There is $212 billion of potential travel revenue at stake globally from customers switching due to lack of hyper-relevancy[1]. Being relevant is a key reason why 60% of travelers stayed with their current provider. Airlines—who face customers potentially switching with every new flight search—can do a better job of being hyper-relevant. But they may need help from a few friends.

Data is the lifeblood of hyper-relevance. Data about travelers can inform every leg of the journey and it presents new opportunities to appeal to customers’ specific desires. However, not only are airlines failing to act on the data they have, they are also missing the chance to leverage data from ecosystem partners (e.g. hotels, airports, technology companies, government agencies) to make travel experiences more relevant.

All airlines are under relentless pressure and need to figure out ways to keep customers. In my region alone (AAPAC), airline passenger traffic keeps growing, but yields have fallen at a compounded rate of 6.2% per year since 2012[2]. When customers have so many choices, how will your airline stand out among the competition? Hyper-relevance will offer a leg up, but airlines can’t go it alone.

Consumer and passenger expectations, especially in a digital world, have been evolving and transcend industry boundaries:
•  Anytime, anywhere
•  Seamless experiences
•  Personalization
•  Contextualized interactions
•  Decreased brand loyalty
•  Novelty and authenticity
•  Price comparison and consciousness
•  Reduced (physical) dwell times, complicated by travelers hooked to smartphones!

Start by sharing

Many consumers (83%) are willing to share their data to enable a personalized experience[3]. Airlines are accustomed to working with data that is theirs—but that’s not really working. Data is usually siloed and distributed across systems and departments within the organization, and it may not be brought to bear at the right time across all touch points to serve a customer better.

Even simple things like past flight preferences are not really considered today. For example, I usually take the aisle seat every time I fly; I often travel for day trips or a one-night stay without check-in luggage. Nevertheless, seat preselection is often a window seat and the airline offers the option to upsize my luggage allowance. Both points are not addressing my needs or strengthening my belief that the airline understands my personal preference.

Airlines are focused on the booking and flying part of my journey. They often do not understand the reason for my trip, the additional services that I require or my personal preferences across my passenger journey—from leaving home to shopping at the airport or working in the lounge, to my meal preference on board all the way to the arrival and trip to the hotel.

There is so much data to capture and share along the customer journey, whether it’s how the traveler got to the airport (taxi, rideshare, family transport), how they spent their time there (airport lounge or duty-free shopping) or ways in which they spent loyalty points (on a meal or shopping on the flight).

Unfortunately, airlines and airports are still thinking about who “owns” the customer at what point in time. There is minimal data or information exchanged. The airport wants to own the passenger during the time spent at the airport (e.g. through login into the Wi-Fi network). The airline wants to own the passenger the moment they arrive at the lounge or the gate.

Imagine how much more hyper-relevant each could be if it were aware of details such as is this a departing or arriving passenger, or only here to pick someone up? Where is the traveler from and where are they going? If the airline and airport started exchanging data, even anonymized (no name, no gender, no age, no passport details), just basic information about their flight number and departure time, it would open great opportunities for hyper-relevance. Our study shows that passengers are willing to share for an improved service and experience as long as the parties are transparent about who the data is shared with and for what purpose, and as long as the passenger is in control of this.

The window of opportunity widens even further when you include other ecosystem players—airport retailers, GST refund service provider, payment platforms, hotels, car rental, ride share agencies or even local experience offerings.

Play it forward

If data is shared, the opportunities for hyper-relevance are endless during normal operation but even more so during disruption. What happens when a flight is delayed? The airline may send an update through their app (if at all). The airport might be slower to post the information, but they seldom have the ability to interact with the passenger directly. The traveler might even have the delay information before the airline or airport communicate at all. Additionally, the traveler will need to individually inform the other parties affected in the complete journey (taxi pick up, late check-in at the hotel, business partners for shifting the meeting). This disjointed experience is frustrating for passengers managing all the changes themselves.

Imagine information and service recovery options being shared across the ecosystem in one app. With an opt-in, data could be automatically shared with hotels or ride share companies to adapt their service timing accordingly. Furthermore, depending on loyalty status or booking class as well as past preferences, additional options and amenities could be offered from a free coffee and cake to a free lounge access or rebooking options or even in-town experiences for longer delays.

New technologies facilitate customer privacy, compliance and secure data exchange. Personalization engines help to accelerate the complex data reconciliation process that happens behind the scenes of every touch point and define microsegments of one for a contextualized, in-the-moment, hyper-relevant experience.

Partner up

As a first step toward providing a more relevant, personalized experience, break down data silos within your own organization and make relevant data available. Identify your customer at every touch point in real time, drive insights through personalization engines, and provide more relevant experiences in the moment.

In parallel, map out the full traveler journey and look to partners who can complement passenger needs. Reduce friction and improve the experience by sharing data across the ecosystem. But beware, sharing of data must be secure and transparent, under the control of your customer so that you prevent it from being creepy! The ecosystem is your ally. Rely on it to take customer relevance to a new level.

[1] Beyond Points: Winning Loyalty with Hyper-relevance in Travel; September 2018;

[2] Accenture; “Aviation Market Report Asia: Navigating Relentless Pressure;” May 2019;

[3] Pulse Check 2018 – Moving from Communication to Conversation

Oliver Plogmann

Former Managing Director – Aviation Lead AAPAC

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