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How data-driven standards will turn novice flight shoppers into savvy pros—and why that’s great for airlines

20 December 2018
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I’ve just returned from a few days in Europe, where I hit up four cities in six days. My domestic flights were short, so I focused on economy-driven, convenient trips—all utility. For my long-haul trips I spent much more time researching the best options; I managed to get discounted business class fares that allowed me to be comfortable and productive while travelling. I travel enough to know which carriers have the best trans-Atlantic Wi-Fi, and I also understand the difference between the business class you get on, say, a 757 versus the better experience you get on a 787 (those who know understand the benefit that a 787 delivers in terms of air pressure, light, and comfort). 

All in all, because of my understanding and experience of my preferred carriers, I am pretty pleased with the choices I made. They were not necessarily the cheapest, but they delivered great value for my needs. 

I’m a real-world example that people buying flights need different amenities depending on the type of trip they’re taking. I’m an industry insider, a frequent traveler, and I know my preferred airline products inside and out. I’m confident I made the right purchases. Goal accomplished.

But what if I wasn’t an insider? 

The latest survey from Airlines for America states that, on average, US travelers only take three airline trips a year, split roughly 50/50 between leisure and business. Further, less than 30 percent of travelers are loyal to a brand, according to Skift survey results. How do these travelers know how to navigate the right products and choices that make sense to them?

As Bob Albert said on the ATPCO elevate stage back in 2017, customers care about price, because we have given them nothing else to care about. 

So, if I were the typical US traveler I would only be looking for the lowest price possible. I would not really understand the plethora of bundles and brands being offered. More than likely, I would only see them on the carriers’ websites. I would probably be shopping on a meta site and closing in on a decision with no regard for Wi-Fi quality, plane quality, business needs, or anything besides price. 

If I did try to research the brands being offered, I would be lost. How does Polaris compare to Delta One, or to Premium Select, or to Flagship? The names are confusing, the baggage fees are confusing, and I might not even realize that I have to actually make sure that I can select my seat in advance. 
 

We’re working to fix this.

Every day consumers shopping for flights in indirect channels end up buying the wrong product. That doesn’t serve anyone, traveler or airline. We had the big three US carriers on stage to talk about this problem a few weeks ago at Elevate 2018. It was a wake-up call, and I am happy to report we took it.

ATPCO and Routehappy by ATPCO are working with airline and channel partners to build something very cool. 

We’re developing standards to help fix the problem.

Now, I admit that doesn’t sound all that cool, but these data-driven guidelines are the scaffolding that will support some modern shopping displays that will, shockingly, make sense to actual people.

The standards will organize the data that better describes airline products so that your shopping experience will be richer, give a greater depth of data around the products you are looking at, and allow you to have the same level of insights that a pro would have. 

It’s called the Next-Generation Storefront, or NGS for short. Here’s what it will do:
-    Group similar fare products in shopping displays
-    Create data standards to consistently describe itinerary attributes 
-    Institute a common rating system to align and group features of an airline product

This data will make it easier for consumers to find what they need, for airlines to differentiate their services and offerings, and for systems and sellers to build better shopping experiences. 

Any economics major will tell you that when you increase customer choice, you also increase revenue, satisfaction, and loyalty. So how do you get on board?

It’s not too late for you.


We could still use your expertise. More airlines, systems, and sellers can become leaders in the Next-Generation Storefront advisory group, or if you like getting behind the scenes, join the technical working group. Just write me if you are interested.

Or, if you want to see more details about what we’re working on, watch our recent NGS webinar and take the in-webinar survey to get off the ground! 
 

By Gianni Cataldo

Head of Research & Development

With over twenty years of leadership experience in global travel technology companies, Gianni is an innovative technology leader with extensive experience in curating and launching travel product solutions. Most recently, Gianni established an innovation labs strategy at ATPCO, partnering with early-stage startups and global airline brands to identify and leverage disruptive technologies, to drive new revenue streams.