying above and beyond expectations

Imagine someone — we all know this person — who started a new job in this post pandemic scenario. What new challenges come to mind for this consumer who now has to create a whole office in the house? The journey has shifted completely. This person will spend some time on a thorough search for the right products and maybe find out some other products or services that were unknown before. There’s the space for recommendations where the store will gain the customer’s trust and loyalty.

It’s not just about providing the right product, the expectations are already high. The companies who manage to surprise their customers by going beyond are the ones who will win this innovation race. The companies who do this properly make their customer feel they matter all the time, and right in the device we all can’t seem to leave — the smartphone. It’s Amazon that lets you know your new ergonomic chair is arriving today, it’s the fitness app that sends you a notification that you haven’t been working out for two weeks, or any food delivery service that sends you a reminder that tonight is perfect to order tacos from your favorite place. When it comes to travel it shouldn’t be any less than this.

 

The Future Customer Experience Is Now

If we agree that the customer journey has severely changed with the last pandemic then it’s imperative for airlines to invest in extensive research on user experience.

Airlines could learn a lot from retailers that are investing in this customer experience more than ever, and it all starts with how much they prioritize user research. Tesco, one of the largest supermarket chains, realized how many customers were tired of commuting to the office in the city center because they didn’t have the ideal conditions to work from home. The result is that Tesco is now creating flexible office spaces inside their supermarkets. This is a clear example of companies that listen to the customer’s needs and provide solutions beyond expectations.

the future of customer experience is now

Concepts like innovation and flexibility have never been so crucial and, in the end, it’s all about who takes off quickly to this transition. The airline industry has been able to reach a certain level of modernization since the general adoption of the internet, however, this evolution is still deeply rooted in the same concepts and flows from decades ago. Low-cost carriers, for example, have been driving digital adoption and agile commercial policies, gradually augmenting their products. Even these companies are now realizing the need to move to the next level to remain relevant. It’s urgent to implement leaner technology and processes or rather to simplify and get rid of unnecessary processes.

The latest digital retail platforms, tools, and methods are getting increasingly important for airlines if they want to become true retailers. Air Asia aims to generate 50% of its revenue with non-travel / non-aviation related revenue by 2025. The ultimate goal is that airlines become completely customer-centric in every area. It requires getting away from legacy technology fast, which was built around transactions and not around the customer. This could mean the end of booking classes or fare filing and the beginning of a simplified and flexible process. Alongside innovative platforms travel suppliers will be ready to adopt existing next-gen services and, at the same time, guarantee a first-class ticket to future trends.

People want to travel, and only a few airlines have really used the pandemic to lay the foundations for the transformation journey and move with full speed – and low risk – to ensure they have a state of the art customer proposition. With additional challenges – and opportunities – that sustainability and new mobility models present there will be a lot of new players joggling for positions and some unforeseen ones such as rail becoming stronger again. At the beginning of the next decade, in 2030, we forecast a fundamentally different travel experience. If airlines do not grab the opportunities of digital retailing they risk increasingly turning into operating units for the players who will.


By Dario Martinho, Content Creator at Branchspace

The Trouble with TOBT… and how machine learning can improve it

The Trouble with TOBT… and how machine learning can improve it

Airport performance relies on accurate off block times. Operators have all the data to make it so. It’s a matter of knowing how to put it to work.

In a sea of aviation acronyms, none has such a broad or deep impact on airport performance as TOBT: Target Off Block Time.

TOBT is the exact moment when airlines and ground handlers predict an aircraft will go off blocks – when passengers are seated, doors are closed, the boarding bridge has pulled away, and the plane will leave its stand.

All airport partners work in sync, based on the TOBT, to turn around aircraft as efficiently as possible, allowing traffic control to optimise the departure sequence based on the expected readiness of flights. But when things go wrong, cost, punctuality and customer experience can take a severe hit. For busier airports, inaccurate TOBTs can also impact runway capacity and the wider air traffic flow.

 

TOBT – the king of pre-departure milestones

Of course, a target off block time does not live in isolation. It’s one of several milestones within an Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM) framework used by airports and their partners to share a common situational awareness of the pre-departure process. But TOBT is the king of milestones upon which all others are derived.

TOBT illustration

TOBT is initially automatically calculated by the airport based on the flight arrival information. About 30 to 40 minutes before departure, usually, when the turnaround process has started, airlines and ground handlers coordinate and update the time based on the operational situation. The TOBT must be updated at least 10 mins before departure to ensure that it is relevant and useful.

And therein lies the challenge.

This critical milestone relies on busy airline or ground staff to manually estimate departure readiness within two minutes. That’s a lot of pressure to come up with an accurate estimate. It also relies on their experience with estimating – a challenge if they’re new to the job – and whether they genuinely have good visibility of the situation and all its moving parts.

As a result, the accuracy of this milestone can vary widely. Many large airports report it to be less than 60% accurate within 5 minutes, with even fewer TOBTs accurate to within 2 minutes. The result is significant knock-on effects on apron congestion, gate resourcing planning and departure sequencing, and even the wider regional air traffic flow.

But there is a better way.

 

Machine learning as a cornerstone of predictions

By automating the prediction of off-block times, operators can achieve far more accurate and stable off-block performance than when relying on the estimates of a distracted ground crew.

Three capabilities make AI and, in particular, its subset machine-learning, exceptionally powerful in predicting off block times.

