Charlotte Dumesnil, Director of Sales, Distribution and Alliances at Vueling Airlines will be speaking at World Aviation Festival on empowering customers and improving their experience through a large and efficient portfolio of payment methods.
In advance of the event, Dumesnil joined for a brief interview offering her insights into the evolving landscape of airline payments. The conversation looked at causes of unsuccessful payments and the challenges arising from aligning distribution with payments. Additionally, the impact of enhancing customer experience on converting payments was explored and Dumesnil shared her predictions for fintech trends in the coming year.
Speaking with twenty years of experience in the airline industry, Dumesnil opened the discussion with an overview of common reasons behind unsuccessful payments, highlighting the intricacies of creating a successful payment strategy. Here, two main causes of errors were explored and Vueling’s Director of Sales, Distribution and Alliances explained how the airline mitigates these to successfully surpass the industry average for bank conversion rates.
The conversation also at enhancing customer experience to help limit unsuccessful transactions. At Vueling, Dumesnil explains, a key focus for the airline is offering a large portfolio of payment methods and in particular, alternative payment forms like Apple Pay and Google Pay are set to play an important part in limiting friction for customers.
Casting her eyes to the future, Dumesnil also predicted which fintech trends will grow in prominence in the coming twelve months. Touching on account-to-account payment, “Buy Now, Pay Later” solutions, responding to NDC, and crypto payments, the interview explored several exciting developments set to enhance the payments landscape for airlines and customers alike.
To learn more from Vueling’s Director of Sales, Distribution and Alliances about empowering customers and creating a seamless payment experience, get your ticket for the World Aviation Festival.
Business travel in the wake of the pandemic: Insights from GBTA’s Annual Forecast
Some studies suggested up to 40 per cent of airline business travel may not return after the pandemic. This is particularly concerning given that pre-pandemic, the business traveller made up approximately 12 per cent of airline passengers but up to 75 per cent of revenues on flights.
There has been much speculation about the future of business travel in the wake of the pandemic and needless to say, the answer matters to the aviation industry.
The latest 2023 GBTA Business Travel Index™ Outlook – Annual Global Report and Forecast published by the Global Business Travel Association in collaboration with Visa, outlines the trajectory of business travel in the coming years, contextualising this within the post-pandemic landscape and the predictions are promising.
The forecast is packed with eye-catching statistics, but one standout finding is that “for the first time since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer the key determinant of business travel activity.” This marks a significant shift. The report highlights that while this does not mean “we are out of the woods” in terms of recovery, “the pandemic’s overall influence on the direction of business travel is less important than other drivers like the macroeconomic, sustainability initiatives and shifts in workplace trends.”
Strengthening the optimistic predictions for the recovery of business travel, the report also forecasts that global business travel spending will recover to its pre-pandemic total of $1.4 trillion in 2024 and grow to nearly $1.8 trillion by the end of 2027. This is two years earlier than predicted last year, and it attributes this to more favourable economic conditions in 2022 and 2023.
Although these trajectories are promising, business travel recovery is not uniform across regions. Western Europe was the fastest growing region in 2022 growing 109 per cent. Conversely, APAC was was the slowest growing region last year, heavily influenced by the economic shutdown in China. Chinese business travel spending dropped 4.6 per cent last year, pushing China into the second largest business travel market in the world for the first time since 2014. Nevertheless, it is predicted to return to the number one business travel market in the world by the end of 2023.
Zooming in on the behaviour of business travellers, the findings support the rise of “bleisure” travel and identify key patterns in actions with regards to fintech. The report highlights that 62 per cent of business travellers are blending business and personal travel more than they did in 2019, with 42 per cent adding additional leisure days to their business trips and 79 per cent of these travellers staying at the same accommodation for business and vacation portions of their trip. Additionally, 64 per cent of business travellers who are given a corporate card have uploaded their card to a mobile wallet with almost 87 per cent using their mobile wallet for at least 10 per cent of their business transactions.
Reflecting on the findings in the report, Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA said:
“This latest forecast now indicates an accelerated return to pre-pandemic spending levels sooner than anticipated as well as growth ahead in the coming years. Business travel spending is a key indicator, but how travel volumes will continue to rebound is yet to be seen.”
The impact of the pandemic on business travel was substantial. Now, as its influence wanes, the industry is well positioned to navigate other forces towards a bright future. With various stakeholders including American Airlines “betting against the traditional business of business travel,” the nuances of its recovery continues to be of the utmost importance to the broader industry.
You can read the “Executive Summary” or full 2023 GBTA Business Travel Index™ Outlook – Annual Global Report and Forecasthere.
Air France-KLM makes paying with points frictionless
Air France-KLM has partneredwith Pointspay to launch a “first-of-its-kind marketing and payment platform,” Flying Blue+. This makes it easier for members to earn and spending Flying Blue Miles. The key difference being, when shopping online, you can select Flying Blue+ as the payment option at checkout whilst within the merchant’s own online storefront.
Ben Lipsey, Senior Vice President of Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue program, explained:
“Flying Blue+ gives our members the opportunity to easily earn and spend their Miles at online merchants. The customer journey is smooth since members can do their shopping directly with the participating merchants and secure a seamless payment experience. We truly believe this will offer our members more value for their Flying Blue Miles and keep them engaged in their daily lives.”
With the intention of “revolutionising” the loyalty experience for Flying Blue members, the partnership will add value to the loyalty programme in a few ways:
Firstly, points accumulation is made easy. The range of merchants within the Flying Blue+ ecosystem makes it simple to gather loyalty points.
Secondly, the retail experience is frictionless. By adding the accumulated points as a payment option at checkout, the spending of these points becomes not only “intuitive,” but also convenient.
