While realism and recent experience necessitate a note of caution, the latest passenger market numbers show an acceleration in the recovery of air travel, with all regions showing improvement, although not at the same pace.
When it comes to international markets, European airlines are leading the pack, with a 380.6% rise in February 2022 traffic, compared to February 2021. Latin American, North American, and Middle Eastern carriers follow, with increases of 242.7%, 236.7% and 215.3%, respectively. Asia-Pacific and African bring up the rear with rises of144.4% and 69.5%. Of course, traffic still remains well down compared to pre-COVID (2019) levels, nevertheless there is no denying the improvements.
This favorable situation clearly shows that when governments ease travel restrictions, demand for air travel surges. Today, as our business restarts, it is time for airlines and the whole value chain to learn the lessons from this pandemic and realize that change must happen swiftly in different areas of the industry.
One of the most important areas is how airlines relate to their customers, not only in the in-flight phase of a journey, but throughout the entire travel experience.
Our industry is currently running on legacy processes, using outdated systems supported by a rigid governance. The relationship between airlines and their customers is based specifically on an airline-process approach. A truly customer-centric industry requires leaving this obsolete framework behind and embracing a modern retailing approach. IATA’s Airline retailing vision outlines how the transition to a world of offers and orders can take place at both the industry and individual airline level.
But the rest of the value chain needs to follow as well – players of the payment world will be key contributors to this change, while IT companies will be the backbone of an industry-wide digital transformation, supporting this conversion to modern retailing.
In such a customer-centric industry, customers should be able to securely identify who they are and what they like, if they choose to do so. Based on this information, they should receive personalized options for their trip that they can customize and change as they choose and pay for it using the method they like. The customers’ journey should be smooth, effortless and frictionless and they should be informed and in control of any change happening, should this change be imposed (e.g. flight disruption) or desired (e.g. adding an extra night at the hotel).
This ideal seamless end-to-end customer experience will only be possible if all entities involved in the process have the capabilities and will to go through this change process together.
IATA is proud to be your partner on this journey. I’m excited about the changes to come and look forward to sharing our progress in future editions of Air Pulse.
SVP, Financial Settlement and Distribution Services