SPENDERS AND PENNY-PINCHERS
While waiting at a bar counter the other day for the round of drinks I had just ordered, one thought occurred to me. There are two types of people in this world: the spenders and the cheapskates (or, a term I absolutely adore, “penny-pinchers”). While reading these lines, I assume you’ll figure out in which category you fit easily: either you are the guy that sits at the table, enjoying some free rounds, or you are the one going to the counter ordering one more round for all.
So, what does this all have to do with airlines?
Airlines love to upsell: ancillaries, upgrades… anything, really. Following the previous paragraph, you may already guess what category of people goes for these upsells. Nowadays, people often travel with others as a group, with each person or couple having their own booking. This means that airlines only target spenders, providing them with upsell options for their own reservations.
What if you could allow a spender to spend money on ancillaries and upgrades for the whole group?
Let us call this concept “dynamic group”. The airline would give the possibility for its customers to indicate that they are travelling together, giving each other the right to upsell their bookings. Everyone in a dynamic group gets to “buy a round”: this could be lounge access for all, priority boarding, meals, WiFi, or even a class upgrade. All these upsells that “penny-pinchers” would never have paid for are now sold to the “spender” in their group.
Another important aspect of this upselling is for the airline to be able to sell an experience, rather than only the ancillary. For instance, instead of selling seats, airlines would be able to offer a “sit together” ancillary, ensuring that the whole group gets seats in close proximity.
In that same theme, we can imagine “sharing a bottle”, and “play games together”. While these simply mean “buy X glasses of red wine” or “buy WiFi”, they ultimately are presented in a different, more meaningful package.
Note that these “ancillaries with meaning” do not require dynamic groups, and could also be presented to solo travellers. For instance, while I wouldn’t pay specifically to have a window seat, I could be enticed to get a “seat with a view of Mount Fuji”. Optimally, this may be tied to a motivation scheme that ties me to the airline’s frequent flyer programme, for example by offering me miles if the view is then obstructed by bad weather.
ORDERS: THE KEY TO DYNAMIC GROUPS
With Order Management Systems becoming a reality for airlines, the new capabilities associated with orders are interesting. These dynamic groups could easily be implemented, with a simple inclusion in the order structure of the list of other orders, that have the rights of either consultation (read), or even update (write) for that booking.
Filling in those read/write rights would come from various possible customer flows. Either the customer itself indicates it manually, or it could be automated during order creation. Lastly, the travel agency, upon creating several bookings for the group, could indicate those automatically.
Ancillary sales and ticket upgrades are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dynamic groups. These could also improve the customer experience by allowing travellers to get informed of any relevant update on their friend’s bookings. Or even upon involuntary changes, allowing the airline to ensure the group is reseated together or even rebooked together, further increasing customer satisfaction.
Overall, dynamic groups are an innovative feature which would benefit airlines and customers. I would appreciate being able to travel with my friends, with the airline acknowledging that we travel together. And I look forward to being able to buy a round of lounge access.