UATP Airline Distribution event explores evolving world of travel payments

Anna Almqvist

Head of Commercial, Travel Payments, Amadeus IT Group

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Industry leaders gathered in Athens, Greece for an airline distribution event, hosted by UATP, the private airline owned low cost payment network. The interactive conference explored some of the complex distribution questions facing airlines today. One of the highlights of the event was a lively panel discussion on managing the evolving world of payments, which concluded with the notion that airlines need to have a clear view on the entire process and that comes by setting out an effective payment strategy that gives them a clear picture of the entire payment process.

Important factors to consider

The panel identified a number of important factors that airlines must consider when expanding, such as deep market analysis, localized payment options, infrastructure available, and a defined list of needs. Discussions highlighted the fact that currently many airlines have no way of tracking the entire payment cost, as they lack a dedicated payment team and strategy. This is further compounded by the inheritably complex nature of airline distribution, which is unique when compared to other industries, reiterating the importance of a solid core strategy.

This is something which Amadeus believes very strongly. The focus on payments has historically come from the ecommerce department where the challenges have been sharpest. However, the situation today at many airlines is that payment is managed in silos with, consequently, a multitude of suppliers, processes and approaches and no single view of payments across the organization. A holistic, joined-up payment strategy would deliver economies of scale as well as providing a consistent customer experience regardless of whether customers are paying on the website, in a call center or with a travel agent.

Further key aspects

Alternative methods of payment (AMOPs) were singled out as becoming very important, but the panelists agreed that airlines need to look at the ones specific to the industry, even though they are not very speedy when it comes to AMOPs. This discussion then segued into talks of regulation and how a better understanding of the nuances of country specific regulation could lead to cost reductions for airlines.

Finally, fraud and security took center stage with talks of how airlines can overcome ‘false positives’, which are transactions that have been identified as potential fraud, but are not. It was noted that new tools like 3DS are available to further authenticate the customer, but they can have a direct impact on conversion rates, so they are not widely used. Also discussed, was the increase of ‘friendly fraud’ and ‘frequent flyer fraud’, and how airlines need to wisely use all the data they have to combat these problems. Airlines have seen an increase in fraud rates coming from call centers, in some cases up to 90% of total offline fraud, and one solution could be to push the traveler to a secure online environment requiring 3DS authentication. The panel concluded things by agreeing that airlines must connect the dots, meaning that they need to have an ‘onmichannel’ view of the payment process to create a more secure booking experience.

Were you at the event? What were your key takeaways?