Thirdly, the combination of these factors helps to make the program more engaging.
But, is this how you would choose to spend your miles?
At World Aviation Festival in September, there will be a number of sessions covering loyalty and payments. Book your ticket now to hear directly from inspiring industry leaders including the Head of Payment Facilitation Solutions at IATA, the Head of Emirates Skywards, and the President of Mileage Plus; VP Marketing and Loyalty, at United Airlines.
Unlocking Gen Z engagement: Three essential factors to remember
Gen Z (individuals born between 1997-2012) are estimated to make up over 1 billion passengers by 2029. Having endured the pandemic at a young age, these digital natives are planning to make up for lost time with two-thirds engaging in ‘revenge travel.’ This generation poses a huge opportunity for the industry, but in order to unlock their potential it is important to understand what Gen Z value.
Although some research indicates millennials put more emphasis on greener travel choices than Gen Z, it is no secret that this generation is demonstrating an increasingly strong commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility through their travel decisions. The eco-conscious demographic are seeking greener ways to travel and are willing to switch between airlines to achieve this goal.
A recent survey showed that airlines who can support the younger generations of travellers across a variety of digital channels including instant messaging, video, and text will stand out this summer. Particularly across younger demographics, passengers are contacting airlines through apps, instant messaging, and text all of which are up 29, 71, and 105 per cent respectively since 2019.
Gen Z expect a level of flexibility from providers. Onesurvey showed 86 per cent of Gen Z travellers want free cancellation on their holiday bookings and 74 per cent look for flexible bookings in general. This makes fintech solutions like Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) particularly attractive to this demographic with studies showing in the United States (US) 55.1 per cent of Gen Z digital buyers use a BNPL service at least once a year.
Invigorating FFPs by banking on the power of partnerships
Earning miles by paying for your coffee via an airline co-brand credit card or spending the accrued loyalty currency on the same doesn’t come as a surprise today.
But the emergence of coffee, or for that matter, products related to everyday spending, in an airline’s loyalty cycle is indication of a certain shift.
Prior to March 2020 when the COVID pandemic created havoc, airlines, especially full-service carriers (FSCs), weren’t too much into such partnerships. More than how the dynamics (the commercial association with non-travel category partners) work, it was the case of being pegged back by legacy technology and also the industry being content with counting on the aspirational value of travel in the frequent flyer programme (FFP) earn and burn cycle (keeping perks and redemption options limited to travel-related options).
Assessing the same, Sebastian Huschner, Digital Product Strategy Consultant, Customer Loyalty – AerClub, Aer Lingus, said that major revenue streams linked to FFPs “dried almost overnight with the onset of the pandemic” and overall airlines were in a precarious position. As FFPs proved their worth, with airlines barely managing to survive via the much-needed liquidity resulting from the pre-selling of miles/ points, it propelled airlines to build on this.
“It stepped up the momentum to invest in technology and partnerships to strengthen their (airlines’) own internal capabilities. Progress was also seen in terms of loyalty platforms that paved for simpler integrations, rather than trying to replace the entire legacy airline architecture in place for the last 10 years, which is so difficult to do (when one thinks of agile practices),” said Sebastian.
This meant that the participation from members was salvaged, their concerns were taken care of (imagine a member being on the verge of attaining a lucrative elite tier status and how sorting of this boosted the loyalty quotient!) and added a new dimension to their engagement.
From airlines’ perspective, the shift in mindset was aptly exhibited by the likes of Air Canada, Delta Air Lines and others. In fact, when Delta and Starbucks allowed their respective loyalty programme members to link accounts of two brands, the airline stated that it is trying to pave the way for premium experiences not just on the days when one travels, but in their everyday lives as well.
Gaining more from partnerships
Airlines are now keen on such partnerships, as companies are creating value for each other’s businesses, by enabling complementary forms of member engagement. Also, the plan is to get closer to the mid-long tail customer via partnerships.
Airlines are now leaving no stone unturned to reinforce their brand, and also gain access to valuable customer insights via partnerships with non-travel partners.
As Sebastian also shared, airlines are now much smarter in terms of how they evaluate the efficacy of such initiatives, including the readiness for sharing of data.
“Commercials haven’t changed in a big way when it comes to setting up partnerships, but there is a desire for more frequent data exchange as and when you link with a partner. The onus is on the partner to provide the information, seamlessly accessible to the airline. Again, being API-centric can help accelerate this process,” said Sebastian, who also acknowledged that if an airline has refined its marketing technology (MarTech) stack with an astute customer data platform (CDP) in place, there is plenty to gain in terms of gaining a deeper understanding of the member.
Other than data analytics, the aspects of a loyalty management platform that play an integral role in managing FFPs have come a long way. Tier points and promotions management, computation for accrual and redemption, billing and other routine aspects have all been streamlined. “Airlines need to work on making data-based decisions, and act fast. This would be related to making the use of available technology and building capabilities – either in-house or through outsourcing the solution. How to work on new features and on-board partners really quickly? If you sit on legacy technology, it would remain difficult to create APIs and connect to third parties in the future. So prioritise internal tech stack and gear up for API infrastructure and move ahead with relevant integrations/ partnerships,” said Sebastian. It is time to part ways with monolithic systems and evaluate cloud-based software if not being looked at already.
Some of the key performance indicators for evaluating partnerships are:
Number of acquired members
Active in collecting points
Active in redeeming points
Average transaction value and how it differs between tiers
% age of members earning/ redeeming on air vs. non-air transactions & products
Going after every possible penny
Airlines either have to work on their ecosystem or be ready with their API strategy to target a bigger share of a consumer’s wallet.
