Category: OOMS

Tickets – can we live without them?

The commercial airline world has for decades revolved around one vital artefact – the ticket. As a traveller, the ticket has always served as something tangible to hold on to as an entitlement to travel (until this was replaced by the electronic ticket, at least!). However, as the world has become more digital, airline passengers have become accustomed to electronic tickets, and of course there are many “ticketless” airlines now, using receipts as confirmation of the entitlement to travel. Behind the scenes, however, many of these “ticketless” transactions are not really this at all, with tickets still being issued in the airline’s reservation system. Even with transactions using NDC messaging to facilitate the purchase, many airlines still choose to issue tickets, whether the traveller really needs one or not, because internal airline processes are often still heavily dependent on ticket numbers and the fare and fare construction information stored in the ticket, as well as the processes which transfer this ticket information to revenue accounting. At the same time, payment processes are evolving, with new alternative payment methods becoming increasingly in demand. Travellers’ expectations are also increasing – they expect to be able to change flights, add on optional services, and even rebook their entire travel plans with the same ease they can change their TV subscriptions. However, the complexity in the background that many airlines manage to hide from their customers gets in the way – an e-ticket is not in the status expected, or there is a mismatch between the ticket and the booking due to a schedule change, for example. Eliminating this complexity is an enormous undertaking, and currently many airlines are struggling to resolve this conundrum.

The shift towards orders may be helping airlines to think (and act) more like retailers. But this has not yet taken away any of the legacy complexity behind the scenes. There is a catch-22 situation for most airlines: tickets cannot be eliminated due to the many dependencies on them still in legacy systems, however the legacy dependencies cannot be eliminated while tickets are still so prevalent. But what are the drivers behind this complexity and the associated dependencies? Well, the ticket contains a few key items of information that are of extreme interest for many different entities within an airline. The fare basis code, for example, is used not only in accounting but in billing and settlement process, route profitability analysis and forecasting, revenue management and countless reporting processes. The flow of this information from the originating system (the PSS) into a plethora of downstream consumers is very difficult to disentangle. The transition from PNRs and tickets to orders would appear to give the ideal vehicle to redefine this flow of data, however the integration points between the various components tend to be very old, complex and are often unstructured or proprietary. Such a transformation is, therefore, costly, and laden with risks – things all airlines want to avoid.

Nevertheless, there is some hope in the form of NDC and, more importantly, ONE Order. The use of orders to augment (and eventually replace) the PNR and e-ticket brings a set of possibilities that airlines can use to address some of the transformation challenges mentioned earlier. The exact same information needed by the airline’s numerous reporting systems, accounting processes and forecasting tools is available in the order, however in a more structured and standardised format. The standards are also in place to facilitate the exchange of such information between users of the data – the ONE Order standards are simple, efficient and already implemented by most of the leading Order Management Systems (OMS) and accounting system providers. Along with NDC and ONE Order, a new IATA standard process known as “Settlement with Orders” (SwO) aims to address another common concern of airlines that has also maybe been holding back the transformation to orders. In indirect channels, where payment is often taken by the retailer (e.g. travel agency, corporate booking platform etc.), the ticket has been the sole basis for ensuring the flow of money from the retailer of the service to the supplier (the airline). As a result of this, tickets are still extremely widespread within indirect distribution, even where these may have been facilitated by NDC messaging. The same applies for interline distribution, where the use of NDC is not very common, or rather, almost non-existent.

While standard settlement processors such as BSP and ARC have adapted to support NDC, the SwO standard serves to provide “a framework for the settlement of orders between partners”. This differs from the previous approaches in that it introduces a new process and modernised set of messages, rather than trying to adapt an existing process to meet the needs of the future. As with NDC and ONE Order, the process does not mandate the use of tickets and EMDs as value documents and is expected to cover not only retailer-supplier settlement, but also interline and even intermodal cases. Will this bring any significant shift away from the dependency on tickets that many airlines still have? Well, as with NDC and ONE Order before, the SwO standard is not likely to solve all challenges and airline may have around settlement, reporting and accounting, data analytics and so on. Still, it does strive to ease another impasse in the existing legacy processes. First NDC gave an alternative approach to the creation of offers, providing the opportunity to get away from concepts such as booking designators, filed fares and other traditional fare and pricing concepts. Then, ONE Order took this a step further, allowing products to be managed more as Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) like in retail rather than airline inventory, independent of the need for tickets and EMDs. However, due to some of the key dependencies mentioned earlier, the majority of airlines have not been able to truly embrace these retailing concepts. And as with the earlier initiatives around “enhanced and simplified distribution”, SwO will not provide an overnight remedy to eliminate the legacy baggage most airlines still carry, it does provide a way forward for re-thinking the integration with downstream applications. Ironically, the interactions between airlines and those selling its products are some of the most disjointed. With SwO, along with NDC and ONE Order, these interactions can become richer conversations between partners. In turn, this may enable airlines truly to begin eliminating some of the legacy concepts that have been hanging around, slowing down the overall progress in the modernisation of airline distribution.

