Digital identity: Customer-centricity in air travel through the eyes of the customer
We live both in the digital era and in the era of the customer. The aircraft have become full of electronics, the travelers are equipped with digital equipment, and the entire planning and booking experience is completely digital. The concept of identity sits at the edge of the physical and digital worlds and is undergoing a massive transformation. The digital identity has emerged as a key enabler for personalization, efficiency, and security across various stages of the travel journey. This article looks at the big picture of digital identity in travel, as the enabler of the customer-centric travel services. From the personalization of offers to seamless airport experience, immigration processes, document checks, payment and loyalty, let’s check out the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.
With new tools and technologies, such as artificial intelligence, airlines and travel companies are able to offer personalized journeys and to deliver personalized experiences. While some consider air travel as a commodity, like a subway or a taxi, Uber has shown that customers value a differentiated service, even for a short ride. Taxi is a commodity?
Uber proposes UberX, and Uber XL for groups, Uber Comfort for extra legroom, Uber Black for premium rides, Uber SUV for group premium, Uber WAV for seniors, Uber Green for sustainable rides, Uber Reserve for advance booking, Uber Saver for more savings, Uber Taxi to ride with an official cab, Uber Intercity for long rides, Uber bikes and scooters for city freedom, and Uber Rent for self-controlled rides. Taxis were a commodity… before Uber.
By collecting and analyzing data about travelers’ preferences, past bookings, and demographics, travel companies can tailor offers to match individual needs. Through digital identity, airlines can offer personalized flight deals, accommodation options, and travel packages that align with a traveler’s interests and requirements. This level of personalization will enhance customer satisfaction and strengthens loyalty (see more discussion about loyalty below).
Seamless airport experience
Digital identity plays a pivotal role in streamlining the end-to-end, curbside to gate procedures at airports. Traditional paper-based boarding passes have mostly been replaced by digital equivalents such as mobile boarding passes. Traditional paper-based identity documents (passport or driver license) will be replaced by electronic ones related to biometric identifiers. With digital identity verification, travelers can drop a bag, enter a lounge or board an aircraft with the touch of their smartphones, eliminating the need for physical documents.
Companies like Thales, NEC, SITA, Vision Box, and others, provide technology and solutions, including facial recognition and fingerprint scans, that enable fast and secure identity verification, which means reducing queues, and overall enhancing efficiency of the airport journey.
Enhanced Security and Immigration Processes
The security and immigration processes are a key step in the traveler journey that depends on the government authorities, not on the airline that sold the ticket. While risk-based assessment at security may still take time to be implemented, digital identity has already largely simplified immigration processes, making them more efficient and secure. For instance, Automated Border Control systems and e-Gates leverage digital identity verification to expedite the immigration procedures.
Even visa waivers and travel authorization can be handled electronically. The traditional paper visas remain the last roadblock to seamless immigration process. Eventually these systems, based on biometrics and electronic passports, will authenticate travelers in seconds, enabling swift border crossings.
Other documents like health and customs forms are already mostly digitalized, like in the Japan entry procedure which I used recently. They provide QR codes and self-service solutions to make entry in the country as seamless as possible. Several companies help governments to implement comprehensive digital immigration and border control solutions, for example Travizory’s digital border solution.
Beyond air travel, wider implications of Digital Identity on transport
While digital identity advancements have a significant impact on air travel, their applications extend beyond the aviation sector. In other modes of transportation such as trains and buses, digital identity’s verification enhances the ticketing processes and streamline the experience. Digital identity becomes a game-changer when it can be leveraged for seamless integration between different travel service providers, potentially creating a unified travel experience across various providers and their platforms. IATA has similar vision just for the air travel part of the journey, called One ID.
In the hospitality world digital identity solutions are enabling vacation rentals to verify the identity of their guests, with innovative solutions like Neoke. Platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com are integrating digital identity verification processes to enhance security and trust. By validating guests’ identities through secure digital channels, rental hosts can mitigate risks and ensure a safer experience for both parties, as well as comply with registration requirements where applicable. Digital identity verification simply streamlines the check-in and document check process, eliminating the need for physical document checks and reducing potential bottlenecks.
Loyalty and identity
Identity is closely intertwined with loyalty. Digital identity data is the key to access travel companies’ loyalty programs and trigger can offer personalized experience tailored to individual travelers, and in particular to the level of service they are entitled to within the loyalty program. As loyalty programs track customers’ preferences, purchase history, and engagement patterns, they are closely linked to the future airline offer creation systems.
Beyond air travel, a traveler’s digital identity can be linked to their frequent flyer program, hotel loyalty program, and car rental rewards, creating a unified loyalty ecosystem. This integration enables travelers to earn and redeem rewards seamlessly, enhancing the overall travel experience and fostering customer loyalty.
Payment and Identity
Digital identity also plays a crucial role in payment processes. The rise of mobile payments and digital wallets has made transactions more convenient and secure. By incorporating digital identity verification into payment systems, travel companies can ensure that transactions are secure and protect against fraudulent activities.
For instance, biometric authentication methods, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, can be used to verify a traveler’s identity during payment transactions. This enhances security by adding an additional layer of authentication beyond traditional methods like 4-digit PIN.
Travel companies can offer tailored payment options and incentives based on a traveler’s preferences, spending habits, and loyalty program status. This includes targeted promotions and discounts, further strengthening customer engagement and loyalty.
The big picture of digital identity in travel is one of transformation, convenience, and security. From personalized offers to streamlined boarding procedures, enhanced immigration processes, document checks, and payments, digital identity is revolutionizing the way we travel and puts the customer in control.
We can foresee a time when airline systems dedicated to customer profiles and preferences, and the personalization of offers, will take more room than the traditional transactional systems. Digital identity is closely coupled to the new era of customer centricity in air travel.
As technology continues to evolve, the possibilities for digital identity in the travel industry are limitless. Embracing these advancements will lead to a future where travel becomes more seamless, personalized, and enjoyable for travelers around the world.
Article by Eric Leopold