Looking at some of the recent developments, it is clear that acquisition costs would only go up for airlines if they don’t act in an agile manner. For instance, CommBank, the largest bank in Australia, has tied up with Hopper to make it easier for the bank’s customers to book flights and other travel products. Hopper CEO Frederic Lalonde told McKinsey that the company’s B2B focus is owing to the fact its financial products “were not only generating income for us but also unlocking new customer spend”.
Those companies that are relying on modular architecture are the ones that are coming up with ways to target every possible penny that a customer spends in any category. Any industry, be it for aviation, banking or retail, is witnessing a shift towards becoming more agile organizations.
“Banking and airlines’ systems are quite comparable (both legacy),” said Huschner. “Banks, too, have been challenged by “neobanks”. There are several companies in this space that have moved ahead and capitalised on gaps in the banking infrastructure with their modular architecture and up to date technology. They (the likes of Monzo, Starling, Revolut, Monese in the UK) are able to link with a range of partners, for instance, using a neobank app that allows users to collect points on everyday spend, both online and offline, or exchange the loyalty currency for credit card spend like Barclays offers in the UK.” So airlines have to reduce the speed to market to whatever they deem fit as part of their strategy.
Areas of improvement
Sebastian recommended that airlines have to design experiences that are more intuitive, and make the member experience seamless throughout the earn and burn lifecycle, whether they use a loyalty app, card-linked offers or co-branded cards.
Sebastian said not just everyday spending but big-ticket items to an extent are already on offer in the Loyalty ecosystem. But they are being presented inconveniently to customers, even though a member already today can buy say a mobile phone from an airline’s branded eStore. “A member has to go to an airline’s eStore, which has products listed from various partner brands. You purchase a product through the eStore, and earn Loyalty points for the transaction. However, this doesn´t represent intuitive buying behaviour due to the additional steps, which is why airlines should continue to focus on automated card-linking to ensure all eligible transactions qualify for earning points. Cut down on the unnecessary steps in the purchase journey and bring points/ miles balance boost to the forefront in a seamless manner,” said Sebastian.
Even in normal times, the airline business is anything but easy. Competition, fuel costs, regulations and growing environmental awareness challenge the industry and make airline operations a demanding task. After the pandemic subsided, a certain recovery was felt, but the current rather diﬃcult economic environment, the war in Ukraine and high energy costs bring new risks and challenges.
Not only the operational business faces challenges in this diﬃcult environment, but also the back oﬃce of an airline. This is reason enough to take a closer look at the problems and developments in the area of payment handling for airlines. Specifically, we will take a closer look at service providers, markets and regulation.
Payment processing, credit card acquiring and controlling were carried out by the airlines themselves until the early 2000s. Growing regulation, new security standards in payment processing such as PCI and an increasing number of international and regional means of payment have led to more and more processes being outsourced to specialised and appropriately-certified service providers. In good economic times, the airlines were very attractive customers for these providers. This changed with the groundings of many airlines in the past decade, including some large and well-known carriers. For credit card acquirers in particular, aviation became a risky business as they were often the ones left out of pocket. Airline ticket sales are paid immediately but usually not used until weeks (or even months) after purchase. The total value of all tickets sold but not yet flown constitute the “unflown revenue”, and this quantifies the risk for the acquirer. In the event of a grounding, the acquirer is left with the ticket holder’s claims for reimbursement. More and more, airlines had to fulfil challenging conditions in order to get access to acquiring contracts at all, and the conclusion of such contracts is often linked to painful conditions for the airlines. These can mean providing security deposits such as rolling reserves (payments withheld by the acquirers), payment only when flown or the division of the business among several acquirers (risk splitting). For most airlines, credit cards are still the most widely-used means of payment, so these security deposits can have quite a painful impact on liquidity.
The number of external service and payment providers is also constantly increasing, which leads to higher processing costs as well. Payment service providers (PSPs), payment orchestrators, reconciliation services, fraud screeners and alternative payment methods charge fees for their services and thus make ticket sales more expensive.
Carriers operating worldwide usually have a very international clientele to which one must also adapt in the payment area. This means that the most relevant means of payment must be offered for each market. In addition, the credit card business can also be very different between individual markets due to legal regulations or regional standards. This not only generates more provider fees, but also increases the complexity of the processes. Airlines used to be able to map this complexity to their own system platforms, but today, this is no longer possible for the reasons already described. That is why PSPs were first forced to incorporate airline-specific features as “bespoke services”. Later, so-called “payment orchestrators” came onto the market, who inserted themselves as an additional application layer between the airlines and the PSPs, and from then on took over the control and routing of the payment processes.
Another topic is the change of customer needs. Payment should be secure, fast and simple all at the same time. It is possible to meet all requirements in this area of conflict, however the design of corresponding solutions is associated with great effort. Internationality and growing customer requirements create even more complexity, and this makes the development and operation of booking systems more expensive and slower.
Dealing with customer requirements and external service providers is complex in itself, but national regulators, the EU and the card schemes add to this with their regulations. Especially in the areas of security and costs, merchants (including airlines themselves) and service providers are confronted with a growing number of regulations and restrictions.
With the Payment Services Directive (PSD) 2 regulation, the EU issues regulations on fees and security. Credit card fees, for example, may not exceed a certain amount (which for once is in favour of the airlines), but so-called “surcharging” (charging the payment fees to the end customer) is severely restricted. This is a painful cut, especially for the airlines. Furthermore, a two-factor authentication process is mandated for online payments.