  1. Machine learning can process massive amounts of data.

Machine learning can help by quickly sifting through rich data pools to analyse past off-block time performance and identify patterns. Data used to train the prediction model can include origin, destination, carrier, aircraft type, gate, passenger load, boarding times and airfield condition – vast amounts of data from different sources, all contributing to greater accuracy in off block timings.

  1. Machine learning can provide granular predictions in real-time.

Predicted off block times are not a static milestone. As a machine learning engine ingests data in real-time – such as live flight, weather, boarding, passenger flow or video analytics capture of ground handler activities – it dynamically updates predictions based on the situation.

  1. Machine learning can continuously learn and improve outcomes.

A machine learning model can be continually refined, automatically learning from past events to make better predictions,  or adjusting the weighting of data to ensure the most accurate and relevant data is used when updating the model.

 

Bringing machine learning to life

We could see huge benefits in making our technology more adaptable, reduce the complexity in configuration, and develop systems that ultimately get better over time. With that in mind, and by defining key AI and ML-powered forecasting capabilities that would leverage what airports and their partners already have – lots of data – allows faster and more accurate forecasts.

The Veovo ‘Airport ML at scale’ approach is built on lessons from multiple airport client engagements. We firmly believe that this is the future of airport technology, where enhanced services like this are easily integrated to deliver real operational benefits quickly.

And there are significant benefits of a ML-powered, higher quality, predicted off block time. It drives better planning, timely operational decisions and enables post operations analysis to drive a continuously improving airport performance. All this from making that one simple time stamp more accurate.

Introducing AI/ML capabilities need not be complex or daunting.  By wrapping the “smarts” into a reusable service block and coupling it with open and flexible integration, these components can be quickly adopted, enhancing current system and operational performance, and then built on over time.

 

Transforming airport performance

Machine learning brings data and human know-how together to solve one of aviation’s thorniest challenges: on-time departures. With the help of machine learning, TOBT accuracy can be dramatically boosted – from less than 50% accurate to within five minutes using manual methods to up to 90% accuracy.

When airports and their partners have confidence in off block times, they can better use their airside assets, get more capacity out of the same resources and ultimately deliver a better service to passengers.

Machine learning is giving those organisations that embrace it a significant head start in transforming airport performance. Operators and their partners already have the data gold they need. All they need to do now is access to the right prediction engine and integration framework to help them mine it.


Veovo CEO James Williamson is joining the CIO Panel at the 2022 World Aviation Festival’s Airport T.EX stream, which will explore the extent to which data drives the quality of an airport’s curb to gate passenger flow.

Putting the (NDC) cart before the (distribution) horse

Putting the (NDC) cart before the (distribution) horse

Even though NDC has been around for several years, there are still many airlines either planning an implementation, just starting an implementation, or expanding a basic implementation to a higher level of functional maturity. NDC can change an airline’s distribution opportunities considerably and is much more than a technology project around API integration. It is very much about the opportunity to make relevant offers to the customers, sell more and better-suited ancillaries, potentially implement new pricing concepts in the indirect channel and controlling the offer and the order.

A common criticism, especially from travel agencies, is that NDC provides no added value and differentiation, but rather only leads to higher complexity. This criticism is fair in some cases, as a lot of airlines still barely differentiate the content distributed via NDC, providing largely the same products and services to the same conditions as in traditional GDS distribution. There are basically three reasons why that may be the case; it could be that the airline lacks a clear strategy on how to serve the NDC channel, the airline is constrained in their distribution via NDC by existing distribution contracts, or they may have a strategy, however, do not yet have the necessary systems and business process in place to execute the strategy. In many cases, it is a combination of all of them.

When an airline goes down the NDC route, its GDS contracts are often neglected, as is the overarching distribution strategy. The effects that these both have on an airline’s NDC strategy and the underlying system capabilities to fulfil the strategy is, however, critical. It is strongly recommended to not look at these in isolation, but with a holistic view on distribution, optimally combined with the direct distribution strategy as well. Often, NDC is implemented without much thought of the GDS contracts and the airline’s ecommerce strategy. This will typically not lead to a satisfying level of NDC adoption nor to happy agencies, as the content or functionality will not meet their expectations.

The challenge with all of this is that the GDS contracts are often dated, complex and difficult to understand. They are managed in a different department or have been recently renewed in a disconnect from the NDC team and cannot be changed in the short term. Often however, the GDS distribution contracts are simply not considered when creating an NDC strategy. In fact, airlines have in some cases implemented NDC with no holistic strategy at all, focusing on an initial technical implementation first with the idea to align it to distribution at a later stage.

Based on our experience working with airlines on distribution strategy and negotiation, as well as the NDC adoption engagements, we believe that it is key to view distribution as the combination of all channels, considering the constraints, opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses of each one of these channels. As a first step, the overall distribution strategy must be reviewed and potentially adapted to the new situation and capabilities that NDC has to offer. Then, it is key that the existing distribution contracts (primarily including the airline’s GDS contracts) be taken into consideration. The key elements in the contracts to be reviewed in this context are:

    • The definition of content and the differentiation between legacy or traditional content versus NDC technology or NDC content
    • The definition of channels, and potential differentiation of definition of these channels between home markets and other markets
    • The permitted freedom (or lack thereof) to vary content depending on distribution technology, distribution channel – and all of this potentially by market
    • The definition and scope of parity and non-discrimination commitments, and what this means for distribution via NDC based on the topics outlined in the bullets above
    • The contract language related to the provision of technology solutions and who is responsible for these. Additionally, if there are additional costs and responsibilities on the airline to ensure the GDS is technologically capable of a given distribution technology. In this context, it is suggested to also review the lead times for the implementation of new features and functions, and any restrictions related thereto.

