Timing of airline merchandising offers key element of customer journey

Matthieu Quehen

Product Marketing, e-Commerce and Mobile Solutions, Airline IT, Amadeus IT Group

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Timing is crucial for airlines when it comes to offering ancillary services. The time during the customer journey at which an offer is made is important because travellers are more open to offers (and need more help and guidance) at certain stages of their journey. Research from our study, Thinking like a retailer, shows that the best time to reach a traveller typically happens during the booking stage and 48 hours before departure.


For example, cost conscious German football super fan Klaus works in London but wants to see his team play in person, so he plans a trip to Brazil for the World Cup. Ideally, the following contextual ancillary services could be offered to him when he is in a purchasing mind-set.

The booking stage

The booking stageis the ideal time for airlines to approach Klaus while he’s on his PC with big ticket items that require thought and comparison such as hotels, car rental and insurance. It is also the time when he is most cost conscious – so he will appreciate good deals at this time as well.

76% of travellers feel that a context-aware email could persuade them to make a purchase, so 48 hours after booking, the airline can send an email to Klaus offering a World Cup package, which includes a special Brazilian themed meal during his outbound flight, including a Caipirinha drink upon boarding, and an airline-FIFA co-branded toiletry kit. Two days prior to departure is when travellers begin to focus on airport parking, transfers, luggage and other logistics of their trip – so this is the ideal time for the airline to offer Klaus logistic based ancillary services.

Klaus is travelling after the tournament begins and a few matches will be played during his flight. Knowing that the best services to offer on the day of travel (especially on mobile), are services that are low value and quickly consumed, during check-in, the airline offers Klaus ‘pay per view’ live coverage of the football match via their inflight entertainment system. After he has checked in, the airline leverages their mobile platform, and Klaus receives an SMS or a mobile app message for a 25% discount off any FIFA branded items at the duty free shop.

What the Customers say

To ease Klaus’ trip, and own more of the travel experience beyond the flight, the airline offers him a city guide and insider tips on the best places to experience Brazil and World Cup activities, going as far as offering him booking options through their app/site.

25% of passengers say that the best time for them to consider an offer is once they are back at home thinking about their next trip, so the airline can leverage this time period to further influence the experience. For instance, they could send a promotion sent to Klaus’ mobile device on FIFA branded merchandise, souvenirs, or duty free items. Proactively sending Klaus tailored offers based on preference, purchase history, etc. upon return from the trip, is a need that very few airlines are currently meeting, thus providing them with a great growth opportunity, especially with frequent travellers.

To maximise their merchandising potential, airlines must offer relevant services throughout the customer journey, while effectively employing the mobile channel. If an airline can do this, it becomes more than just a commodity flight provider. It becomes a brand differentiated service provider, offering positive experiences and adding real value.

Interested in learning more about airline merchandising? Download our free report Thinking like a retailer: Airline merchandising.