The Chief Executive of Aer Lingus, Christoph Muller, was the keynote speaker at the IATA World Passenger Symposium that opened at the Dublin Convention Centre on Tuesday 29th October. In a wide-ranging address, he outlined the changes that the airline has undergone on his watch. He reiterated that the carrier is not a low-cost carrier but a customer retail operation. The Aer Lingus website is now the most visited in Ireland, he said.
In the area of customer satisfaction the airline had gone from 88% to a high of 93%, and he went on to say that it was unacceptable for any airline to overcharge for an extra suitcase at the airport.
He also welcomed the IATA agenda on distribution, and said that added value for the passenger was the way forward. In a panel discussion later, a spat developed on the role of the GDS, with Muller responding “that it is about the good and the bad GDSs”.
“Aviation makes possible $2.2 trillion worth of economic activity and supports some 57 million jobs around the globe. Every day more than eight million passengers take advantage of the safety, speed and convenience of air travel, and airfares are one-third lower, in real terms, than they were 20 years ago. It truly is the mass transit system for the global economy. But our customers expect more. By working together as an industry with a common vision we can deliver even greater value to air travellers,” said Tony Tyler, IATA Director General and Chief Executive.
“Our passengers are focused on value and their expectations are high and rising. That means we must continuously examine, modernise and evolve our offering. The goal is to ensure that what we see as ‘service’ actually means ‘value’ to our customers,” said Tyler, while speaking at the opening of the World Passenger Symposium in Dublin.
Tyler focused on two areas where the industry can add greater value to the trip experience:
- How customers shop for air travel
- How they get through airports and stay connected to travel suppliers
Shopping for Air Travel
“Shopping for air travel is changing. Flying is more than just a seat on a plane. An air ticket has become a product with multiple attributes that may include in-flight wi-fi, extra legroom, lounge access and much more. And the reality is that it is much easier to access these value-added services via an airline website than through the travel agents who account for 60% of sales. This gap exists because distribution via travel agents is built on pre-Internet messaging standards. These don’t have the same capabilities as XML, the language of Internet-based commerce,” said Tyler.
IATA is working with our travel agent and travel technology partners to close that gap through the New Distribution Capability (NDC). While global distribution system (GDS) companies are moving to make it possible for airlines to merchandise their products in a manner more consistent with airlines’ own websites, each is developing its own proprietary solution. “Aviation was built on global standards. Consistent with that, NDC will be an open standard available to any and all who want to use it,” said Tyler.
NDC also responds to passenger demand for customisation and personalisation. According to IATA’s 2013 Global Passenger Survey, almost one-half of travellers are interested in sharing such things as travel preferences, age, interest/hobbies and frequent flyer status in order to receive special offers or products and services from airlines tailored to their needs – and a fifth would share their social media profile as well.
“The NDC standard will unleash innovation—and that will mean change. But, let me assure you of a few things. NDC will operate within the same privacy laws that govern every other business. That is no change from today. But, by giving travel agents more information, there will be greater transparency,” said Tyler.