 

This post has been published in collaboration with Terrapinn.

(Nick Stott, 12. September 2022)

Dipping your feet in customer segmentation

There has been a lot of talk about customer segmentation and personalisation in the past few years. However, there is little evidence that airlines are actually applying any sophisticated level of either – personalisation or segmentation. We may receive marketing emails from airlines with very basic “Dear Mr. Friedli” salutations as an attempt at recognition, however the content of the mail is the same as the next and usually has nothing to do with my travel patterns or signalled intent. While some airlines are better than others in content marketing based on segmentation, most are far from the level which retailers are at. And the furthest extent of segmentation is typically in marketing mails.

During the offer creation process, the airlines’ lack of maturity is even more visible, be it on an airline’s website or app, or via new channels such as the API-driven NDC-channel. In the best case, there may be some differentiation based on the classification as a business traveller or a leisure customer. However, often I may be both, and here things fail.

The purchase process on the website, in most cases, is standardised in terms of process flow and content. Rarely do airlines apply a level of segmentation based on user data or ongoing input from the consumer. Even the promise of new distribution methods enabling “better personalisation and targeted offers” has rarely been fulfilled.

This article focuses on segmentation – or the lack thereof – during the offer creation process.

Why segmentation?

Traditionally, airlines would use very basic indicators to apply customer segmentation during the offer creation process. Segmentation was mainly limited to two segments: business and leisure travellers. This was controlled through characteristics such as weekend stays, duration and other, rather simplistic fare rules and parameters. Today, customers expect tailored content. As a matter of fact, 80% of customers expect a personalised brand experience according to research by Epslion.

The advantage of the basic, fare parameter-based segmentation method is that it will work through traditional channels such as legacy GDS distribution with ATPCO-based fare filing. The disadvantage? It is not a very fine-grained segmentation, nor does it reflect the changed travel behaviours, changed willingness to pay behaviour and changed airline fare products nor the new and enhanced airline and third-party ancillary products.

Applying fine-grained customer segmentation can increase airlines’ revenue, both by increasing conversion and by upselling products to the customer, thus getting just that little bit more of the customer’s wallet share. In consumer retail, estimates and past research show that revenues can be increased by up to 3% to 5% using segmentation and creating tailored offers. Additionally, it is safe to assume that applying smart segmentation can improve customer satisfaction by showing the customer more relevant content.

As distribution is shifting to more direct distribution for many airlines, and a shift towards NDC-based direct-connect distribution on the indirect side, there is growing value in segmentation as it can be applied to a larger customer segment.

What is holding the airlines back?

A combination of a lack of focus or strategy for segmentation, technology challenges, a lack of resources with the knowledge and experience and the inability to analyse customer behaviour, purchasing data and other data-related deficiencies seem to be the reason why airlines have not spent more time on this topic. It could be that airlines are just not convinced that better and more refined segmentation leads to additional revenue and customer experience. Let’s discuss these factors individually.

Strategy and focus

As segmentation has typically been the realm of the marketing and loyalty department, this is not an area which has been in the focus of the product and pricing teams in the past, except to the extent where it was required for basic segmentation. Furthermore, there is often a silo-challenge, whereby the eCommerce team is not in close communication with the revenue management and ancillary team, and the distribution team focusing on NDC and newer offer solutions such as an OMS are different yet again. However, the segmentation strategy for offer creation should, in our opinion, be anchored at the highest level with the overarching distribution strategy, and encompass all channels, segments and products.

Technology

There are a few angles of the technology aspect, and these differ considerably between airlines, depending on the organisation, the solutions in place and the organisation’s digital maturity. However, technology is available to enable an airline to do refined segmentation during offer creation. Optimally, an airline would have a central offer creation solution, or OMS. This would not only feed the airline’s own digital channels, but also the direct-connect channels such as NDC. Within or supporting the OMS, the airline would have a segmentation solution allowing it to determine, based upon each request, a customer segment and in many cases, the context or intent of the request and thus the customer.

