One thing was abundantly clear at the Future Travel Experience (FTE) conference in Dublin -- there’s a battle coming to the airline industry and it’s all about the “connected traveler”.

Airlines are moving fast outside of traditional buy-on-board retail programs and connecting with passengers on their mobile devices before and after the flight. The most forward-thinking airlines are getting lots of help from tech innovators and startups like Grab, FlyNbuy, airfree, SKYdeals, Deliveroo, FLIO, TripCreator and many others.

Traditional “buy-on-board” competitors and IFEs are missing out, except for Panasonic which still has a sky-high vision for passenger experience and technology. Here’s a quick recap of what I saw and heard in Dublin…

Ancillary Revenue for Airlines on the Day of Journey

On the panel I moderated – “Revenue Opportunities During Day of Journey” – I was joined by the heads of ancillaries for American Airlines and Finnair, along with a representative from Schiphol Airport, the CMO of FLIO, and the Founder of CityHook. They all talked about how focusing on passenger experience is paramount, and how money will follow if airlines can take baby steps toward a better passenger experience.

Yet when each presented, they painted a very disjointed and painful picture of the day of travel for the passenger. I counted that a passenger would require a minimum of 7 mobile apps (!) on their phone if they wanted to be looked after digitally throughout their day of journey. I called out the disparity and asked the panelists whether they thought there was a way to make the day of travel more seamless, and ultimately who they thought should own the customer relationship.

Each of them, with the exception of Arthur de Groot from Schiphol Airport (who believed they should expose their data), were quite insistent that airlines must own their customer relationships before, during and after the flight.

In the short-term, airlines will need help from partners to put their data in order and start taking more control of passenger experience. But longer-term, what sort of “culture shift” is needed for airlines to truly become “day-of-travel retailers” and not limit themselves to traditional BoB programs? There is tremendous opportunity ahead for whomever can figure this out. In fact, there was an entire track for ancillary-focused startups at FTE showing lots of interesting activity here.

Airlines Retail Onboard and On the Ground

Airlines and others in the day of travel space are starting to make the connection between onboard and on-the-ground retail. Like Starbucks, airlines will need to localize and personalize the passenger experience for the connected traveler. The culture shift starts with airlines making sense (and cents) of the mountains of data they already have, and offering passenger apps that will be useful and convenient for travel management, self-service, airport shopping, destination retail and so much more.

Ultimately, airlines will need to be more like terrestrial retailers and make the connection between higher ancillary revenue and better passenger (and mobile user) experience.

Oh, and one more takeaway from FTE Dublin …the Hyperloop is for real and it’s coming sooner than you think

Were you at FTE Dublin? Let’s reconnect and discuss how Guestlogix can help your airline. Schedule a demo of the Guestlogix airline commerce platform today.

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