• Wed. May 11th, 2022

Data and digital technologies will change the airline industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we fly. Digital health passports, tests, vaccinated traffic lanes and queues are physical manifestations of this. But another revolution is underway, less obvious to passengers but nonetheless important.

Data and digital technology promise to change the way we fly. Photo: Brisbane Airport Corporation

Data and digital technologies are reshaping the aviation landscape and changing the way we fly. As airlines learn to better use and apply data, both will become increasingly important.

Airlines already have a lot of customer data. Think about the information you provide to airlines when you make a reservation, the content of your frequent flyer program, your travel habits and how you pay for them. It’s a digital treasure for airlines.

According to Mike Slone, vice president of PROS Travel Retail, there are already several digital touchpoints on an air passenger’s journey.

“The entire customer journey is not just four or five phases of the journey. It’s literally hundreds of digital touchpoints ”, he told Simple Flying. But he says it’s also a matter of what airlines do with these digital touchpoints.

“I think COVID has accelerated, more than any other event I’ve seen in 20 years of working with airlines, the need to improve the customer experience.”

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There are hundreds of digital touchpoints throughout the average passenger’s journey. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines must learn to make better use of data and digital technology

Most airlines are already embracing digital technologies. Need to make a reservation? Use the app. Need to modify a reservation? Use the app. A question about your flight? Use the app. The problem today is that airline applications, like most airline digital technologies, are simple tools that often lack intuition and the ability to meet specific customer needs.

“A mobile app in your hand might be your best friend in the future, but right now they’re not as sophisticated as they should be” Slone said.

PROS develops AI software that helps businesses maximize revenue. They work with a wide range of airlines including Emirates, Aeromexico, Lufthansa, Qantas, Japan Airlines, and Southwest.

The software company connects the essentials of revenue management, offering creation, distribution and digital retail for the airline industry. As airlines increasingly seek to reduce daily operating costs and increase revenue, PROS argues that AI’s use of customer data in the airline industry is an unstoppable trend.

But Mike Slone admits that many airlines have barely gone beyond the first baseline when it comes to leveraging data, especially legacy airlines hampered by legacy processes and systems. He says airlines don’t necessarily need more technology; they just need to make better use of the technology they already have.

“The same goes for data. There is a lot of data out there, but the airlines are just not using it in the right way. Airlines have traditionally been compartmentalized internally. For example, you have one group that deals with revenue management and another that deals with distribution or e-commerce.

“You have all these disconnected siled systems that have their own data that isn’t really communicating and talking to each other. It’s like a choir, but it’s just people singing solo.

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Just pre-ordering and paying for an in-flight meal can say a lot about you for an airline. Photo: Jetstar

Data needs to be more intuitive

Therefore, the challenge for airlines is not to collect more data; it’s better to use what they already have. Airlines must also evolve their digital technologies to better meet the needs of passengers. It is a work in progress that should improve over time.

An airline might know where you fly the most, but do they know why you fly there? Do you fly to LA to do business, visit Grandma, shop, or hunt the ghosts of lost former lovers? This is important because if your flight is disrupted, the reason for the trip will usually determine the response to the disruption.

By now, the airlines know that you go to LA a lot, but not why. Standing in O’Hare as a snowstorm interrupts flights that evening, does the airline app know if you need to go to LA or need need to go to the ? What is your tolerance for diversions, stopovers and any increases in travel expenses?

Until an airline’s digital technologies can meet your individual needs (and every passenger that night will have unique needs), all of the AI, data, and digital technologies in the world will never replace moving to a staffed service counter.

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How airlines use digital technologies to respond to disruption remains problematic. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines are investing in smarter, more user-friendly technologies

Overcoming this lack of personalization and intuitiveness is a hurdle that airlines and companies like PROs are working on. Mike Slone says this is an evolutionary process and that overall the airline industry is improving in applying data in a customer friendly manner.

“This stuff isn’t perfect, but over the last year, a year and a half, I’ve seen tons of airline investment in this space,” he says. “I know the customers will benefit eventually, including you and me. I want it more than probably anyone else just because I fly all the time.

Ultimately, if an airline passenger uses digital technology, they want it to work and solve the task quickly. And passengers generally want a problem resolved to their satisfaction, not the airline’s preferred outcome.

Every user of digital technology in the airline industry knows there is a long way to go in this regard, especially when the proverbial snowstorm is blowing and many passengers suddenly need the airline’s attention. .

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Mike Slone believes that ultimately, data and digital technologies will improve the travel experience. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines Should See Passengers As Retailers See Buyers

The airlines know it too. They also have a vested interest in ensuring that digital technologies and the use of customer data are correct. Beyond the start-up phase, the intelligent data application will reduce the airline’s operating costs and increase its revenue.

Slone says passengers are closer to buyers and customers. He says the travel experience is like a giant mall where shoppers browse and shop. Shoppers often make impulsive last minute decisions based on their mood and what catches their eye, thus increasing the mall’s revenue.

Lit malls are very sensitive to this and know how to push customer buttons. It’s a model Mike Slone likes for the airline industry.

“As airlines start to move away from serving passengers and more into serving customers or buyers, they’re going to have better attitude or systems of engagement with those customers, instead of just selling them a ticket and saying :” I’m done. ‘”