Widely available are solutions for the website and mobile app today already and airlines are urged to grasp at the low-hanging fruit of segmentation in the digital channels, as these can be implemented relatively quickly and even managed by third parties, should an airline not have the resources. At the same time, these solutions are often quite advanced and allow for in-depth A/B testing of the success of your segmentation approach.

Resources and skills

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges is within an airline’s organisation. Many airlines continue to have the traditional organisational structure which has been prevalent for decades. Very few have adapted their organisations to align to modern retailers. These typically have a structure which is very much optimised and focused on sales (or channels), products, customer experience and finally, technology enablement. This type of setup could be well aligned to a commercial organisation within an airline.

The second challenge is having the skillsets which understand retail, digital and (new, digital) customer experience. Typically, these will need to come from outside the industry, meaning that they will lack any understanding of the fundamentals of the industry. However, an airline needs to ensure that the complexity of the business is understood, as there are elements of our industry which do not relate in the digital banking, insurance, or retail world. The airline industry is still governed by many standards and interaction protocols, we have regulatory bodies which allow us to interact with other airlines and, for example, governments. Thus, while the outside-in approach is a great way to bring new talent and knowledge, there is a need for bi-directional training within the organisations.

Should an airline be lacking the skills or resources, these can often be acquired as a service.

Product and offer optimisation capability

While we touched on the technology and skillset above, we now need to bring these together. Based on the segmentation strategy outlined previously, using the technology and the know-how we now have, it is time to execute the plan.

There are a number of tasks to be undertaken:

  • Define the actual segments or demand spaces, and create all required sub-segments based on, for example, geography, point of sale, demographics, and channels.
  • Define which ancillaries or fare products are relevant to which segments or demand spaces.
  • Define how pricing can be optimised to each segment’s willingness to pay, focusing on increasing conversion.
  • Creating bundles of products and services likely to be purchased by the segments.
  • Implementing the logic, business rules or algorithms within the offer engine or digital channels to analyse the request and the context or intent, select the right set of applicable products and create a number of tailored offers.
  • Implement A/B testing to measure the success and confirm any hypotheses made, especially in the initial phases, However, there is a need to continuously measure and test, as the optimisation is a never-ending process.

Data

For airlines, there is rarely a lack of data. It is available in abundance, however, perhaps not structured or easily accessible. Data is essential, however, to create an initial set of customer segments as well as an initial definition of tailored products and services per segment. Typically, this can be defined based on past purchase data.

Further, data from each request, as well as data from customer history or your customer data management (CDM) solution (e.g., the loyalty system) can be used to create the “on-the-fly” offer. There is a lot of valuable information in requests made through digital channels or the API channel which can be used. This includes obvious elements such as the cities travelled from and to, the number and types of passengers and the date of travel. However, other elements can be used as indicators as well, such as the amount of time a search is done before travel, the duration and days, the season in combination with the destination and many others.

Can an airline take baby steps to improve?

While the five groups of activities outlined above may seem a lot to deal with, this does not all have to be done at once. And, while there can be compelling events which offer the opportunity to consider the overall strategy and execution thereof as part of the process (such as when redefining your distribution strategy or implementing an OMS or upgrading your eCommerce platform), bits and pieces of all the above steps can already lead in the right direction.

An isolated micro-segmentation strategy can be a great first step, based on existing booking data and analytics from the website. Alternatively, implementing software on your website which helps with targeted offers and segmentation can be done in a matter of weeks, with initial results seen in a few months. This can be procured as a service, allowing the airline to focus on other topics at hand. Categorising the existing ancillaries and fare products to a basic and simple demand space structure, and creating some static bundles aligned to these can typically be implemented relatively quickly.

In any case, if you go big or small, take a giant leap or a baby step, it is strongly encouraged to seize the opportunity and not to wait with segmentation. As we work with airlines around the globe, this has become one of the key topics of interest and development, and will help airlines take one more step towards becoming retailers within the travel industry.

 

This post has been published in collaboration with Terrapinn.

(Daniel Friedli, 12. August 2022)

At the crossroads: remaining on traditional PSS or entering the brave new world of airline retail?

