Leveraging customer data, the new challenge for air transport

As every quarter, Air France organized last Thursday evening its #Digidays where the best of the travel blogosphere was invited to talk about data in air transport. In the end, there is little to remember: yes, there is data, there are apps, but we are still at the beginning of the data revolution

New developments in the digital field at Air France

In parallel to the actions around data, some new features have been announced by Air France around the mobile experience.

In the fall, Air France will offer customers the possibility of tracking their baggage in the event of irregularities (late delivery, missing baggage): as soon as they board the aircraft, customers will be able to file a baggage claim and, once the claim has been filed, to track the delivery of the outstanding baggage.

In the coming months, Air France will also offer baggage tracking even without irregularities, similar to what its partner Delta currently offers in its mobile application.

Air France will soon offer a connected baggage tag linked to the Flying Blue account, which will make it possible to do without paper.

In the same vein, Air France will continue to enrich its application with external data: as for the weather at the destination, Air France will offer the calculation of travel time from the current location according to the passenger’s preferred mode of transportation.

Even if this is interesting, the exploitation of the data remains weak.
Air France executives in attendance talked about remembering certain preferences, such as extra pillows or drinks for frequent flyers. Bertrand and I can testify that this is not the case today, unlike what is done for HON Circle passengers at Lufthansafor example.

A big step forward to truly personalize the customer experience

Airlines must redouble their efforts to create a truly caring relationship.
The work done in social servicing by most of them is quite impressive, even if the quality of interactions may have deteriorated with the massification of contacts by these means.
The keystone is the cross-referencing of available marketing information, loyalty information and operational information. And to propose targeted offers: not extractions of mainstream promotional offers, but an offer built for the person: proposing offers in economy class to a passenger who is a fan of premium classes is counter-productive. On the other hand, sending a Business offer on D-3 that is only valid for THIS passenger is not only a way to boost sales but also to enhance the value of this passenger.

Flying Blue must become the center of attention

Despite years of interaction with its managers, Air France has not yet deployed the full marketing power of the formidable tool that is Flying Blue. As Europe’s leading frequent flyer program, the Flying Blue account should become the repository of all passenger information.

Companies face a major problem: all reservations made through travel agencies contain only partial information about the passengers. It is then a matter of :

    Maximize direct sales channels to collect as much customer information as possible: through the web of course, but also through phone and physical channels – the fact that service fees charged through these channels drive people who want real human interaction to external players who charge much lower fees, and so Air France loses a lot of data. This maximization could be achieved by offering lower rates on direct sales channels,
    Systematize Flying Blue accounts for travelers forced to go through an external player, such as corporate travel agencies. Even if many business travelers have a Flying Blue account, we need to systematize on-board interaction with non-loyalized passengers to encourage them to register for the program. For example by offering a bonus on the first 3 or 5 flights.

As you can see, we still have a long way to go, but the data is there.
And even if Air France – KLM is going to propose an open data platform in the next few days, it is the more personal data that should be exploited to maximize the benefits, and all the airlines in the world share the same challenge!

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.

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