The credit card schemes (Visa, Mastercard, American Express etc.) have reacted to this regulation with the security standard “3-D Secure 2”. Since the policy limits revenues by capping acquiring fees, the schemes are reacting with an almost unmanageable number of new fees.
With PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards), the card schemes want to prevent the theft of credit card data. Since the complexity of the corresponding requirements makes it almost impossible for merchants and service providers to implement them on their own, a market for specialised service providers for tokenising credit card data has also established itself here. Of course, these providers do not work for free either, which leads to a further increase in the cost of payment processes.
Change as an opportunity
Many of the topics described above are given – especially when it comes to service providers and sales markets – and simply have to be implemented. Here, it is advisable to work with a specialised payment orchestration service.
When it comes to regulations, on the other hand, there are a number of exceptions and intelligent solutions with which negative effects can be neutralised. For example, there are simplified checkout procedures for registered customers, payment surcharges are still allowed under certain conditions, and the regulations concerning PCI DSS can be adhered to with little expense through the integration of tokenisation services.
The facts described above could give the impression that service providers, customers and regulators have conspired together to make life diﬃcult for the airlines. However, if you take a closer look at the new regulations and restrictions, you will discover advantages for all market participants. All the policies and regulations were not invented to make life diﬃcult for the industry. By consistently adhering to the guidelines, companies can significantly reduce the risks of data theft, fraud and the resulting chargebacks.
At its core, payment process design is about getting to grips with three factors: cost, risk and conversion. Despite all the issues described above, a well-balanced payment landscape can be customer-friendly, secure and comparatively cost effective. The basis for this is a good concept and, as so often in our industry, the choice of the right partners.
Uber advances super-app ambitions, partnering with Hopper to add flights to its “one-stop travel solution”
Today, Uber has announced UK users will be able to book domestic and international flights directly in the Uber app.
Growing their reputation as a “one-stop travel solution” Uber is using the UK as a test ground, adding flights to the existing transport options of Uber Rides, Uber Boat, train journeys across the National Rail network, Eurostar and coach travel.
Andrew Brem, General Manager at Uber UK said:
“Perfect for business travellers and tourists alike, our new functionality will make the booking and managing of air travel simple and stress-free, with the booking process taking as little as one minute in the Uber app […] Through our B2B initiative, Hopper Cloud, we can seamlessly integrate both our travel inventory and fintech products into the Uber ecosystem.”
Booking flights through the app will be simple, with users only needing to enter in travel details like where they will be travelling to and from on which dates. According to the press release, customers will then be able to select their departing flight and returning flight if a round trip. With major carriers, users will be able to select seats in the app and then pay, just as they would for any Uber service.
Partnering with Hopper to making this possible, a selection of fintech products are expected to be available when purchasing a flight. These include freezing of airfares, cancelling flights for any reason, as well as rebook or refunds in the event of flight disruption, all available for a fee.
With approximately 15 per cent of Uber’s gross bookings involving airport trips and 40 per cent of journeys in the UK starting or ending near transit hubs, the incorporation of flights with enable Uber to become a “true door-to-door experience for air travellers, with all legs of the journey being manageable in Uber’s smart travel itinerary product.”
Interview with Damien Cramer, Global Head of Travel and Airlines at Worldline Global – The post-pandemic payments landscape
In this interview at Aviation Festival Asia, Damien Cramer, Global Head of Travel and Airlines at Worldline Global, discusses three influential payment trends that have emerged post-Covid, shares his thoughts on the rate of digital payment adoption as a consequence of the pandemic, and answers the challenging question: how can airlines keep pace with the digital payments evolution?
During this five-minute conversation, Cramer covers shifting passenger expectations, highlights the dangers of chasing the wrong payment options, and more.
Worldline is a global leader in the payments industry.
What payment trends are you seeing in the airline space post-Covid?
Do you think digital payments adoption has accelerated since the pandemic?
How can airlines keep pace with the digital payments evolution?
Flybondi issues every ticket as an NFT to increase flexibility for passengers
This week, Argentinian low-cost airline, Flybondi announced they have taken the next step with TravelX, to offer all tickets as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This makes them the first airline to distribute all its tickets as NFTickets using TravelX’s innovative technology.
TravelX is an NFT ticketing company and the NFTicket technology is built on the Algorand blockchain.
Mauricio Sana, CEO of Flybondi, said:
“Flybondi’s Ticket 3.0 demonstrates our commitment to innovation and providing our customers with the best possible experience. We’re excited to be at the forefront of this change in the travel industry.”
Allowing travellers to “truly own and manage their tickets according to their needs.”
Seamless peer-to-peer transactions.
Most notably, the use of NFTickets will allow passengers to trade and transfer their ticket to another traveller with easy and transparency. The press release explained this presents a range of opportunities for those who purchase the tickets from bulk purchases to different payments methods, “all contributing to a more efficient and personalised experience for customers.”
Juan Pablo Laffose, CEO of TravelX, said:
“Our partnership with Flybondi and the integration of our NFTicket technology on the Algorand blockchain exemplify the enormous potential for innovation within the travel industry. We’re eager to continue driving this transformation alongside the other airlines worldwide we are already working with.”
To read more on NFTs and the Metaverse in aviation see:
What to expect at Aviation Festival Asia with Aurore Duhamel
Aurore Duhamel works on digital innovation in a large airline and is a Community Manager of French Tech Blockchain (FT Blockchain). As a digital business leader with extensive experience in crypto payments, blockchain, NFTs, Web3 strategy, and aviation Aurore is well positioned to contribute to the discourse on digital payment ecosystems at Aviation Festival Asia.