The pandemic brought the airline industry to a standstill. Not only were flights and aircraft grounded and much project work came to a halt, the shutdown also affected many activities around airline commercial systems. Due to the sudden drop in revenues, airlines often had to request relief from contractual commitments with vendors, which was often granted in return for early contract renewals or agreeing contracts for additional services.

Now the pandemic seems to be over and the industry is fighting other challenges such as the effects of the war in Ukraine and an overall shortage of resources and infrastructure. At the same time, projects once stopped have been restarted again. The experience of the past two years has shown that customer service and the need for additional revenue streams are becoming essential for airlines. Thus, a flood of engagements in airline customer centricity, customer servicing and airline retailing are currently underway, shaping the commercial future of the industry. But when outlining and executing a strategy in this area, airlines often hit reality when identifying that their current Passenger Service System (PSS) represents a bottleneck. Traditional PSS are built around supporting a trip and do not focus on customer-centric servicing. In addition, growing revenues through ancillaries is often limited to seats, additional baggage, and other flight-related offerings. Providing further third-party ancillaries (not even considering a broader retailing strategy) often appears more wishful thinking then reality. Modern Offer and Order Management Systems are being built to close these gaps, but as they are in most cases dependent on a PSS, they are also limited by them. In addition, existing PSS contracts are typically of a monolithic nature, meaning that airlines have little freedom to pick and choose solutions from a handful of providers at competitive cost.

But as the pandemic has ended, numerous PSS contracts (including those that were temporarily renewed during the crisis) are coming to market. This provides airlines with an opening to rethink and restructure their setup of commercial systems. In essence, they need to achieve two sometimes conflicting targets: continue their operations on a proven “legacy” PSS that supports existing industry processes and industry-specific connectivity (codeshare, interlining, etc.), as well using this opportunity to shift to customer-centric, retail-driven commercial systems. In essence: combining the old world with the new. But the providers, both “legacy” and more “modern” ones, try to push the airlines into their own direction: remain on a classical PSS with a promise to enhance services towards real customer centricity and airline retailing, or move into the bright new world built around customer centricity and airline retailing, but with limited integration into the legacy airline world.

The ultimate target for airlines currently thinking about renewing or changing PSS is to secure the best of both worlds: to remain on a legacy solution at least temporarily, while preparing to embark on their customer-centric retailing journey. Consequently, airlines need to shift from a “one-stop shop” to a multi-vendor approach and avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.

A number of items should be considered when contemplating this approach:

  • Be clear about the airline commercial model and the commercial strategy, as these are key to choosing the right commercial ecosystem. Some basic questions must be answered, such as how will the airline interact with other airlines, what kind of service will be provided to the customer and how does the airline plan to sell its services?
  • How will products and offerings be distributed? Through digital-direct channels? Will aggregators be used? Maybe even legacy GDS? The airline’s distribution strategy needs to be clearly defined, as this sets basic parameters for many subsequent choices.
  • Is the airline willing to be a trailblazer, with the ability and appetite for something new to really differentiate from competition? Or is the preference to de-risk the use of new technologies, maybe at the cost of competitive advantage?
  • Are the resources available to integrate technologies and services from numerous providers? Regardless of whether they are in-house or provided by system integrators, they represent a cost that must be managed.
  • What is the optimal split between capital expenditure and operating expenses? Using a system that is provided out of the box as Software as a Service (Saas) mainly drives operational costs, while a dedicated solution from multiple vendors carries higher capital expenditure.

Not all questions can be answered ahead of a procurement process, especially as most of these considerations are highly interdependent. Therefore, the structure of a procurement strategy should reflect the following points:

  • Do not focus on buying a “prefabricated house”. Identify and define modules which can be combined, even if they are provided by different providers.
  • As the industry is evolving, prevent long-term commitments for services that are only starting to take off. Maintain flexibility to replace modules through third-party suppliers, even during the term of the contract and have this reflected in the contracts.
  • Agree on pricing for the integration and utilisation of third-party solutions. Do not accept paying for services you no longer use.
  • Get the providers’ commitment to technically support and integrate third-party solutions based on APIs and web services.
  • Look for integration capabilities – a “custom-made house” needs an architect and the staff to put it together. The same applies for the procurement of unbundled commercial system components.
  • Do not neglect the importance of data, the ownership thereof and the airline’s access to own data in light of making this data available throughout the ecosystem.
  • Start the procurement exercise early, based on the airline’s commercial strategy. A complex process with numerous solutions and suppliers providing different modules may take up to a year. Migration planning and the actual migration may easily take an additional year.

