Innovation and a lot of hard work leads to Amadeus Airport Pay

Celia Pereiro

Head of Payments, Amadeus IT Group

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The traditional idea of an innovation is the Greek scholar Archimedes leaping out of the bath shouting “Eureka!” and running through the streets naked after single-handedly realising how to measure the volume of irregular objects. In reality, most innovations are closer to Thomas Edison’s famous quote, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work”. These two ideas of innovation encapsulate the story of how Amadeus developed a revolutionary payment solution: Amadeus Airport Pay. Spoiler alert! No-one runs through the airport naked.

Innovation and a lot of hard work leads to Amadeus Airport Pay

Editor’s Note: Jean-Christophe Lacour, Head of Products & Offering, and Lionel Martig, Head of R&D, Amadeus Travel Payments co-wrote this post.

The problem

Despite airlines selling ever more services at the airport, until now there has been no way to pay that is good for both the traveller and the airline. As a traveller, you may have experienced 3 scenarios: either you were unwillingly sent trekking across the airport to the airline sales desk, or you had to handover your payment card to the check-in agent for them to swipe the magstripe into the keyboard that’s shared by many airlines; hardly a good impression of security and actually very difficult for airlines to make PCI-DSS compliant! Or perhaps you paid with your chip card in a kiosk, which is a bit more reassuring, but actually not great for the airline as this has no Departure Control System (DCS) - integration…

So here is the actual problem: how can travellers pay with their chip cards at check-in, in a way that’s secure for both themselves and the airline, with a solution that allows each airline to choose their own bank, is integrated into the DCS, and all this in an environment that is often shared by several airlines (Common Use Airport Terminals) and complex to integrate into?

The beginnings of a solution

For some time, the Amadeus team had been looking at ways to crack this. We had taken an industry standards approach as Amadeus fully supports and contributes to the standards model of finding the best way to do things. We collaborated with a diverse group of industry players, and as is often the case with standards, things moved very slowly.

Innovation is a winding road

In 2013, when Lufthansa came to us for help with this problem, we were naturally excited to show the airline what we were working on. This spurred us on to be more creative and remove one major barrier. Instead of trying to come up with an easy way to integrate into these shared environments, how about bypassing them altogether? The answer was easy, go wireless! But making the whole thing happen was easier said than done.

The birth of an innovation

So, true to our Amadeus DNA, we set about finding creative solutions to the problem. With a great deal of elbow grease, tight cooperation between Amadeus R&D and product teams, a redesign of the solution along the way, and many hours looking for the right partner and POS provider, Ingenico, that could help us with the wireless gateway and meet the contactless mandates from card schemes, we got the job done and Amadeus Airport Pay was born.

One of the unique parts of this solution, that it is wireless, means it is completely independent of the underlying airport IT infrastructure, and can be deployed surprisingly fast in any airport worldwide. It can also be connected to Amadeus Airport Common Use terminals if preferred. Lufthansa began implementing it this week for all Lufthansa Group Airlines in 170 airports worldwide and, as a user of Altéa, Airport Pay comes fully integrated with their DCS. In just 3 months’ time all 170 airports worldwide will be using the new solution. Of course, it solves payment at check-in, but this solution can be used anywhere in the airport, unlocking new merchandising opportunities for airlines. With Airport Pay, you could even sell at the departure gate!

So, next time you’re flying Lufthansa and pay quickly and easily in the airport, take a second to think about all the hard work that goes into ironing out the wrinkles of the travel experience, while you enjoy a relaxed coffee at the airport terminal.