How is data changing airline retailing?

How is data changing airline retailing?

By Brian Staunton, Chief Commercial Officer at Atlas

It goes without saying that the pandemic has completely changed the face of travel and led to dramatic shifts in passenger preferences and booking behaviour.

It has also given airlines and travel technology companies the time and impetus to focus firmly on data – and consider how they can better serve customers.

From understanding and serving traveler preferences, to facilitating smarter decision making, it’s clear airlines and travel sellers need to master data to optimize the travel retailing experience into the future.

Already, data is crucial in helping optimize profitable routes, drive ancillary sales and maximize margins. By optimizing airline performance on our platform, Atlas has delivered an increase of up to 300% in targeted airline bookings.

Earlier this year I moderated a panel on travel technology at the Arabian Travel Market It was a fascinating discussion about how far travel data has come, and what lies ahead. Here are some highlights.


Why personalization matters.

When the world suddenly turns on its head, it becomes very clear just how important data is. What are travelers thinking, what do they want, and how are they acting?

To meet changing needs during the pandemic, one panelist –, for instance, launched a tool that allowed travelers to explore where they could travel, based on where they lived, and their vaccination status.

The company’s commercial flights director, Ashish Kumar, notes this generated a great deal of data. This data was then analyzed to understand customers’ behavioral patterns – and enable to work on providing a more personalized experience.

It aims to create dynamic packages that combine airside products such as flights, seat selection and baggage, with different technology products such as Flexifly.

It is expected improved data collection will allow Wego to reach new customers and build loyalty with existing customers.

As we know, that can be challenging in the flight industry.


Data hasn’t changed, but technology has.

Mary Li, Atlas’ Founder and CEO, says, “In the past five years, data has not changed, however, one thing that has definitely changed – the infrastructure behind it. Five years ago, everyone relied on CPU technology (centralized processing units), designed to carry out a wide variety of tasks.

Some, like us at Atlas, have built a custom GPU, a graphics processing unit that is suited to machine-learning.”

The travel industry is still plagued by legacy systems and processes, and weighed down by centralized distribution models.

Mary says today’s databases – used by Atlas – are worlds apart from previous versions, leading to improved calculation capability, accessibility and stability.

That provides huge opportunity, and much quicker processing power. Big data has been around for years but it’s only now that we can truly capture and enhance its potential.

At Atlas, being able to process more data faster means real-time sales and marketing optimization for our agency customers. We help them connect the right route, at the right price, to the right traveler, at the right time.

And the proof is in the pudding. We’ve helped our agency customers deliver uplifts of up to 97% in peak day segment bookings, purely by optimizing performance and acting on real-time insights from our data intelligence platform.


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From right: Johnny Chou, Mary Li, Ashish Kumar and Brian Staunton


Moving away from legacy systems.

In order to be successful post-pandemic, companies need to embrace new technology and move away from legacy systems.

Things have changed rapidly even in the past five years, and they’re not likely to slow down.

Back then, the process was fragmented, with customers having to buy a ticket, insurance and ancillaries separately.

Now, we see traveler demand for hyper-personalization in the travel booking experience – to be offered targeted choices that they may not have previously thought to search.

Technology is always changing. But what is not changing is the need to continually offer new value to customers.


Why data is the way of the future for travel companies.

Another panelist, Johnny Chou, Chief Solution Architect at Alibaba Cloud, says travel companies must take every opportunity to ‘data-ify’ their exchanges with customers.

Automation is fundamental. This enables efficient coordination of all actions and business processes online using historic and real-time data.

That means using artificial intelligence, or deep learning technology to take advantage of live data in real time – and generate value to businesses, their partners and customers.

Create an environment where innovation can flourish, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

Great data will help businesses get to know themselves, their customers and their competitors better, providing clarity around points of difference.

Companies who are not able to dynamically package entire trips in one booking flow won’t be as successful, predicts Ashish. Consumers are looking to simplify their booking experience.


Is it worth investing in a robust data intelligence platform?

At Atlas, it’s what we’ve built our business model on. We’ve invested heavily, so we can offer data intelligence to support our customers and internal teams. This delivers smart informed decision-making to help our customers succeed.

However Atlas, which was established to make it easier for anyone to access affordable travel, also wants to open our data intelligence platform up to the wider flight booking ecosystem.

So, rather than other companies investing large sums of money to set up their own data infrastructure, Atlas is providing affordable digital products to airlines and travel sellers.

Exciting times ahead.

Access ATRIP and check it out yourself:

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