In summary, it must be said that an airline’s approach to NDC, be it with a full-blown NDC strategy or merely with a plan to implement basic NDC, should always be planned with full knowledge of the airline’s obligations and freedoms in its GDS contracts, including any required changes for the next round of GDS negotiations. Optimally, the airline will carefully analyse the existing distribution contracts for any restrictions or opportunities to be exploited. For each contract, all key characteristics must be compared to each other to identify the most restrictive paragraphs in each, and the effect these will have on the NDC strategy. Just as important however, when renegotiating GDS contracts, is ensuring that NDC is an integral part of those considerations. Creating a negotiation strategy or approach for the distribution contracts can help, even if these are not yet up for renewal. Defining what the airline should and could do in the future to ensure these two distribution paths share common goals and enable the airline to meet the needs of the agencies as well as the airline’s own distribution needs.

Putting the distribution horse in front of the NDC cart will enable an airline to reach higher levels of NDC adoption, have more distribution freedom and address the travel agency, travel management company and corporate buyer needs better.


Daniel Friedli, Travel in Motion GmbH

An Uncompromising Approach to the Highest Data Security Standards

An Uncompromising Approach to the Highest Data Security Standards

Carriers should look for a software provider with a data-first, cloud-based mentality, which means putting data security front and center. Customers’ security and data privacy should be taken seriously and follow the most stringent SOC 2 cloud-based storage regulations.

Leveraging data as efficiently as possible is essential for airlines to compete in an industry with ever-tightening margins. Airlines entrust their software providers with the use of massive volumes of confidential and proprietary data, and the way that data is treated – with the highest fidelity of data security and privacy – is of utmost importance.

How data is cared for can greatly depend on the local governance rules for the region in which the data is stored. Of course, as a carrier, you want the most stringent rules – without compromise. The best method is to find an experienced provider who can hand-pick specific combinations of data storage locations per airline customer to balance the need for data protection governance against performance and reliability.

 

How should customer data be protected?

When a software provider receives data, they should maintain full encryption at all times – both in situ and in transit.

There are two aspects to this data encryption strategy. One is protecting the data from the place of origin and destination so that only authorized recipients can access the content. At the same time, recipients can also be assured that the content is created by the senders they trust. Transmission of the data over the internet must be protected with industry-standard encryption so that no one else will be able to eavesdrop on the content.

Customer data should be stored in separate domains so that data is not commingling, never leveraging one customer’s data to use on another’s. Each customer data set must be kept securely in its own protected area, and the data should never be shared with other clients without their permission. There should never be a risk that an airline could give its vendor data and have it fall accidentally into a rival’s hands, for example, through human error.

 

Managing and protecting data in transit

The other part of the encryption strategy, called data in transit, protects the data when it is being moved from one place to another. In this instance, a software provider will use encryption along the way so there cannot be any eavesdropping on the line, for example. This ensures end-to-end encryption with the data at rest and data in transit. Nobody can eavesdrop on it and then pick up what the content is until it reaches a place within the provider’s four walls. Then it is decrypted and processed internally.

But not every airline software provider follows this stringent method of data protection. Many solutions are actually held in-house – also known as on-premise solutions. They are located within the airline itself, on the airline’s servers – they don’t move data around outside the airline – so data security is focused around internal employee access control.

It all comes back to the way a provider has built their cloud solution from the ground up, putting data security front and center. Only then can the front end deliver – with accuracy and authenticity – the most advanced revenue management and commercial insight solutions for airline customers.


By Steve Luk, Senior Director, Data Platform

What’s up with I.T? Attracting top and diverse talent to the aviation industry

What’s up with I.T? Attracting top and diverse talent to the aviation industry

Whilst we see the light at the end of the runway in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many barriers and challenges to overcome to fulfil the pent-up demand of travel. With many domestic markets showing strong signs of recovery, certain international markets are now dropping testing requirements making for stronger demand as we head into the busy summer season. ACI World forecasts a return to 2019 traffic levels in 2024 which highlights that we need to get to work now in order to handle the growth from today.

Airports are currently undergoing many challenges during the recovery phases of the pandemic. Across many of the world’s airports, queues are starting to become the norm at check-in, security, and immigration processes due to a lack of staff, or new staff undergoing essential onboarding and lengthy training programmes. As airports cut down staff during the first wave of the pandemic in line with depleted traffic levels, many front-line workers who left the sector are not returning at pace due to the uncertainty of the industry moving forward and opportunities in other sectors. These operational challenges are beginning to hamper smooth, efficient passenger journeys.

ACI’s World Airport IT Standing Committee recently discussed the topic of staffing and diversity on their quarterly IT initiatives meeting. Airports are experiencing the ‘great resignation” and are not being able to offer as competitive opportunities as some of the larger technology players in the market. With airports under an era of digital transformation, this is particularly problematic as airports digitize processes and have an overwhelming reliance on different technologies. The challenge is market wide and begs the question of how we bring more IT talent to the buzzing environments that are airports and airport technology providers.

