What Usain Bolt and airline merchandising have in common

Christian Baillet

Regional Director, Airline IT Sales, Amadeus IT Group

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Once again Usain Bolt flew across the finish lines of the 100m and 200m to earn gold at the Rio Olympics. He makes it look so easy, but what you don’t see are the countless hours of training and the relentless focus he’s brought to the sport every day for the last 20 years.


The same goes for airline merchandising, where simplicity and customer focus are essential: one click booking, offer relevant content, and make it easy to buy. Delivering an easy customer experience requires a great deal of focus, training, and the right technology.

The Mega Event Asia-Pacific 2016

Travel players from around the world gathered to work out how to do exactly this at the 3rd annual Mega Event Asia-Pacific 2016. Taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the event focused on driving airline and travel industry profitability. The location was also a nice wink to the most recent member of the Altéa community, Malaysia Airlines, who decided to move to the platform to enable its ancillary and merchandising strategy, key pillars of the airline’s transformation.

I had the opportunity to talk on a panel about personalisation, ancillaries, and merchandising, where those in attendance agreed, the first priority for airlines should be to define their business strategy and objectives in the merchandising space. Once that is clear, organisational adjustment may be required to facilitate collaboration of airline teams to deliver a shared ancillary revenue target.

Then comes the customer experience and the technology. Here, simplicity, as I mentioned above, is the name of the game. Bringing together the elements of the offer, deciding which ones are relevant for the customer, and displaying them at precisely the right time is the winning formula.

Of course, merchandising in travel is a sophisticated exercise. The traveller journeystarts from inspiration, goes through booking, pre-trip to the airport, the flight itself, and the post-trip experience. At different stages in their journey, the traveller will be receptive to different offers, for example flights and accommodation at the booking stage, airport transfers closer to travel time, and event tickets or restaurant promotions during the trip.

Much like Usain Bolt uses focus, training, and his unrelenting spirit to consistently dominate his sport – airlines can use a balanced combination of strategy, organisational focus, customer experience, and technology to earn gold in merchandising.

For more about how we’re enabling airlines to deliver relevant content, while taking into account passenger behaviour, preferences and segmentation, to sell both air and non-air content, in real-time – check out the Amadeus Global Merchandising Systemwebsite.


Asia Pacific, Merchandising, Altea, Events