The industry is changing, and the pandemic and current resource crisis have accelerated the need for change. It is more necessary than ever to bridge the gap between legacy and the new world, with a clear commitment to customer centricity and retail-driven commercial systems. Unfortunately, the airline industry is one of the slowest movers, and at least for the time being, airlines need to have a foot in the door of both worlds.

 

This post has been published in collaboration with Terrapinn.

(Boris Padovan, 14. July 2022)

 

 

One Order: The proof of the pudding is in the eating

NDC has transformed airline distribution. Well, while that particular statement can be debated for many hours, one thing that can be said is that it has changed the vocabulary of airline distribution. The mindset of airline distribution has genuinely been transformed to think in terms of “offers” and “orders”, about APIs and dynamic bundles and so on. Indeed, many airlines are implementing these concepts in their distribution landscape.

But what has really changed, beyond some terminology? Well, for certain, airlines are thinking much more like retailers. They are thinking about the customer (purchasing) experience, products, bundles, segmentation, and they are thinking about how to get these into their distribution channels as offers – through NDC and their digital direct channels. The transformation of an offer into a sale of products is resulting in the creation of orders. However, most orders still rely on a system which also uses legacy artefacts such as PNRs, tickets and EMDs.

As airlines become more retail-focussed, more confident in their capabilities as retailers and more well-equipped with tools to enable this, the more creative and ambitious airlines will become. More products in bundles, different products in different markets, integrations with providers of travel-related services that see the market developing as the technical obstacles of legacy artefacts are steadily removed from the equation. This gentle transformation is also driving changes elsewhere throughout airline organisations, as the knock-on effects of these begin to be noticed. Orders created within an order management system provide a vehicle for simplified settlement processes between sales channels (retailers) and the airlines as sellers. While the full complexity of airline revenue accounting, proration, BSP and other settlement flows cannot be eliminated overnight, the ONE Order accounting standards are enabling change. As the maturity of NDC distribution increases and orders become more prevalent, airline IT providers are presented with opportunities to bring further simplification, leveraging NDC and ONE Order. Providers of Order Management Systems (OMS) are now able to integrate directly with airline accounting systems in real-time, bypassing much of the legacy complexity associated with PNRs, tickets and EMDs.

However, there is more to being a successful airline retailer than creating offers, converting them into orders and feeding the fruits of these sales into the airline’s financial systems. At some point in time, there will be a customer who has expectations based on their wider retail experiences. The retail possibilities that airlines are now becoming exposed to go far beyond their own domain. While the additional bag will (hopefully) be visible at the time of check-in, and the lounge may be run by the airline, what about the pre-booked parking, fast-track security or the express train to the airport? The airline is unlikely to be the entity responsible for delivering the service in these cases, but the expectations of the customer are the same as when they present at the desk to drop off their bag – it should just work. However, interacting with all these new parties to ensure “it just works” is unchartered territory for many airlines. More and more, this involves pushing an order notification to the external service provider via the OMS to fulfil a service. Interactive two-way messaging related to order fulfilment is new. And, in the envisaged world where the PNR and ticket are superfluous, even the interactions with the check-in providers need to be brought into the era of APIs and open integration standards.

In conjunction with airlines, vendors and other industry stakeholders, IATA has anticipated this and has developed a set of standards within the ONE Order framework to enable the delivery of services using orders. These messages can be used by an OMS to trigger the delivery by pushing information to the responsible party or can be used by delivery providers to pull the necessary information proactively. They can track consumption of services as well, which is key to triggering accounting and settlement processes. However, certification for ONE Order capabilities is still very light compared to NDC. While the certifications only may only be taken as a loose measure of maturity, it would appear that there may be a vast gap between what airlines can now sell and what (or rather how) they can deliver.

The reasons for this apparent mismatch are manifold and varied in their nature (technical, process-related, commercial), and some may be easier to resolve than others. What is more concerning though is the apparent lack of awareness of this mismatch among the broader industry. Great focus has been placed on promoting the need for modernisation in how airlines define and sell their products and services. However, there is still one key component that will become a challenge sooner rather than later – where the customer gets to seamlessly experience all those products and services that the airline invested so much effort in to get the customer to purchase.