Whilst airports are seen traditionally as infrastructure companies, technology is at the heart of everything we do. Some examples of technology use cases include:

  • Flight planning
  • Air traffic control management
  • Turnaround coordination
  • Security wait time monitoring
  • Concessions and developing non-aeronautical revenues

Therefore, lots of IT roles are encompassed in these technologies from software developers, IT technicians, maintenance engineers, data scientists, project managers and cyber specialists to ensure there is sufficient capacity, user friendliness and security across all airport technology. With it being the 21st century, there are many tech companies attracting talent away from aviation. Airports should be thinking of the future generation and leaders of IT at their airport and within the supply chain. Ideas to attract future talent include:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Internships
  • Software development courses
  • Partnering with local schools and universities
  • Offering recognised qualification courses for new recruits

Whilst attracting IT talent is key moving forward to grow and develop the workforce of the future, diversity, inclusion, and equity need to be at the forefront of every airport. Diversity includes attracting talent from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds as-well as of different genders or sexual orientation. Being diverse doesn’t mean that you are inclusive. Inclusivity should provide equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. Similarly, this doesn’t necessarily lead to being equitable. Airports should deal fairly and equally with all employees. The three pillars need to go hand in hand when airports think about their company culture of the future. ACI World and the IT committee are continually focusing on attracting diverse talent as the future CIOs of the aviation industry. Airports should think about their culture and workforce, providing a dynamic, challenging role where opportunities can be discovered to progress. A sense of belonging and engagement is critical in this era versus traditional motivation objectives.

As airports struggle with staffing levels, now is the time to act and make changes to reap results in the years to come. ACI World has launched its first cross committee collaboration, to produce a workforce of the future whitepaper due to be published at the end of the year. This area will become a much-needed focus for the industry to continue its recovery in years to come.


By Billy Shallow

Aviation tech innovation in 2022 – time for a new mindset?

Aviation tech innovation in 2022 – time for a new mindset?

 

Aviation tech innovation in 2022 – time for a new mindset?

 

As the global travel industry finally is exiting the grips of Covid after 2 long years it is worth taking a step back and evaluate the new landscape we now are living in – because there has been some dramatic change in several areas.

The first development might not be fully visible, but a significant number of airlines have experienced a substantial talent drain in their internal technology department while being faced with severe restrain on capital available for new IT projects and products. This sets the scene for a new mindset where airlines suddenly are strongly motivated to work with external startups who have are agile and nimble and capable of providing new solutions very quickly for a minimum fee as they are prepared to engage in “software as a service” projects with “pay as you consume” business models. 

The second development is more obvious, but still worth mentioning – during the last 2 years new technologies such as DLT (aka blockchain), elastic cloud infrastructure, edge computing, NFT and not least Web3 infrastructure have evolved at an incredible pace and are now ready for primetime. The combined potential of these exciting developments is substantial for the aviation industry and will likely result in completely new solutions for distribution, ticketing, payment, capacity planning, yield management, customer service and disruption management to name a few areas. 

The third development is the new operational environment with limited workforce in multiple critical areas combined with high fuel cost and shortage of products in the global supply chain combined with short notice traveler behavior change in terms of preferred destinations as well as advance booking window and price sensitivity. These changes are making it much harder for airlines to plan ahead and implement a traditional schedule and pricing forecast model and therefore require more flexible automated software to analyse the latest information and provide the right recommendations. 

The fourth and final development is the sustainability wave crashing over the global travel industry – gone are the days where airlines could focus on selling seats based on the best price, best cabin class service or on-time performance. Today’s airline customers – both corporate and leisure, are increasingly focused on the sustainability performance of the airline resulting in new demands for transparent operational data such as fuel consumption, SAF blend, carbon offsets, load factor, flight path efficiency and even on the ground tarmac movement energy efficiency. 

When the 4 developments listed above are added together it becomes very clear that airlines must implement a new strategy for deployment of and usage of technology services – and it is highly unlikely the internal IT department will be able to adjust accordingly and start delivering new services and solutions on a few months – or perhaps just a few weeks – notice. The good news is that the majority of the travel tech startup community actually has strengthened during the Covid hiatus and the startups who have survived now appear to be stronger, leaner and better equipped to help the airlines embark on a rapid innovation journey. 

 

See a few of the most interesting new solution providers

 

Obviously it is not possible to mention all the relevant startups in this article, but here are a few of the most interesting new solution providers with a short description of the service they provide. 

Pat (www.pat.ai) : Provides a AI chat based virtual agent solution designed to replace a substantial amount of the work performed in a traditional airline call center including support for complex products such as “round the world” tickets 

Vendia (www.vendia.com) : Provides a blockchain based data engine designed to enable real-time access to and usage of data located in legacy systems or in different cloud environments – all without compromising data privacy and security 

3Victors (www.3victors.com) : Provides a real-time analysis of global travel search data designed to provide airlines with instant alerts when search pattern changes in order to optimize yield management, capacity and schedule planning 

Envest Global (www.envestglobal.com) : Provides a detailed benchmark analysis of the sustainability performance of 50+ airlines designed to provide airlines with a better understanding of their own operations compared to their competitors while also providing the investment community with better insights to the carbon resilience level of each airline 

Tryp (www.tryp.com) : Provides a new type of “inspirational search engine” for leisure travel designed to generate complex package offers in seconds without asking for a fixed destination to start the search which can help an airline sell more seats on to low load factor destinations 

BlackBook (https://blackbookapp.co/) : Provides a super app designed to be a digital concierge for the traveler before, during and after the trip for both corporate and leisure travel which can help airlines provide a richer service and generate increment revenue 