On day two of the event, Aurore will be moderating a panel titled ‘How can airlines keep up with fast-paced digital payment trends.’ This panel involves the Head of Payment Facilitation Solutions at IATA, the Chief FinTech Officer at AirAsia, the Payment Strategist at Singapore Airlines, the Global Head of Travel & Airlines, Digital Commerce at Worldline, and the Director, Airlines at Mastercard. Aurore will facilitate the discussion exploring topics including FinTech capabilities and the importance of creative payment partnerships.
Listen to the five minute audio interview to hear Aurore’s take on why the APAC region is so exciting, what key trends to look out for at Aviation Festival Asia, and what to expect from the digital payment trend panel.
Four start-ups to look out for at Aviation Festival Asia: Payments
Aviation Festival Asia gathers together industry giants, start-ups, and everyone in between to drive innovation in the aviation industry. The event is an opportunity for start-ups to get noticed and for influential industry players to forge business partnerships in the Asia Region.
With new technologies, shifting demands from customers, and pressure points highlighted by the pandemic the payments landscape is changing. These four start-ups each approach the broad topic of payments from a different perspective, addressing payment management, payment options, refunds, and more with a new and innovative outlook.
Aeropaye is developing an autonomous smart flight refund engine for airlines, travel agents, travel management companies and passengers on delayed or cancelled flights, integrating Blockchain distributed ledger technology, smart contract components and the IATA direct connect New Distribution Capability (NDC) protocol. We compete in the growing airline ticketing industry valued at $776.9 billion.
Airline tickets are stuck in a technological bottleneck. Coordinating purchases, transfers, settlements on delayed and canceled flights and payments across hundreds of airlines, agencies, and countries is expensive and inefficient under the current system.
The Aeropaye DLT component is an amazing technology that allows for easy, near instant, trustless collaboration between different parties with a common goal. These difficulties of the travel industry is the perfect environment to apply it in. Aeropaye travel tickets smart tokens have immediate benefits like fast transactions, instant settlements, and more efficient collaboration between all the parties.
2. Happy Fly Limited
Happy Fly Limited (HFL) is an Insurtech MGA based in London offering unique insurance and technology solutions to Airlines to mitigate the financial and administrative burdens of EU261 Flight Delay Compensation exposures.
HFL has developed flexible and innovative insurance solutions designed to mitigate an Airline’s financial exposure to their current, future and historic EU261 compensation liabilities and cap EU261 to a single predictable cost.
In addition, HFLs unique Payments+ secure cloud-based claims portal autonomously manages, validates, and verifies passenger EU261 claims as well as paying compensation to passengers anywhere in the world.
HFL feel that they are well positioned to assist Airlines in the Post-Covid environment, where Airlines are under pressure to restructure into leaner more efficient and cost-effective operating models. The solutions HFL can deliver to Airlines will reduce liabilities to increase borrowing potential as well as providing financial certainty and balance sheet protection, which together with HFLs Payments+ Claims Portal, will be a paradigm shift in customer service and deliver significant cost savings to Airlines worldwide.
SeatCash is an innovative travel lifestyle technology company delivering an improved travel purchase and management experience to consumers and travel suppliers. Bringing 100+ years of combined travel industry experience, the SeatCash team is using technology to disrupt the frustrations of today’s travel environment utilizing the latest in predictive sciences, AutoML, and FinTech innovation.
Wowpay Pte Ltd is a payment orchestration service provider which enables customers to manage multiple payment gateways and processors across the globe through a single API. Wowpay’s proprietary rules-based engine has been proven to help airlines save costs in managing their payment stack by reducing the time it takes for multiple payment methods to be integrated and channelling payments to the lowest cost processor.
All this can be done by little to no-code on Wowpay’s dashboard. Wowpay can handle not just payment processing but also fraud detection and management settings. Back by a team of experienced travel technologists, Wowpay understands the challenges faced and value demanded by airlines.
These four start ups will be at Aviation Festival Asia next month. To see how these and many other start-ups can enhance passenger experience, get your ticket here.
We haven’t mentioned Blockchain, for quite some time.
We at Travel in Motion have already published numerous blogs, white papers, and podcasts about, hopefully, relevant subjects in our industry. But until now we have only once discussed blockchain and this was quite some time, ago. Are we missing out on something? Or are we “clever” enough to know that blockchain is simply a buzzword and will disappear like many others that were once hype and are now out of sight, out of mind? I think it is a case of “neither one nor the other”. As many others, we have mixed feelings about the relevance of blockchain technology in commercial airline IT. Thus, we are simply not yet confident enough to take a definitive position.
Maybe it would be helpful to summarize what blockchain technology really is and where it makes (or could make) the difference in comparison to “traditional” systems, such as databases. For me a good, but non-scientific start to get a high-level understanding of a new topic has often been Wikipedia, which describes blockchain as:
“A distributed ledger with growing lists of records (blocks) that are securely linked together via cryptographic hashes. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (…). The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was created. Since each block contains information about the previous block, they effectively form a chain (…), with each additional block linking to the ones before it. Consequently, blockchain transactions are irreversible in that, once they are recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks.”
Comparing blockchain technology with traditional database technology shows that it delivers advantages. IBM provides an informative and easy-to-read summary on their website, which I have used for this blog:
Enhanced security: as the records are distributed over numerous entities with an end-to-end encryption, fraud-like manipulation of data and other unauthorized activities are simply not possible.
Greater transparency: as a blockchain uses a distributed ledger, all data and transactions are recorded identically in multiple locations. Thus, all participants see the same information at the same time, leading to transparency.
Instant traceability: through blockchain the provenance of data is documented and can be audited.
Increased efficiency and speed: compared to traditional paper-heavy and manual processes blockchain technology can lead to faster and more efficient execution.