The collaboration between airlines and their OMS partners is, generally speaking, mature, collaborative and based on a common understanding of business value and goals. The relationship between airlines and their ground handling partners is of a very different, operational nature and is often very cost-driven to extract the maximum value at the lowest cost. On the other hand, the relationship between OMS providers and ground handlers is non-existent in most cases.

Planning and executing the smooth delivery of products is key to being a successful retailer. Achieving this requires close alignment between all stakeholders: airlines, their OMS providers and crucially, the ground handlers and other partners, in and around the airport, in the air or wherever else they may be. So far, the focus has been on the selling aspect of retailing and increasing revenue and airline wallet share. However, if airlines are really to succeed as retailers, customer satisfaction will be determined by what, and how, they deliver. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

This post has been published in collaboration with Terrapinn.

(Nick Stott, 7. June 2022)

If you are interested in a deeper discussion about this topic: Listen to our latest TiMCAST 15 on 15 where Jost Daft of LH Group shares his views on the subject.

 

Meet us at the PROS Outperform Virtual Conference from 16th till 18th November

Meet Travel in Motion at an upcoming industry event that is worthwhile attending: The PROS Outperfom Virtual Conference which will take place from 16th till 18th November. We will be present as sponsors and you can meet us by visiting our sponsor page. Our partner Daniel Friedli will also be on a panel to discuss the shifting airline distribution landscape with Boyan Manev of PROS and Keith Wallis of Air Canada (18th November, 11:00-11:40 Central Time, 18:00-18:40 CET).  This will be a perfect possibility to catch up, discuss and look forward to joint engagements.

 

Interview with TiM in the latest Air Transport World

The latest edition of Air Transport World (ATW) features an article about new opportunities in Airline Distribution. It reflects on Emirates Gateway, as well as discussing advantages of IATA’s New Distribution Capabillity (NDC) with Lufthansa –  a very good summary about the status, opportunities and challenges of NDC.

We are proud to have contributed to this article through an interview with the author Kurt Hofmann.

Please check the latest edition of Air Transport World.

PSS: Not an easy choice

Undoubtably 2020 was the worst year in aviation since World War II. We have never seen an industrial downturn to this extent and it will take a long time for our industry to recover and reach pre-COVID volumes and results.

However, crises create opportunities, and we at Travel in Motion GmbH (TiM) are proud that we were able to support an airline in mastering the challenges.

Helvetic Airways is a Swiss-based regional carrier founded in 2003. Since the current owner Martin Ebner took over the airline, three years on Helvetic has become a Swiss success story. The airline has grown to 16 Embraer aircraft, with a clear strategy to mainly operate the latest E190-E2 model. This will provide Helvetic with one of Europe’s most eco-friendly and modern fleets. The airline’s business model is based on three pillars:

  • ACMI and wet-lease operations mainly for Swiss International Air Lines, with the ambition to grow in this business segment and become one of the leading ACMI/wet-lease providers in Europe
  • A very successful (ad hoc) charter business with a strong focus on major European sports clubs
  • Own scheduled flights, under Helvetic’s 2L IATA code. Although their scheduled network has not been extensive in the past, with the performance of the new E190-E2 aircraft, Helvetic can now establish a unique and flexible network, differentiating itself from its competitors.

As scheduled operations may become increasingly important for Helvetic Airways, the team soon realised that the simplistic self-built inhouse PSS was not flexible enough to accelerate this part of the business. Helvetic set up a team, led by Chief Technology Officer Christian Suhner and supported by the Head of PSS, Patrick Brunner. Their aim was to find one of the most innovative, user-friendly and easy to operate PSS systems for their type of airline and route network, with the flexibility to integrate with other components and to extract their own data for analytical purposes. To achieve this, they engaged with TiM to run a PSS replacement project covering all the necessary steps, from summarising Helvetic’s business requirements, running a tender, facilitating vendor sessions, supporting the choice of the final supplier and finalising the vendor contracts.

One key business criterion was the need to be able to seamlessly scale scheduled operations up or down, depending on performance of Helvetic’s ACMI and charter business. In addition, as one of the most modern and technology-driven airlines, Helvetic has the highest requirements for quality and – of course – safety, a philosophy which is summarised well in the airline’s motto: “Swiss quality all along the line”. This has been reflected directly in the selection of the new system, especially in the way Helvetic plans to sell their products: no dependency on legacy aggregation and distribution but being able to distribute directly, connect to new-generation aggregators, being accessible for tour operators, while remaining in control of the offer and order process. In other words, distribution based fully on their direct channels complemented by NDC and direct API connectivity to other distributors and retailers. Rarely does a regional airline have such a clear vision on where they are heading.