Medical Travel Companions (www.medicaltravelcompanions.com) : Provides a human assistance concierge service for travelers who are unable to travel alone due to medical conditions which enables airlines to service this 100M+ global passenger segment better 

Kyte (www.gokyte.com) : Provides a modern JSON API service designed to sit on top of the legacy airline tech stack without going through the complex and time-consuming NDC development process which enable an airline to offer true digital retailing capabilities to any online travel or ecommerce solution 

Aeropaye (www.aeropaye.com) : Provides a blockchain based smart contract engine designed to automate and optimize the cancel and refund process which can reduce the overall cost of payment for airlines as well as provide a way to service travelers who don’t have credit cards and bank accounts 

Spotnana (www.spotnana.com) : Provides an open innovation platform for the travel industry designed to unite suppliers, agencies and technology providers through a single cloud-based tech stack using open API’s and unbiased content to provide personalized offers directly to the traveler 

These are just some examples of startups who have survived the Covid crisis and are well positioned to help the airlines around the world become more agile and take advantage of new solutions faster without having to develop them internally – hopefully we be able to look back at 2022 in the future and view this year as the beginning of a new chapter in the aviation tech world where airlines work closely together with startups to accelerate innovation and modernize the tech stack rapidly.


By Johnny Thorsen

The ‘AI’ Promise – A New Era of Airline Retailing. In discussion with Ryan Estes, VP Technology at Datalex.

The ‘AI’ Promise – A New Era of Airline Retailing. In discussion with Ryan Estes, VP Technology at Datalex.

As airlines emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, what trends will outlast the recovery?

The pandemic was the single most challenging period for the airline industry, but equally it has proven to be the most opportunistic time in terms of adopting new, more modern and innovative technologies.

In particular, the pandemic highlighted the need for airlines to be prepared for periodic and unpredictable ‘demand reduction’ events and ‘demand enhancing’ events. Key to this is the need for a high degree of flexibility and agility to react in real-time. Examples include real-time dynamic pricing and offer management that reacts immediately to ‘demand impacting’ events.

Demand profiles from the two primary traveller market segments – leisure and business – have changed dramatically with business travel experiencing structural change, while conversely there is huge pent-up demand for leisure travel. While this bodes well for airlines in terms of traffic volume, leisure travellers are more price conscious and seek lower price points than more profitable business travellers. Airlines will have to maximise pricing to ensure the highest possible revenue is being generated in each ‘shopping engagement’ without impacting demand.

The pandemic also shone a light on issues associated with legacy systems underpinning airlines’ technology stack, as these systems were slow to react to rapidly changing environments.

The opportunity for significant change in airlines’ underlying technology, particularly leveraging AI, automation and SaaS is huge. And the opportunity is now.

 

You are leading AI initiatives at Datalex to transform airline retail, particularly in the area of pricing. What do you see as some of the key ‘AI’ opportunities?

We see several areas where AI could have immediate transformational impact in the travel industry.

One key area rife for disruption, leveraging AI, is pricing. The pandemic highlighted the constraints of the traditional pricing approach which is restrictive & static, limited to specific customer segments and demand scenarios, limited price points (via RBDs), that cannot adjust pricing in real-time.

With the traditional revenue management set up, airlines suffer from a trade off between ‘price accuracy’ and ‘speed to market’. For an airline to update its price predictions frequently, it must analyse less inputs and vice versa, if it wants to analyse more, it has to update predications less frequently.

AI is fundamental to overcoming this trade off by cultivating pricing strategies that adapt in real-time. RBD-less pricing, powered by AI is the future. This will allow airlines to understand and react to fluctuating market conditions, competitive landscape and other complex data which requires sophisticated data analytics and machine learning capabilities.

Customer service and end-to-end customer engagement throughout the travel lifecycle are other key areas. AI can be used across the board to enable airlines to be more reactive and engaged with travellers without the cost of implementing in-person engagement. Sophisticated, AI-enabled chatbots can be implemented to quickly resolve passenger queries, improving operational efficiency by reducing call center load and increasing customer satisfaction with real-time engagement.

Ultimately, airlines have a great opportunity to harness AI to transform how they do their business, to connect better, and with more customers and to drive new revenues
It’s an exciting time to work in this industry where real change, and at a pace never experienced before, is happening every day.

 

What do you think would be the ‘quick wins’ for airlines in their AI strategy? And what should be on their medium and longer-term ‘AI’ roadmap?

As described above, in the short terms airlines should focus on pricing and customer service.

The total cost of air travel has the most significant impact on a person’s decision to purchase an airline ticket. The likelihood of delays and cancellations, and loyalty status also play a significant part in the decision-making process. Airline customer service is crucial to support customers before, during, and after a flight. Improving customer service leads to happier customers, better travel experiences, and higher revenues. These are the areas that airlines should make a strategic priority when it comes to “quick wins” using AI.

AI-powered customer service chatbots is a quick win that delivers high impact. Chatbots provide significant customer support savings. Second, bots can also sell.

Another key opportunity that remains untapped by airlines is AI-powered dynamic pricing which has the ability to drive higher revenues for the airline and satisfy the pricing needs of the customer through smarter, reactive pricing based on actual real-time demand and customer price sensitivity.

Ultimately, capturing more customers and more opportunities in real time across the revenue cycle.