Automation: through “smart contracts”, transactions are automated when pre-defined conditions are met. Smart contracts are programs stored on a blockchain that run when predetermined conditions are met.
As I am not a computer scientist, I am still not 100% sure if I understood all the above, but it has at least given me a view of where blockchain technology may provide advantages over traditional database technology. In a traditional database setup, data is stored in tables and can be modified any time. Blockchain is more secure, more or less immune to fraud, transparent and does not require a centralized third party to secure the system. Through this, blockchain as a technology creates confidentiality and trust without being managed centrally.
The probably best-known use of blockchain technology is cryptocurrencies. I must admit that the volatility of values, stored in and managed through cryptocurrencies does not impress me – it even makes me suspicious. But cryptocurrency is just an application that uses blockchain technology and it is probably the best proof point that the underlying blockchain technology really works.
So, what does this mean for commercial airline IT systems? Our ecosystem can also be characterized as an environment where participants are globally distributed, representing different interests with a need to cooperate, and where values are shifted through digitalized channels, requiring the highest security and traceability. Doesn’t this ring a bell? Aren’t these the characteristics that also describe the advantages of blockchain technology? Blockchain is exactly a technology that meets the requirements described above. The issue is only that these requirements already existed long before blockchain became available – and not only that, also these requirements have already been solved long before blockchain appeared on our radar screens. So, is blockchain a wonderful technology that addresses issues which have already been solved in our industry? I think there is an element of truth in this. Replacing legacy technology and processes for the sake of using modern technologies has always been a big challenge and an issue in our industry. Or in other words, while blockchain promises a lot and has also proven to deliver what it promises from a technological standpoint, what are the potential areas of use in our industry? What are the killer use cases for blockchain technology in commercial airline IT? In settlement process? Or distribution perhaps? Or perhaps even a combination of NDC; offer and order management together with blockchain – doesn’t this sound more like a nightmare to some of us?
But as of today, most of us still feel that blockchain is a technology that is rising and becoming more mainstream, but we do not yet know how it will be utilized and what impact it will have. Therefore, I come back to the point mentioned earlier in this blog. We at Travel in Motion are not yet confident enough to take a definitive position. This time we need your help: how do you see blockchain in commercial airline IT? Where do you see a value add? Where do you see use cases? We are looking forward to receiving your thoughts!
Qatar Airways’ innovative world first loyalty initiative
Yesterday (24 January), Qatar Airways Privilege Club (QRPC) and Qatar Duty Free launched a ‘world first’ innovative partnership. Now, members of the QRPC will be able to collect and use Avios as a part payment option across almost 200 outlets at Hamad international Airport (HIA).
As the airline’s reward currency, Avios can now be used as payment across retail brands as well as food and beverage outlets at Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH). Working in tandem with this, Qatar Airways will also reward passengers at all departure points with Avios points upon check in. These will be credited up to 120 minutes before flight departure.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Mr Akbar Al Baker said:
“We have enhanced and upgraded our redemption options for our loyalty members and we are enabling access to a truly unique airport shopping and dining experience. A first the world initiative, this demonstrates our commitment for going the extra mile when enhancing the quality of our offerings by providing members with a seamless experience. We encourage everyone travelling through HIA to avail themselves of this experience and opportunity as there has never been an easier way to collect and spend Avios.”
Avios can be collected when members fly with Qatar Airways, oneworld airlines, or QR’s airline partners. They can also be collected with more than 100 global partners and co-branded payment cards.
The new partnership encourages engagement with the airline’s loyalty programme. It provides a strong and convenient incentive for passengers to sign up to Privilege Club, leveraging the airline’s fortunate position as interconnected with the airport and duty-free company.
Mr Akhar Al Baker, CEO Qatar Airways will be speaking on a Keynote CEO panel at Aviation Festival Asia exploring future technologies and trends that we can expect to see emerge in the retail, loyalty, and customer experience space.
Vueling to become the first LCC in Europe to accept NFTs as payment alternative
Last week, Spanish low-cost airline Vueling and cryptocurrency buying and selling platform Criptan announced their partnership. The pair are working together to enable Vueling to accept NFTs (non-fungible tokens) as payment.
From the second half of 2023, Vueling will offer passengers the option to purchase flights using NFTs making it “the first low-cost airline in Europe to accept cryptocurrencies as a payment alternative.”
Elaborating on the partnership, Jesús Monzó, Vueling’s distribution and alliances manager said:
“This agreement places us at the forefront of new technologies and innovation, further strengthening our commitment to our customers and offering the best and most advanced tools and solutions on our website.”
Jorge Soriano, CEO of Criptan emphasised Vueling’s commitment to forward thinking:
“Vueling is proving to be a leader in all that relates to innovation. This is a clear move that demonstrates the potential behind the crypto and Web3 ecosystem and that goes far beyond speculation […] We are convinced that we can improve the user experience, not only through payments in crypto but by bringing the advantages of this ecosystem in the most useful and simple way possible.”
Vueling is not the first to pioneer the overlap between cryptocurrencies and the field of aviation. In 2014, Air Baltic became the first airline in the world to accept bitcoin, closely followed by LOT Polish Airlines in 2015. Last year, the world’s first collectible NFTicket was sold for over $1 million for an Air Europa business class ticket from Madrid to Miami.
Mastercard and Sabre’s Conferma Pay partner on virtual cards
On 28 November, it was announced that Mastercard is partnering with Sabre Corporation’s Conferma Pay on virtual cards for the travel economy.
Back in August 2022, Sabre acquired Conferma Pay to advance virtual card payments in the travel industry. Sabre Corporation is a leading software and tech provider powering the global travel industry. The recently acquired Conferma Pay is a leading UK-based FinTech company and a pioneer in virtual card technology.