  “After the successful evaluation phase with the great support of TiM, we’re currently in the phase of implementing our new PSS platform,” confirms Christian Suhner, Chief Technical Officer of Helvetic Airways. “One that will help us further enhance our product offer, and will also enable us to respond more effectively to market developments. With all this going on in IT terms, plus the continuing renewal of our aircraft fleet, the Helvetic Airways transformations are truly well under way”, he adds.  

Of course, this has not been the first time TiM has successfully delivered such a project, but it was still a very special exercise. Due to the pandemic, only remote interaction was possible with the vendor community. The Helvetic and TiM teams could still physically meet, albeit with social distancing in place, occupying large meeting rooms while sitting in opposite corners. Using TiM’s toolset for understanding and defining the airline’s specific requirements, the tender documents were created. Then, using TiM’s standard model, the tender process was executed. Jointly with the customer, the  the responses were analysed and evaluated based on predefined criteria and weights – fundamental for a successful and fair selection. However, despite the pandemic, such an evaluation still requires close interaction with the various vendors – a pure paper-based evaluation was not sufficient to replace meetings with vendors. As the Helvetic team had not run a PSS procurement process before, evaluating soft in the factors decision-making process was a challenge, especially as many of the vendors ranked relatively equal in the formal evaluation. Thus, the final personal touch, the trust built up through interactions in joint workshops or getting to know one another in face-to-face contract negotiations were missing.

To compensate for this as best as possible, the Helvetic and TiM evaluation teams became MS Teams power users. All vendor sessions were conducted remotely with hours of product demonstrations, reviews, discussions, and negotiations carried out in front of screens and speakers. As the TiM team already knew the various vendors, it was possible to bridge the gap of real face-to-face interaction, however the job still feels somewhat incomplete from a personal interaction perspective.

Helvetic Airways has now completed the process and chosen a new provider for their PSS which supports the uniqueness of the airline. While the project has ended as a success, we think it is safe to say that while remote interaction is possible, it does not replace the need to meet in person, especially if deciding on which system the commercial future of an airline will be based upon. This is just one more reason why the whole team at TiM is looking forward to the re-opening of our industry, allowing us to travel and meet in person again.

Season Break and new Co-Owners of TiM

Dear partners and friends

2020 has been a very challenging year for all of us. Our industry went through the worst crisis ever, with many airlines being forced to cease operations and countless people losing their jobs. However, much more importantly, some of us lost loved ones due to the pandemic. We cannot end this year without remembering them.

In crises and difficult times, it’s easy to tell who your true partners and friends are. It has been an invaluable and enriching experience for us at Travel in Motion in 2020. Although our business was also rather challenged, we still managed to have excellent exchanges, discussions and interesting projects with many of you – we were not let down, and we want to thank you all for this.

The new year is starting to look more promising: vaccinations might lead to an easing of the crisis, and we have good reason to believe that a recovery will come. We at TiM are looking forward to 2021, as we are convinced that aviation will remain one of the key industries in our global economy. This crisis has forced our industry to become more digital, agile and interconnected – attributes which are also the focus of our work. Thus, we’re already looking forward to working with as many of you as possible next year in whatever capacity we can support you.

As we are optimistic for the next year, and many to come, we have decided to set up Travel in Motion GmbH a little differently. We are proud to announce that Andrea Riesen and Boris Padovan have become co-owners of Travel in Motion, as they both share our long term vision and goals. As we continue to remain busy, having Andrea and Boris on board not only as team members but also as owners, shows our commitment and belief in our industry.
With these mixed emotions, the whole Travel in Motion team would like to thank you again for 2020 and wish you, your families, friends and colleagues a happy Season Break and a healthy, safe and prosperous New Year!

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Airline Digital Retail – Vendors’ View on Challenges and Opportunities of the COVID Crisis

September 2020 – The airline industry has been hard hit by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Airlines have grounded their fleets, or reduced their capacity by 60, 70% or more. Since March 2020, travel has drastically changed, and the market is very slow to recover. At the time of this blog post at the end of September 2020, we are seeing a very slow recovery in the global air transportation market. For some domestic markets, things look a lot better, especially for China where domestic travel is at over 90% of the capacity it was one year ago, thanks in large parts to their effective management of the pandemic as well as government stimulus to travel.