Personalised offers leveraging AI should be a medium-term focus for airlines as this will enhance the overall customer experience. Airlines can use AI to learn about the behavior of passengers and create offers that will convert better. We refer to this as product determination.

A longer-term focus should be on AI driven dynamic offers and eventually a move to ‘one order’, and those initiatives are coming down the track sooner than we think.

Furthermore, AI can hugely improve operations below the wing.

 

How else can AI powered dynamic pricing benefit airlines outside of additional revenue?

This is a great question, because this topic rarely comes up, and it’s a topic I’m really passionate about. Besides the obvious revenue uplift, AI-powered dynamic pricing also can generate significant operational efficiencies for airlines.

Revenue management’s goal is maximise their revenue across the entire network, with the “entire network” being the key phrase here. Once pricing strategies are defined and fare structures filed, revenue management will then use a combination of their RM tools to manually monitor market conditions.

There are only so many markets revenue management has the capacity to monitor and there is only so much time a human and the processes allow to react. As mentioned earlier airlines suffer from a tradeoff between ‘price accuracy’ and ‘speed to market’. AI powered Dynamic pricing can be used to offset these workloads, react more accurately in real-time and direct Revenue Management’s attention to strategically focus on the markets with the most opportunities, and other value driving tasks.

 

What other ways can AI be applied within an airline? What would you suggest are the top 5 ‘AI opportunities’ for airlines?

The adoption of airport robotics, blockchain technologies for data sharing, and VR technologies will be widely used in the future. Blockchain for data sharing was explored by Datalex in a recent hackathon.

AI is already being used to estimate the average lifespan of the parts on an aircraft. AI also has the potential to be fully integrated into the flight scheduling process to reduce offered flights during a significant demand restriction event.

During the pandemic and because of the route/gate rules airlines were frequently flying very low occupancy planes or empty planes on routes to meet requirements – these were referred to as ‘ghost flights.’ AI could be used to quickly and efficiently manage flight offerings based on demand. When a demand restriction event occurs, zero booking flights could be quickly cancelled and removed from the airline’s schedule. Low booking flights could be cancelled, and passengers automatically rebooked to other itineraries that meet their needs to consolidate more travelers on fewer flights.

What are the top 5 AI opportunities? I would say:

  1. Revenue Management
  2. Customer Service
  3. Network Planning
  4. Crew management
  5. Air Safety and Airplane Maintenance

 

What are some of the biggest challenges in applying AI in the airline industry? Are there any tips you are willing to share?

Applying AI to the aviation industry is an inevitable transformational change that is just beginning to take off. The biggest challenge faced is the lack of knowledge around AI and the true value it can add to an airline, so that educational piece is really important.

Another big challenge with AI is transparency, specifically the fact that humans should be able to form coherent explanations of the reasoning process in AI. That means providing airlines with clarity of what decisions were made by the AI technologies and why they were made. This is hugely important for airlines to understand that AI can be tailored to their business models. Transparency is important not only for trust, but also for debugging, testing and certification.

Another big challenge in applying AI, particularly in the airline industry, is the underfitting and failure to generalise Underfitting is defined as when the machine learning algorithm fails to learn enough from the training data during the training process. Failing to generalise occurs when the model successfully fits the training data, but has a high error on the validation/testing data. This is a challenge that we have successfully addressed in Datalex.

What tips am I willing to share? It requires specialist AI talent and technology partners focused on AI. When you are working with AI, you have to enjoy the process just as much as the achievement.


Kathrina Gallogly

Footnote:
Datalex’s purpose is to transform airline retail.
To learn more about key digital retail trends and AI-powered dynamic pricing opportunities, download the Datalex Research Report: The Digital Airline and Customer 2022.

Airports need to be in I.T to win I.T – The latest trends of IT Priorities for Airports

Airports need to be in I.T to win I.T – The latest trends of IT Priorities for Airports

COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented challenge to the aviation industry, requiring lower IT spend in line with depleted traffic levels. As the industry continues to recover, with certain States such as the U.K aiming to now live with COVID, and drop testing for fully vaccinated travelers, there appears to be some hope for the sector in 2022. 81% of airports in the latest IT Trends survey by ACI World and SITA show that they are looking to maintain or even grow their IT spend in 2022. The planned spend at airports was 5.1bn USD in 2021, up from an actual spend of 4.1bn USD in 2020. Whilst this is only 50% of actual spend in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, the signs are an encouraging trend.

Airport IT Spend in 2021

As expected, whilst the pandemic continues, there is much focus on digital transformation at airports. ACI World released an updated Digital Transformation handbook in 2021, designed to support airports in their planning and rollout of the journey. This is a way airport can look to:

  • Reduce OPEX through staffing costs.
  • Simplify the passenger experience
  • Implement self-service solutions including touchless processes
  • Continue with biometrics rollouts.

All of these initiatives are crucial for recovery by reducing the face-to-face contact with airport staff. This adds to hygienic journeys and the welfare of passengers and staff, but also boosts an airport’s bottom line with lower OPEX. This helps airports with their staff management as it is becoming increasingly difficult for airports to hire front line workers a many have left the sector since the first wave of the pandemic and don’t appear to be rushing back. This is evident by 84% of airports implementing self-service technology in 2022, with 86% of airports using cloud infrastructure to make this a seamless possibility.