In big news for the payments industry, Sabre’s Conferma Pay will now partner with the global pioneer in payment innovation, Mastercard. The partnership will include a minority investment in Conferma Pay by Mastercard.
Discussing the partnership, Roshan Mendis, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Sabre Travel Solutions said:
“Companies in the travel space […] need sophisticated solutions and seamless connections. Sabre is taking strategic steps to fulfil the needs of our industry, beginning with the acquisition of Conferma Pay. Now, the new partnership with Mastercard will help Conferma Pay to build new and enhanced digital capabilities in virtual cards, transforming the payment experience for issuers.”
Virtual cards have huge potential for the entire payments industry but hold a particular value for business payments in the travel industry. Sabre reported that the digitisation of travel payments with virtual cards helps address the historic challenges associated with B2B leisure and corporate travel payments. The securely generated, single use card numbers provide a link between booking and associated payments to third party suppliers. Travel buyers and supplier are therefore able to easily track and reconcile payments, as well ad benefit from flexible pricing, finance options, and enhanced security through card payment guarantees.
Explaining the prospects for virtual cards, Chris Fendley, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Partnerships at Mastercard said:
“A combination of experience, technologies and capabilities will accelerate travel payment innovation and drive inclusive and sustainable growth for the sector. Virtual cards deliver visibility, boost liquidity and increase control over B2B payment flows, which enhance payment strategies and empower organizations across the travel value chain to run, grow and protect their business, which has never been more essential.”
The partnership is an exciting development for travel industry payments.
Two important BNPL partnerships announced this week
This week, two significant ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ (BNPL) partnerships were announced. One between United States (US) based online travel shopping company Expedia and BNPL leader Afterpay. The second is with UK-based Fly Now Pay Later and Worldline integrating the payment tech to their TravelHub. These two partnerships highlight the considerable growth of BNPL in the travel industry. Although more BNPL solutions were already being integrated, current economic hardships are catalysing the roll out of these initiatives. For more detail on BNPL in aviation read here.
On 21 November 2022, Expedia Group “the world’s leading traveller technology platform” announced their partnership with BNPL provider, Afterpay. Now, US-based customers booking flights and hotels will have the option to pay in four interest-free payments over six weeks.
The partnership comes at a time of considerable economic hardship worsened by soaring cost of living prices. These shifts are influencing consumer behaviour. One survey by PYMNTS found that nearly 22 per-cent of consumers are planning to spend less of holiday travel this year.
Announcing the partnership, Alex Fisher, Head of Revenue, North America, Afterpay said:
“As consumers prepare for the peak holiday travel period, we are excited to provide an easy and flexible service that will allow our customers to book and pay in four instalments for their preferred flights and accommodations, interest-free and over time.”
Highlighting the technology in use, Christian Gerron, Senior Vice President Media and Brand Partnerships, Expedia Group said:
“Expedia Group is proud to become Afterpay’s first major US travel partner […] This highlights our ongoing growth in developing cutting-edge traveller technologies that provide our partners with new ways to deliver great experiences to their customers which, in turn, drive customer loyalty.”
On the same day, a partnership between Worldline and Fly Now Pay Later was announced. Worldline is a global leader in secure payments and trusted transactions. Fly Now Pay Later, ‘the travel industry’s leading BNPL provider’ has been integrated into Worldline’s TravelHub. Customers will now have the option to spread the cost of their travel.
Jasper Dykes, CEO and founder Fly Now Pay Later said:
“As a dedicated team of travellers committed to making paying for travel simpler and fairer, we are delighted to announce the partnership with Worldline as a highly respected pioneer in secure payments and trusted Transactions. We’re all about making sure that travel payments work for everyone, so welcome the opportunity to work with merchants to help their customers spread out the cost of a hotel, flight or holiday.”
Guillaume Tournand, Head of Growth, Worldline highlighted the additional benefits for their company:
“Partnering with Fly Now Pay Later has provided us with access to a wealth of travel expertise. As the partner of choice for merchants, banks and acquirers, operating in 50 countries, we pride ourselves on providing a world-class service for those seeking secure payments and trusted transactions when booking their holidays, business trips and more.”
As the cost of living increases around the globe, and travel companies continue to integrate more BNPL options to keep pace with other retail sectors, we can expect to see more BNPL options within the industry.
On 15 November 2022 Star Alliance launched the HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card powered by Ascenda. This is the world’s first airline alliance credit card. It is big news for the industry so here are the who, what, where, and whys.
Who is involved?
Star Alliance – The Star Alliance network, established in 1997 was the first truly global airline alliance. It offers the largest and most comprehensive airline network. The member airlines participating in the loyalty programme include: Air Canada, Air New Zealand, EVA Air, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, THAI, and United Airlines.
Ascenda – Ascenda is a global rewards technology company with a cloud-based loyalty platform. The company ‘deploys reward solutions that enable brands to grow revenue and build deeper customer connections across the entire financial relationship.’
What is it?
The card is the first of its kind, bringing together seven of the world’s leading airlines on a single credit card platform. Traditionally, these cards are linked to a singular airline’s reward system. However, the HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card allows customers a choice from multiple airlines with whom they can redeem points for frequent flyer programs.
Importantly for customers, they are able to earn Star Alliance Points on everyday eligible credit card purchases.
Jeffrey Goh, CEO of Star Alliance said:
“Star Alliance is delighted to launch this industry-first loyalty product together with HSBC and Visa. This is very much consistent with a key strategy of Star Alliance which is to offer a loyalty proposition that others talk about.