Basically, the airlines’ opportunity to sell travel and related ancillary services has become almost impossible. However, it is not yet time to give up. Governments have been helping airlines through loans, while the airlines themselves have been streamlining their operations and reducing their fixed costs and their fleets. They are also becomming innovative and creative, offering products which are pandemic-compliant, giving customers the opportunity to travel more safely, rebook when necessary and protecting their staff from direct interaction with customers where there are other possibilities. Two such examples are the sales of free middle seats and a charge for checking in in person at the airport. Now, while neither is new, both of these product have been given considerable boosts through the pandemic, and more airlines have decided to offer these as a result of Covid-19. Supporting the airlines through the crisis are also the technology solution providers. They too are suffering from the loss of key revenue streams, however, have an invested interest in supporting their airline customers in the recovery.

Travel in Motion took this opportunity to talk to five of the leading airline digital retailers to gain an understanding of how this pandemic is affecting them, and how they are helping their airline customers get through this. We also heard a lot of considerations around how this is affecting their own companies and their respective strategies and key learnings. Except for the last podcast, which was moderated by Boris Padovan, Principal Consultant at TiM, the interviews were conducted by Daniel Friedli, Managing Director of Travel in Motion.

A final session with all five participants will close this series of TiM’s podcasts. In this 45 minute “virtual” panel we will jointly reflect on the consequences of this global disruption and discuss learnings for the overall aviation industry. This podcast will be conducted after the five individual interviews have been published.

We kicked off our discussion with Jim Davidson, Chief Product Officer at Accelya. After the acquisition of Farelogix through Accelya, Jim has taken the challenge to work on setting up Accelya to offer end-to-end retailing, from offers to selling, delivery to settlement.
Our favourite quote from Jim: The concept of retailing is proven to be resistant even to the pandemic… the concept is still trying to match those services that are best equipped to the needs of the flying customer.” Listen to our interview with Jim.

In the second podcast, we discussed these topics with Sean Corkery, CEO of Datalex. Having gone through a large transformation programme in 2019, they had already set themselves up to be very efficient and delivery focused.
Our favourite quote from Sean:This is not a time for gain, this is a time for really underlining your value-add to your customers.Listen to our interview with Sean.

The third interview was with Bryan Porter, Chief Commercial Officer of OpenJaw Technologies. OpenJaw is in the privileged situation to have a considerable part of their business in China, in which the domestic market is recovering faster than anywhere else in the world.
Our favourite quote from Bryan: Reassurance has become the watch-word for recovery.Listen to our interview with Bryan.

PROSSurain Adyanthaya was our fourth guest. With PROS’ growing ecosystem from revenue management to airline digital retailing solutions, their view on the market, especially with the insights into their customers’ revenue management strategies, was very interesting.
Our favourite quote from Surain: The key to success for airlines is to be nimble and flexible. Things happen!

Finally, we spoke with Andy Kidd from SAP. Andy outlined how airlines, especially in Asia, have circled toward digital, and how this will benefit them in these challenging times. He further elaborates on how the customer experience is affected and can be improved with ONE Order.
Our favourite quote from Andy: The majority, if not all airlines, have a digital transformation programme but what we’ve seen in retail is that some companies have accelerated what was years into months…

For the final session we are looking forward to hosting Jim, Sean, Bryan, Surain and Andy. It will certainly be an interesting discussion and we hope that it will gain more insights for our industry community.

These podcasts will be released in the upcoming weeks, one per week, on Mondays. The first podcast will be released on Monday, 5 October. Each subsequent release will be available on the Travel in Motion website. If you would like to be notified of each podcast, subscribe to our newsletter here.

Airline PSS Decisions – Challenge and Opportunity!

PSS Decisions Airlines need to take

There is no airline which has not been hit hard by the current global health crisis. The results for the airlines are challenging and in many cases devastating. Based on all the challenges, it probably is not at the front of the CCO’s mind to think about the Passenger Service System (PSS) right now. Or, maybe for some it is. In many cases, stakeholders are now thinking about how they can make the airline more efficient and, amongst other things, automate more processes to cope with these kinds of situations and reduce costs. Also, with much of the initial hectic related to rebooking and refunds, alongside figuring out where the fleet is and should be going (and not going) now behind us, thoughts must be focused on the future of the airline.

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