Top Investment Priorities for Airports

Biometric ID management has been spoken about for the last decade, but only recently has it really been integrated into multiple airports, except perhaps in the case of border solutions. Nearly three quarters of airports will invest in biometric technology by 2024 improving security and operational efficiency for airports. We will see this not just at border control, but throughout the journey from check-in to self-boarding solutions aiming to reduce costs for both airports and airlines and quickening up the transaction times versus traditional manual processing.

Whilst we may be stating the obvious that airports will invest in touchless processes, one area that has been steadily rising in investment from airports is within cybersecurity. Due to the increasing dependence on technology and digital services, 94% of airport CIO’s will be spending some amount on cyber protection by 2024. ACI also serves its members by offering cyber support with different products available including our cyber self-assessment tool, Airport C-Suite executive level questionnaire and advisory services.

Two other key takeaways this year that are worth noting is in the area of business intelligence as airports look for ways to improve service and spend per passenger, as-well as the ultimate sustainability goal. Airports are looking to differentiate themselves based on environmental factors and it is clear reducing the carbon footprint at airports can be supported by a strategy of green IT.

Sustainable IT Leadership Set By Airports

As the industry continues to battle through different phases of the pandemic, we can see clearly that the light isn’t at the end of the tunnel, it is in our skies. Airports now take IT to be an enabler for rapid, efficient, safe, and seamless journeys. The continued and substantial investment in IT throughout the industry is very encouraging, despite it still being a global pandemic.


Billy Shallow

Digital Consumer Retail Trends Airports and Airlines Should Keep In Mind

Digital Consumer Retail Trends Airports and Airlines Should Keep In Mind

The recently published Travel Retail Consumer report by analysts at m1nd-set, Future trends impacting travel retail, offers several insights which might inform airport and airline retail strategies.

Their report suggests that airlines and airports might want to plan their digital and social strategies around VR, AR and Social.

M1nd-set expects greater digitalisation of the shopping experience “will emerge more prominently over the next year.” That includes making further investments in CRM programmes, developing more retail and service APPs, a continued focus on making omnichannel retail seamless, and boosting the resonance of social commerce with Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and chatbots.

More than eight out of ten shoppers (83%) said digital presence and experience are as important as the in-store experience.

With travel coming to a stand-still over the past two years and non-essential retail accessible only online, consumers relied more on digital channels. They forged new shopping habits, which endure after reopening.

But it’s not just about the retail channel. This trend toward greater retail digitalisation also suggests that digital-only products will rise in popularity and demand.

What does that mean for airports and airlines?

M1nd-set suggests airport retailers “meet and service shoppers online first and attract them into stores when they next travel.” Products such as “e-books, vouchers and tickets to destination-based experiences, inflight and/or onboard services for airlines…photography and artwork or films and music” are expected to grow in the months ahead.

Airports that support online shopping with terminal pickup and airlines that offer IFE content and in-flight meal purchases through their apps will have an advantage. But airlines and airports may consider introducing digital-only items, either unique products or special discounts. These will encourage users to keep the app installed on their devices and engage with it frequently. “Many low-cost airlines have reaped the rewards of this niche for some time already,” M1nd-set points out. “Retailers in airport retail can also benefit, with the right strategy in place to meet the consumer digitally first with time, location and destination relevant communication and advertising.”

Shopping Experience Graph

Source: m1nd-set

“Brands can also meet consumer expectations and enhance the customer experience, with digital-first encounters, such as virtual distillery tours, educational programmes about the sustainable production processes that then entice the shopper to learn more and purchase a sustainably packaged or produced travel retail exclusive in-store when next travelling.”

More than half (53%) of shoppers interviewed say they prefer an omnichannel shopping experience, compared to only 37% in 2021.

M1nd-set also suggests that developing VR and AR experiences that support your retail strategy will help take the stress out of travel for returning passengers post-COVID while offering helpful edutainment content. Highlighting the sustainable origins of some featured local products, or offering bar-code activated videos that better explain the application of certain cosmetics, for example, will entertain and entice. M1nd-set believes there are ROI gains from VR and AR development.

  • More than half of shoppers globally say they value experiences more than products
  • Among Millennials, the tendency is higher still, with seven out of ten shoppers leaning towards experiences.
  • Consumers are considerably more likely to purchase products online where the shopping experience is more interactive and immersive through AR.
  • One well-known e-commerce platform reports that products displayed with AR content demonstrating use have double the conversion rate than products without AR.

M1nd-set also identifies social commerce as “a major trend that will evolve and grow significantly throughout 2022,” with growth driven primarily by Millennials and GenZ consumers.

Social Commerce Graph

Source: m1nd-set

The social commerce market grew by more than 30% in some developed markets in 2021 and is expected to more than double in market size over the next four years.

“Meeting shoppers where they are, whether on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tiktok, or via live streaming services, is proving to be hugely successful to major brands who invest in social commerce and social media advertising. In China, the most commonly used platforms among consumers are Douyin, QQ, XiaoHongShu, Pinduoduo, and WeChat. Both in China and elsewhere globally, the younger generations will account for the significant majority of spend on social media platforms in 2022,” m1nd-set states.

  • Eight out of ten shoppers discovered a new product while on social media.
  • Around two-thirds of shoppers globally who use social media say they have purchased a product via a social media platform in the past year.
  • Two-thirds of those who bought something through social commerce say they purchased the product following an advert they saw on social media.
  • Facebook and Instagram are the most popular platforms for making purchases through social commerce.
  • Around a quarter of shoppers interviewed said they had used Facebook and two-fifths said they used Instagram.
  • Less than 10% said they had used other platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.
  • Of those who did bought something through social commerce, two thirds said they would do so again.

