As part of our new ‘On the Map’ series, Skyscanner has analysed our European search data to provide you with unique insights for the busy summer 2019 period, including changes in pricing and destinations.
Navigating the complex hotel ecosystem is anything but straightforward. When it comes to distribution channels in particular, accommodation providers are increasingly trying to find a healthy balance between selling through online travel agents (OTAs) and via direct channels (e.g. a hotel’s own website).
Skyscanner’s Hugh Aitken recently delivered a keynote speech at CAPA’s Airline Leader Summit in Dublin. He explored the European aviation market and a mobile-first offering that meets the expectations of modern travellers. Read on for some key highlights from the presentation, and a brief summary of some of the main talking points at the event.
Skyscanner, the world's travel search engine, has announced its latest partnership with Swoop, the Canadian ultra low-cost carrier.
In 2019, it’s fair to say that personal assistants are more than just fun little gadgets; they are now a common household item and for some, part of everyday life. A study by NPR-Edison Research showed 100 million units have already been sold worldwide and ownership is projected to reach 225 million by 2020 – outpacing the adoption rate for smartphones a decade ago.
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.
Last week CAPA – Centre for Aviation hosted its World Aviation Outlook Summit in Berlin. With presentations from 20 of the airline industry’s key C-suite leaders, key topics addressed at the summit included:
Changes in distribution and how the push by IATA for airlines to implement the NDC standard has encouraged the industry to adopt a retail focused approach to distribution
The digital economy – how will airlines differentiate their product offering and deliver a personalised and seamless experience for customers
Environmental sustainability - how the industry is working to safeguard the environment, from today’s new generation fuel-efficient to tomorrow’s electric aeroplanes
Hugh Aitken, Commercial Director at Skyscanner, joined other leading industry experts for a discussion around the need to speed up the transformation of the industry.
Other pannelists included:
William Owen, Founder at Made by Many
Kevin Clark, CEO at Bluebox Aviation Systems
Kristian Gjerding, CEO at CellPoint Mobile
Christian Langer, Vice President at Lufthansa Group
The discussion highlighted how airlines now operate more as digital companies rather than just transportation companies.
Other questions that arose during the panel discussion:
Outside competition – is it required to fire up internal creativity?
Are big organisations simply unable to cope with the speed of change in technology and customer behaviour?
How to identify the winning ideas?
Putting the framework in place first - deciding on an airline’s digital strategy
How global alliances are using technology to facilitate multilateral connectivity and deliver benefits to customers of member airlines
Additionally, many airlines now lean on creative technology start-ups to identify solutions for their technology, operations and customer service problems.
Hugh Aitken shared his thoughts on what airlines need to do in the continually evolving mobile travel marketplace. He said that the digitalisation of airlines would be an “absolute benefit” for travellers and the customer experience.
“We need more help from airlines to do the right thing for travellers”, he said, adding “there is a huge difference between different airlines in terms of digital capacities”.
NDC was a central theme at the summit with discussions focussing on how the adoption by airlines will continue to accelerate into next year. Finnair chief commercial officer Juha Jarvinen endorsed NDC adoption saying “NDC will distribute ancillary elements much better than the carrier can through GDS”.
50% of passengers buying on finnair.com buy ancillary items, Mr Jarvinen said, adding the carrier has improved GDS channels to sell ancillary, with one in 10 purchasing ancillaries compared with one in 100 passengers three years ago. There is still a “huge difference” compared to what can be done with NDC, Mr Jarvinen concluded.
In this latest blog, we take a look back at last week’s CAPA Aviation summit in Singapore and review the highlights of the panel discussion on NDC – Distribution Game Changers – Adopt or Perish? Gavin Harris, Commercial Director at Skyscanner within our Airline Partnerships division was joined on the panel by Cyril Tetaz, Executive Vice President, Airlines, APAC, Amadeus, Chris Ramm, Vice President Asia Pacific, Air Partners at Travelport and Campbell Wilson, SVP Sales and Marketing at Singapore Airlines.
Legacy distribution systems have for decades presented airlines with the twin problems of high costs and product commoditisation. In efforts to address these issues, a handful of carriers in Europe, and now Asia Pacific, have invested heavily into establishing their own API channels with agents, while the concurrent push by IATA for airlines to implement the NDC standard has encouraged the industry to adopt a retail focused approach to distribution. The GDS will also need to evolve in order to remain relevant and to compete effectively against other intermediaries and aggregators such as metasearch companies (some of which now have direct booking capabilities), as well as digital behemoths such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook - to gain a slice of the pie.
But as airlines work on enhancing their retail offering and improving their merchandising capability via both direct and indirect channels, a resounding message from industry players is that airlines need to consider the importance of mobile and messaging platforms, which are slowly replacing the desktop as the preferred interface for researching and booking travel.
Is this increasingly fragmented and complex commercial and technological distribution landscape sustainable? How will business models evolve in response? Is there a need for a direct connect aggregator?
Should airlines build lots of direct connects or revert back to lean, centralised distribution channels?
Who is going to be offering services to bridge the gap between airlines/aggregators that are NDC compliant and those that aren’t? Will it be the GDS and IT providers, other airlines or speciality providers?
How are newer intermediaries adding value to airline distribution?
How do airlines enhance their digital shopfront? Are airlines over-emphasising the importance of airline.com over mobile messaging platforms and bot technologies?
Speaking on the issue of NDC and Customisation, Gavin commented on Skyscanner’s future NDC strategy and predictions, stating:
Our pipeline of partners with NDC is getting healthier, we're trying to scale the type of ancillaries that airlines can have. We realise you can't go to heavy on customisation.
Further issues explored during the panel discussion included:
NDC - Metasearch - Direct booking capability - How Skyscanner is accelerating new channel adaptation for Airlines
What will the crystalball for Metasearch looks like in 2 years time (Airline , Travel distribution - NDC)
Experiences of BA, Avianca, Singapore Airlines in NDC direct connect - lessons for other Airlines
Retailing, dynamic fare, speed to market, - Good Quality Traffic, High yield - what are marketing opportunity for Airlines - large & small - Can they afford it?
Mobile, messaging- Metasearch - Plans for an integrated solution for airlines?
In a bid to provide more of a consistent product offering across the entire travel distribution ecosystem, Skyscanner announced last month that it had joined NDC Exchange, a platform that enables content interoperability across the airline distribution ecosystem and is a trusted bridge between the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) New Distribution Capability (NDC) and traditional distribution methods. The addition of Skyscanner’s impressive reach to NDC Exchange adds value for all on the platform through a growing network effect. Each month, 80 million people use the Skyscanner website or its highly-rated mobile app, which has been downloaded over 70 million times. Skyscanner’s global reach can also be seen through its products that are offered in over 30 languages and 70 currencies.
Hugh Aitken, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, Skyscanner will be speaking next at World Aviation Outlook Summit, Berlin on 27-28 November.