Change management, data and digitisation: how to meet traveller expectations

Laura Cobbold

Corporate Communications Manager, Group Communications, Amadeus IT Group

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Last week London played host to two travel industry events, T2RL’s annual event on Airline Passenger Service Systems, and the CAPA-ACTE Global Summit.

One of the main topics discussed at the T2RL event was the slower pace of change in the airline industry, in comparison to consumer retail industries. Why is it that new ways of doing things seem to be met with slow adoption, and how can the industry move to fix that?

Change management and digital tools were discussed in a panel on how to design and implement a digital strategy. Without getting these elements right, as well as the commitment from the appropriate stakeholders both inside the organisation, and more broadly across the industry, it’s difficult to achieve results.

“You’ve got to win hearts and minds,” said Robert Sinclair-Barnes, Strategic Marketing Director, Airlines, Amadeus IT Group.

One of the forces of change in the industry is clearly due to the expectations of travellers. As travellers expect more personalisation, whether in business or leisure travel, airlines and providers have to adapt.

Paul McLean, Director, Customer Solutions & Innovations - PSS, at Air Canada, discussed the fact that the market has moved many full service carriers to take elements from a low cost model, for example by obliging travellers to pay for their lunch on a flight. Yet this move is complex – it’s difficult to balance traveller expectations from the brand against new market demands.

The use of data in order to truly understand travellers was in the point of focus in a session at CAPA entitled, ‘Technology running amok: what impact will recent innovations have on airline retailing?’, with spokespeople from CarTrawler, Skyscanner and Amadeus participating. CarTrawlers’ CTO Bobby Healy mentioned the importance that share of voice is used efficiently by different providers such as car rental companies and hotels, so that travellers aren’t bombarded with offers all at once after buying an airline ticket, and Rob Sinclair-Barnes highlighted Amadeus’ recent research into what travellers truly value when shopping for a flight, in order for airlines to be able to market intuitively each upsell opportunity.

This opinion chimed with points made at the T2RL event on the increasing role of datafication, and the requirement to have a single view of the customer across all touchpoints. The travel industry is already a fragmented industry, and several discussions revolved around how to make systems more streamlined, instead of more complex.

Finally, one message that came through clearly from several airlines at T2RL was the role of travel agents in the distribution mix. Adrian Bell, Head of Commercial Systems at EasyJet, commented that it’s about providing a consistent experience whatever the channel, and agents need to be given the tools to do that. In a different panel, Air Canada and Hawaiian Airlines also mentioned the importance of travel agents in extending reach and ancillary sales.

In this video, Rob Sinclair-Barnes takes us through some of the highlights from the two conferences: