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How can airlines become the next travel retailer giant?

Joelle Cuvelier

Head of Airline Solutions, Americas, Amadeus

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What makes my job so interesting is the opportunity to talk with airline executives about “what’s next” in the future of travel. As their technology partner, airlines are looking to Amadeus not just to provide technology that supports better air travel, but also to deliver critical innovations that help them improve and enhance the overall customer experience.

So, what’s next on the travel horizon?

Expect an Amazon-like experience

Today, 20% of all international tourists are millennials, the fastest growing segment in travel spending. This group represents $180 billion in annual tourism revenue, a 30% increase since 2007. For millennial travelers, the FAANG technology providers – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – have set the gold standard for what a seamless, end-to-end customer experience looks like. Millennial travelers will demand this same caliber of service from the airlines (and hotel, car and other travel providers) they choose.

Whether their flight was smooth or not will become less important. Instead, these travelers will continuously evaluate their entire experience from purchase to fulfillment, all the while providing feedback via social media. They will evaluate things like: Was my flight easy to book? How smooth was my trek through the airport? Were my frequent flyer points logged correctly? What about the preferred meal and seat I pre-booked? Was my luggage easy to retrieve and my rental car experience seamless? Did the hotel greet me by name upon arrival?

All of these “touchpoints” must be tailored to the customer’s precise needs, and executed smoothly, seamlessly, on time and as promised. In order to fulfill that retailing promise, airlines must continue to transform the way they operate.

From PNR to customer-centric order

The IATA initiative known as One Order  could bring the biggest changes to the airline industry since e-tickets became a requirement a decade ago. This modernization exercise is a massive transformation process that will move our industry beyond legacy constraints, and offer a more seamless experience to the traveling public by simplifying the delivery and accounting of airlines’ services. Under this new order, airlines will consolidate travelers’ preferences and purchases (i.e. fares and ancillaries), making servicing, accounting and trouble-shooting easier and better for all players, including airlines, travel providers and passengers.

Looking further into the future, One Order will unite multiple players – airline partners, airport services, ground handlers and more – which will be absolutely critical to providing a smooth travel experience. Just like a five-star Amazon experience, this is what travelers will expect on their journeys as well.

One Order will combine all of the relevant traveler data from multiple records into one order, creating a standardized, unique customer reference. All suppliers will recognize this reference, enabling them to provide a smooth, touchless experience. As I shared in a recent ATPCO blog, the new reality will be that you won’t even need a mobile device to book a flight or check in – you will just ask Alexa!

Fulfilling the retailing promise

But One Order is just one step into this journey. What will truly transform the industry is a next-generation Order Management System that helps the airlines become travel retailers by transforming the way they manage orders and partners – not only from a solution perspective, but from a business process angle as well. This new Order Management System will make many existing processes more personalized by incorporating artificial intelligence and data-driven capabilities such as those that enable retail companies’ success today.

The future vision is an Order Management System that connects the whole airline ecosystem by supporting multiple channels and touchpoints while enabling simplified customer interactions. The One Order concept is the industry standard that will enhance an airline’s retailing capabilities and facilitate interactions with partner airlines, both ticketing and ticketless. The ultimate prize? A smooth and seamless traveler experience.

Partnering for success in the Americas

I like to think of travel as a prism of multiple experiences. With so many elements involved in the travel cycle, it has become tricky to maintain the dependence between so many records – and expertly manage the changes. Therefore, it’s critical that Amadeus help our airline and travel customers manage the complexities with future-forward technology and innovations.

Here in the Americas, airline partners such as AviancaAir Canada  and Southwest Airlines trust us to provide industry-leading solutions and improved capabilities that help their airlines run smoother.

In an environment where customer expectations are ever-evolving and competition is only one click away, Amadeus continues to find new ways to help airlines improve the travel experience for everyone. It’s about moving the industry toward a true retailing environment that includes dynamic offers, a personalized customer experience, seamless shopping and delivery, and real-time financial flows.

Amadeus has been doing this for the past 30+ years, and we look forward to continuing to help our airline customers transform their businesses for future success.

What transformations do you see on the horizon?

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