The journey that a payment takes between airline passengers and the airline company involves many steps, but it probably is the single most important factor in the process for both parties. In fact, it will become even more pivotal when the travel industry returns to full capacity post-pandemic.
Airlines have complex payment processes that occur across various sales channels, devices, countries, currencies, payment instruments, and intermediaries. Similar to the flights themselves, payment data has a long way to travel before it reaches its final destination. It is passed from customers to airlines, from airlines to third parties and corresponding payment processors, until finally, funds are transferred to the acquiring banks. Behind every transaction, there is a delicate orchestration of steps and routes that the payment must take. Every decision on this route directly impacts an airline’s revenue, where an ineffective turn represents additional cost. In addition, it could also be the difference between a passenger completing or abandoning a purchase.
Optimising payment infrastructure and preventing revenue loss means removing barriers that affect both the airline’s bottom line and the customer experience. Customers are most interested in payment options which are simple, fast, and familiar – delivering a frictionless checkout process. On the other hand, an airline needs to guarantee safety and cost efficiency by honouring regulations such as PCI, preventing fraudulent activities, and guaranteeing connectivity to processors that enable better acceptance rates and lower fees.
So, how can airlines ensure that their payment processes benefit their passengers as well as their business post-pandemic? You can start by considering our 5 top tips below.
Provide more payment options
Payment transactions are short in duration compared to the total amount of time which an airline customer spends travelling. But these short moments are important. If a customer wants to make a payment, and you don’t support their preferred method, revenue is lost. Therefore, it’s vital to give passengers the option to pay with the method they want – a striking example: when Finnair introduced Alipay for in-cabin payments, sales increased by 200%.
Streamline the process
Revenue opportunities are lost if there are too many steps in the payment process, or if a customer is redirected to third-party websites multiple times. Furthermore, if there is technical downtime with either the airline, the processor, or the acquirer, a customer may abandon the payment and probably won’t return – another example of an incomplete payment and lost revenue. Nowadays, people also like to make purchases at their own convenience and often use mobile devices – therefore, having a mobile-friendly platform or a mobile app makes good business sense and could open up new opportunities to drive growth.
Secure the payments path
Firstly, you need to be aware of potential fraudsters. It’s proven that the airline industry loses $1.4 billion per year just on fraud. Different payment service providers (PSPs) have different systems and rules that are associated with fraud and yield different results. The airline industry has specific customer needs, however, and airlines should consider having an in-house solution tailored for their individual requirements.
Secondly, what about data hijackers, who aim to take advantage of airlines exchanging sensitive data with business partners and providers? While PCI regulates these paths, it’s your responsibility to make them safe. A data breach could cause tremendous damage – financially and reputationally. Hence, it may be beneficial to partner with a tokenisation provider. They enable you to pass sensitive data to partners through their gateways while taking full financial liability in case of data theft and help to secure this process.
Variety is key
In case a payment can’t be processed, an airline should have an alternative processor. If they don’t, everything stops until the issue is resolved. And remember, not all PSPs are equal. Some can offer greater acceptance in specific regions or better commercial agreements than their competitors. The “toll” to be paid will differ depending on the route taken. A customer’s geographic location causes a transformation of all payments into local transactions, eliminating cross-border and currency conversion fees for international transactions. Having the option to choose between multiple providers and acquirers guarantees a better negotiation position in terms of who gets your business.
Track all transactions
Even if payment instructions have been sent and the payment is processed, the journey doesn’t end there. You need to ensure that nothing is lost along the way, which means that all fees and transactions need to be tracked and matched to the processor’s or the acquirer’s reconciliation files. Airlines allocate resources to write-offs in case of mismatched financial records. Having multiple payment instruments and processors increases the risk of mismatching, as there are more contracts, fee types, and documents that require cross-referencing. Airlines should therefore store as much transactional data as possible to allow for a more precise tracking. Using an automated solution that collects different types of reconciliation reports and maps them to internal financial records can reduce the write-offs and ensure that you pay only your obligated fees.
Airlines can ensure an enhanced and potentially more profitable customer experience with the right payment routes – by choosing payment providers that can guarantee better deals for specific countries or regions and by generating additional revenue through more acceptance, lower fees, and fewer write-offs. While there are many steps to consider, airlines can leverage smart strategies as well as digital tools and processes to make payments work for both their passengers and their bottom lines when widespread travel recommences.