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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.