The most common categories purchased on the social commerce platforms include video gaming, toys and leisure activities, jewellery and watches, fashion & accessories and books, including e-books, m1nd-set states.

“As with other aspects of digitalisation, such as livestreaming and personalisation through sophisticated CRM, consumers will be using social commerce more and more frequently to make their purchases. Social media location tracking tools enable brands and retailers to target consumers easily when in or near an airport. The opportunities are endless, but failure to meet the consumer in a place where he or she is increasingly used to shopping will mean brands and retailers risk forfeiting considerable sales opportunities,” m1nd-set concludes.


By Marisa Garcia

Airports Embrace Seamless Service and Disruption Management to Stimulate Recovery and Ensure Growth

Airports Embrace Seamless Service and Disruption Management to Stimulate Recovery and Ensure Growth

During the Aviation Festival, London, the Keynote Airport CEO Panel discussed how airports could adapt their services and experiences to recover quickly from disruption and match the evolving needs of returning passengers. The panel, led by John Strickland of JLS Consulting, featured insights from Stewart Wingate, CEO, Gatwick Airport Limited, John Holland Kaye, CEO, Heathrow Airport, Ltd., Kadri Samsunlu, CEO, IGA Istanbul Airport, and Julie Shainock, Global Managing Director, Travel and Transportation Industry, Microsoft.

Julie Shainock of Microsoft suggested that data exchange between airlines and airports and IT infrastructure, which supports frictionless travel, are winning strategies for recovery and the future. “An open data platform between airlines and airports, when there is a disruption, would be so nice. The airport could do it themselves [and notify passengers that they are] sending a cart or trolley down to the gate with food and water, Coca Cola, whatever you want to offer. I do think some of those things can happen,” she said. “Then the other piece is a frictionless environment, moving us along. You’re doing a lot of that today. But the open data platform—sharing information—is probably one of the key areas that we must look to collaborate between airlines and airports going forward.”

Gatwick’s CEO, Stewart Wingate, agreed. “I think this matter of sharing information is really important,” he said. “Certainly at Gatwick and I’m sure at Heathrow as well. At Gatwick, we recognize that, and we’ve had a few tests of severe disruptions. Many years ago, we learned our lessons from that. One of the things that we did was to work with airport labs. And we created what’s called the community. We were the first airport to roll this out. But it is very much an open platform. It’s available to anybody who’s got an airport ID. And it means that as you go through the airport as a passenger or a user of the airport, you can ask any member of any company’s staff about information, for example, on your flight. And they can go on to this app. And they can tell you all sorts of information about the logistics of the flight, what the estimated takeoff time is, the estimated landing time of arrival is how many people are going through the airport that day, how many people are going through at that hour. There’s all sort of information… We started going to great lengths to put those out and ensure platforms have information in place, then train people to use it effectively. What we’ve also done is, in times of disruption, say a weather disruption… It’s not just about the information that we have at our fingertips. It’s also how we behave. What we’ve put in place is what we call terminal captains. The minute we start to escalate our control of a situation when things are getting disrupted, we designate one of the senior members of the team [as the terminal captain]. And their specific role within crisis management is to make sure that they look after the welfare and the safety of the passengers. While everybody else is worried about how to clear snow or whether we have enough de-icing media, one person from our senior team has designated throughout the crisis to make sure that, for example, people haven’t been held on an aircraft for six or seven hours. Or in the gate room, without any water, a Coca-Cola, or some food. We’ve got those very practical responses built into the systems and processes that we use when we are dealing with disruption.”

Heathrow’s CEO, John Holland Kaye, suggested the key is to give people control and information to help guide their decision-making at the time of disruption.
“Is it worth me waiting to see if the flight is delayed, will it actually fly, or should I go home? The more you can democratize information…and it’s continually improving. The more we can put that [information] into passengers’ hands, the better,” he said. “We have to take ownership for that, even if we have no actual accountability or responsibility for delivering service. That’s something we learned out of snow crises a decade ago. And it’s quite liberating because it means that you make sure that the processes are put in place to support people. It’s all about having your standard operating procedures, and then you contingency standard operating procedures, you’ve got people who have rehearsed them and implemented them. We occasionally have issues around Border Force, they don’t have enough people, and when the technology fails, we can have long queues…We have a contingency plan that when we think the queue is going to get beyond an hour, we bring out the contingency supplies.”

Kadri Samsunlu, CEO, IGA Istanbul Airport said, seamless travel is a priority for the airport. “To do that, we need to get rid of these disruptions from our processes. What’s important is data sharing and joint decision making with our stakeholders [the police, the customs, or the airlines],” he said. “For us, of course, the biggest customer is Turkish Airlines. We are trying to integrate our systems as much as we can with their system, so [the two systems] will be talking with each other. Currently, [we are working] with the tower manager on the details of a cooperative decision-making system, which means the decisions will be taken jointly, which will increase the efficiency on the operation side. We will be able to provide better comfort to the passengers, as well… Because in the eye of the passengers, they don’t care about the policy, don’t care about the cost, and only know the airport operator. We are trying to do better in Istanbul to push the necessary buttons at the end of the other stakeholders to take care of the problems quickly and efficiently. Also, we are continuously offering them contingencies for the technologies they are using. So if it fails, the system doesn’t stop.”


By Marisa Garcia