This unique product is an outcome of strategic discussions with our member airlines for the Australian market. It will offer a new world of loyalty experience with not only the ability to earn points, but also a fast track to Star Alliance Gold Status through everyday spending. Star Alliance Gold Status offers a range of benefits such as lounge access and priority boarding across all Star Alliance member carriers.”
Where is the card active?
For now, the card is only available in Australia.
Why has this been introduced?
An HSBC Travel and Finance survey found that although Australians are prioritising travel in 2023, they are simultaneously looking to keep travel costs low. The survey revealed 24 per-cent of respondents who intended to travel overseas said they would pay for flights with credit card rewards and points.
The same survey also revealed 96 per-cent of respondents travelling overseas said they would consider tips and tricks to keep travel costs down.
Looking at the results, the Australian market appears primed for the introduction of a credit card which enables them to collect points for flying through every day purchases.
The technology elevating the retail experience at airports
As airport retail evolves to keep up with changing consumer demands, technology has acted as a catalyst fuelling the change. One way technology is facilitating a frictionless, futuristic experience of airport retail is through checkout-free stores.
For the customer, the retail process could look like this:
Enter the store by tapping a credit card or scanning a QR code.
Pick the desired products.
Benefitting the customer
These stores contribute to a contactless customer journey within the airport and provide an enhanced experience of airport retail. Through removing the need to queue, the passenger will be able to enjoy the offerings from the outlet without having to stand in tiresome checkout lines tapping their foot and checking their watch.
Benefiting the retailer and the airport
Importantly, while elevating passenger experience, the technology is also beneficial to both the retailer and the airport. Retailers have less work to do and can run with fewer staff and airports keep passengers seamlessly flowing through the airport.
Zippin is a provider of this checkout-free technology. Last month, Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport opened its first checkout-free store using Zippin’s technology. The technology is already in place in Tom Jobim International Airport in Rio de Janeiro and JFK International Airport in New York.
Krishna Motukuri, CEO and Co-founder, Zippin said:
“Self-checkout simply passes the work of the cashier on to the customer, increasing friction for the customer, which inevitably leads to frustration and errors and MORE work for retailers, in the end. Checkout-free works by removing friction and making retail operations substantially more efficient.”
Zippin is not the only provider of this technology. Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology facilitates a comparably seamless experience for customers. This technology was demonstrated last year at a Hudson Nonstop store at Chicago Midway International Airport.
Qantas extends its loyalty offering through partnership with Bangkok Airways
Bangkok Airways is the latest airline to partner with Qantas. Their collaboration sees Bangkok Airways added to the 45 existing carriers partnered with Qantas for its Frequent Flyer loyalty programme.
This is the latest evolution of Qantas and Bangkok Airways’ partnership which commenced in 2014 with a codeshare agreement.
Identifying Thailand as one of their most popular destinations, Qantas has incorporated Bangkok Airways’ 20 destinations into their loyalty offering. These destinations across Thailand and South-East Asia are added to the 1,200 places that Qantas already offers their frequent flyer users through Classic Flight Reward seats.
Discussing the partnership, Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth said:
“We want our members to be able to use their Qantas Point on reward seats to as many destinations as possible and our portfolio of partner airlines means they can choose from hundreds of locations across the globe. Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for our frequent flyers and this partnership will make it easier for them to explore more of the region using their points.”
Qantas has partnered with carriers across the globe to create an impressive loyalty rewards programme for their frequent flyers. Airlines already working in partnership with Qantas include:
IATA survey reports passengers want simplification and convenience
Surveying over 10,000 people from 222 countries, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed the results of its 2022 Global Passenger Survey (GPS). The survey shows the top priority for passengers’ travel experience are simplification and convenience.
Highlights from the survey
Technology and convenience:
Passengers see value in biometric identification. 75% of passengers want to use biometric data instead of passports and boarding passes. Over a third have already experienced using biometric identification in their travels, with an 88% satisfaction rate. But data protection remains a concern for about half of travelers.
Passengers are willing to complete processing elements off-airport. 44% of travelers identified check-in as their top pick for off-airport processing. Immigration procedures were the second most popular “top-pick” at 32%, followed by baggage. And 93% of passengers are interested in a special program for trusted travelers (background checks) to expedite security screening.
Passengers are interested in more options for baggage handling. 67% would be interested in home pick-up and delivery and 73% in remote check-in options. 80% of passengers said that would be more likely to check a bag if they could monitor it throughout the journey. And 50% said that they have used or would be interested in using an electronic bag tag.
Travelers were satisfied being able to pay with their preferred payment method which was available for 82% of travelers. Having access to planning and booking information in one single place was identified as being top priority.
Learning from the online Amazon experience
Discussing the survey, Muhammad Albakri, IATA Senior Vice President Financial Settlement and Distribution Services said:
“Today’s travellers expect the same online experience as they get from major retailers like Amazon. Airline retailing is driving the response to these needs. It enables airlines to present their full offer to travellers. And that puts the passenger in control of their travel experience with the ability to choose the travel options that they want with convenient payment options.”
Amazon set the benchmark for unrivalled customer experience. Placing the customer at its heart, the business worked to the vision of, “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” The Amazon Consumer Behaviour Report 2021 echoes the results of the IATA survey, identifying convenience as consumers’ second top priority. Through anticipating customer needs, offering frictionless processes, convenience, low prices, and personalisation, the brand established unparalleled loyalty.
The aviation world can learn a lot from how Amazon has placed the customer experience at the heart of its business. Utilising technology to offer hyper personalisation, an understanding of the individual customer and their needs, frictionless processes, and convenience the aviation industry can drive customer satisfaction.