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  • Passenger Experience
27 February 2024

How Airlines Can Improve Operational Efficiency by Managing Travel Document Compliance Risks

Travel document compliance is a fundamental element of international air travel, as it guarantees that passengers have the mandatory passport, visa, and health requirements to enter their destination country. However, as with any risk management activity, if the process isn’t managed well, it can impact operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and financial performance.

Governments around the globe have mandated a range of entry requirements and regulations for their country. But with the onus being on airlines to ensure that passengers have valid travel documents before boarding their flights, adherence can become a costly exercise. Airlines face fines or penalties if they transport passengers who are subsequently denied entry at their destination. But on the other hand, being overly stringent can also create operational and brand costs that potentially outweigh the impact of fines.

Whilst full compliance may be the goal, we must acknowledge that there is a trade-off with the seamless travel experience that an airline can achieve. We’re seeing a continued trend in airlines leveraging the data and insights behind Timatic to help find a level of balance along that spectrum – one that meets their risk appetite, while also achieving broader business goals.

The Challenges of Travel Document Compliance


Airlines invest significant time and resources in verifying travel documents at different stages of the passenger journey, such as online check-in, airport check-in, boarding gate, and transit points. Standard travel information including the passenger’s nationality, destination, transit points, purpose of travel, and duration of stay all influence the checking process; but there are also some more unique and challenging travel requirements that airlines are faced with too. · Did you know that some countries require passengers to have at least one unused visa page in their passport?

  • Or that others have mandated that passengers need to have proof of accommodation, or a return/onward ticket before they’re granted entry? Even though these can be cancelled, which undermines the need for verification.
  • Did you know that some countries require passengers to have sufficient funds to cover their stay, however most airlines avoid asking their passengers to disclose this information as it may be sensitive.
  • Or that in other countries, they may not deny entry in the case of sufficient funds but offer an alternative such as asking someone to act as a sponsor.

Regulations such as these not only highlight that governments still have a lot of improvements to make to facilitate seamless travel, but also how they create a heavy burden for airlines. Yet, with passengers not bound to using their accommodation or onward tickets, or required to prove sufficient funds, it’s challenging to achieve complete verification anyway. On top of this, while these regulations are still in place, there are times when governments themselves are not strictly enforcing them.

Balancing the Risk of Travel Document Compliance


Technology advancements and industry data sources such as Timatic have made it simple for airlines to meet the baseline requirements for travel document compliance, such as:

  • Informing passengers in advance of known regulations, to reduce the number of individuals who are not compliant at the beginning of their journey.
  • Offering self-service and automation to empower passengers to verify their own travel document requirements with online check-in, mobile apps, or kiosks. This helps to reduce the workload and errors among staff and improves the convenience and flexibility of their customers.

Any reputable travel document compliance solution should provide airlines with accurate, up to date information that enables them to perform the baseline activities above. However, when it comes to managing travel document compliance at scale,

particularly with changing regulations or those that not enforced in practice, airlines need to find a way to manage these checks that works within their process, and risk appetite. Some airlines find it more efficient, and profitable, to manage the risks related to travel document compliance, rather than eliminating them completely.

To achieve this, however, requires more than just information. It requires on the ground sources, rich insights, and a deep understanding of which levers to pull to take the right calculated risks. Timatic Analytics, which is available to all Timatic users, allows members to delve deeper into their own data and analyze patterns or trends to identify opportunities for improvement. When combined with the guidance and expertise of the Timatic team, members are seeing exponential improvements in operational results, through the implementation of best practices and customizations.

The Timatic team works with member airlines to support their moves toward a seamless travel experience. During a recent collaboration, our experience showed that implementing the suggested changes led to an increase in self-service check-in penetration of up to 45%, within three months. Results like this create significant operational value as well as for the brand overall. By working with the Timatic team, member airlines have been able to improve their processes as well as customer experience and touchpoints, with feedback noting that “Timatic not only offers the best and the most accurate data but also helps you improve your travel document compliance process.”

The Role of Data in Improving Travel Document Compliance


Leveraging the rich data that is held within Timatic Analytics is key to improving travel document compliance. For example, understanding the reasons for inadmissible passengers, and the statistics on passenger documents, regulations and passengers who are denied boarding will enable airlines to make the necessary changes to mitigate, or accept these risks. The Timatic team are available to consult with and guide members through the process of monitoring and measuring the performance and impact of their travel document compliance processes, identifying the areas of improvement and optimization through best practices and the customization of document checking rules.

Delivering a Smooth Travel Experience


Travel document compliance is a vital but challenging aspect of international air travel, given its potential impact on the operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and profitability of airlines. Understanding your airline data, as well as the levers and customizations available to you, plays a pivotal role in mitigating the risks associated with travel document compliance. However, by managing the risks of travel document compliance, airlines can improve their efficiency and performance, delivering a smooth travel experience for passenge

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