Today’s tech-savvy, mobile-first consumers are increasingly choosing the travel services that give them power and control over their trip – and ditching those that don’t. What’s more, they are also looking at digital platforms that allow them to research, plan and book their travel without having to navigate between numerous apps and websites.
Faical Allou is a former Skyscanner employee with more than 10 years’ experience in the airline industry. In this exclusive interview, he explains how this experience led to his first book, A Lifelong Flight, and why a frictionless experience for travellers is indeed the way forward in 2019.
His novel follows Sam, a professor in business strategy who finds himself on a mission to rescue a start-up airline in Bali while navigating an industry that is completely unknown to him.
It’s been a progressive and productive year for the travel industry. Headlines throughout 2018 highlighted the challenges from this ever-growing sector of the global economy as well as the positive impact. Whether it’s about enabling further travel through new routes or the latest innovations in aircraft and engine design, we watch these industry level changes with huge interest at Skyscanner. In the last 12 months, our experts have led and joined key discussions, focusing particularly on one key question: what themes will continue to disrupt the industry?
Hugh Aitken, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships looks back at 2018 and shares his thoughts on three key areas that airlines need to focus on in 2019 and beyond.
1. A seamless mobile experience
According to Skyscanner’s data, mobile now accounts for 63% of all traffic which is why we are constantly investing in the technology to build a better mobile experience. This continual move to mobile brings with it the need for a new approach.
It is vital to think mobile-first. Mobile demands a different design and user philosophy, a different way to retail as well as the need for frictionless search and booking between platforms and device types.
At Skyscanner, we take a mobile-first approach. We orientate around our app and build for that platform. An important step to helping travellers has been our focus on growing Direct Booking.
In the last year, we partnered with IATA to launch a Guide to NDC as a future-proof roadmap. IATA predicts that by 2037, there will be as many as 8.2 billion air travellers. It is therefore essential that airlines create mobile platforms that consider each step of the user journey.
We have successfully partnered with airlines like Singapore Airlines and Aeroflot to create a more agile, connected and efficient customer experience with Direct Booking. Through this connection, customers are able to book flights more conveniently through the Skyscanner site. NDC has been adopted more widely by airlines in the last 12 months and even more now understand its benefits, such as ancillary upsell.
2. A simple transactional marketplace
In the last 24 years, Amazon has evolved from an online store for books to a one-stop platform for all your retail needs. For some reason, the travel industry hasn’t quite figured out how to replicate this winning formula. There is still room for movement and Skyscanner plans to close this gap as we further transition to a marketplace, showing our partners more strongly by matching data and search behaviour. By optimising our products as a marketplace with multiple capabilities, we can provide our 80m monthly active users with options most tailored to their needs.
The future of travel and distribution are dependent on this yet even today, the majority of online sales opportunities rely on too many dependencies. Skyscanner believes that this is where we can offer the most value for airlines. As a marketplace, we provide the platform for partners to control their brand while we enable the connection between customer and brand, regardless of the context of purchase.
3. Look to the East for inspiration
As a global travel leader, Skyscanner knows first-hand which regions and markets are disrupting the industry. When it comes to travel technology and innovation, airlines should look East. In a 2017 whitepaper, our experts shed a light on China and the opportunities this market continues to present.
Let’s look at Tmall. Introduced in 2008, this Chinese marketplace, operated by Alibaba, offers brands the space to run their shops on the site. However, the competition element for airlines doesn’t go away. If anything, marketplaces encourage brands to up the ante, particularly when it comes to differentiating the shopping experience for travellers.
Alongside this, there are two particular trends to highlight:
The speed of adoption: the pace of development in Asia is phenomenal. Whether you look at the growth of adoption (it took 1.5 years for WeChat to reach 100m people vs 15 years for feature phones) or the potential of markets, less than 50% of the population across Asia have access to the internet vs more than 80% in Europe. This huge growth potential will drive innovation especially as user demand for this technology grows exponentially
The variance in payment methods: QR codes and mobile payment methods continue to grow at a pace across Asia. Between 2012 and 2016, QR codes, as a method of payment, grew from $0.01trillion to more than $5trillion. Finnair are a great example of an airline that embraced this new landscape for payments. As a result, they became the first airline to team up with Alipay for in-flight shopping and payment.
While trends emerging from Silicon Valley will continue to be important, ‘Look East’ should be the new mantra for airline management teams who are grappling with technology and change.
As 2018 comes to a close, there is a great deal to reflect on and if airlines can prioritise the three key areas above, the industry is sure to see even more advancement and movement next year. As a global brand, Skyscanner has an important role to play within the industry, particularly with 80m monthly active users. Our ongoing objective is to put the traveller first and this will continue into 2019.
For even more insight into the 2019 travel landscape, check out our trends piece here.
Skyscanner, the world's leading travel distribution platform, today announced a partnership with Aeroflot on its Direct Booking platform. Skyscanner began working with Aeroflot on direct bookings in July 2017 and is now fully live across all markets, web and mobile channels. Customers searching for and choosing to purchase Aeroflot flights on Skyscanner are now able to complete their booking directly on Skyscanner without having to be re-directed to Aeroflot’s website.
The move to Skyscanner’s Direct Booking Platform means that Aeroflot, which is in the top 20 aviation holdings in the world by the number of passengers carried, will become the first Russian airline to sell airline tickets directly through Skyscanner’s web and mobile channels.
Mikhail Safarov, Director, Product Quality Management Department, PJSC Aeroflot comments: “Technological development is a key priority for Aeroflot, and with that in mind we are integrating direct distribution of flight tickets protocol as well as the New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard developed by airline association IATA. This technology makes it possible to not only sell tickets and other services through our own website, but seamlessly through metasearch engines such as Skyscanner as well. Aeroflot places great importance on maintaining its position as a leader in technological innovation and has received Level 3 status under the NDC programme, the highest certification status.”
Hugh Aitken, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships at Skyscanner said:
“We are delighted that Aeroflot has joined the ever increasing number of airlines adopting our Direct Booking Platform. We want to bring airline products on our site as close to the direct experience as possible, with carriers controlling their products and brand while benefiting from our global traffic and audience, across a range of devices. We are extremely confident that both Aeroflot and its customers will benefit from this new integration.”
Skyscanner has already partnered with a number of other airlines from major carriers to low-cost airlines to offer a Direct Booking service, including Pobeda Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Vueling Airlines and Scoot.
 This fact was recorded in the “World Airlines Report - 2018” published by the American magazine Air Transport World, as well as in the “Leading Aviation Groups” rating compiled by the British publication “Flight Airline Business”.
Skyscanner is delighted to announce that Avianca has joined our unique Direct Booking platform.
The pioneering integration, powered by Amadeus Altéa NDC, makes Avianca one of the first airlines in North or South America to sell directly within the Skyscanner marketplace using IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC).