Covid-19 will accelerate the drive to digitisation, touchless travel and NDC, a panel of airline experts have agreed.
The need for contactless travel and the current market, dominated by younger, mainly leisure customers, will speed innovation, said the panel, speaking at the World Aviation Festival this week.
American Airlines’ chief customer officer Alison Taylor outlined the changes she expected in the next few years.
“We believe personalisation is increasingly important," she said. "Just like security was after 9/11, health and wellbeing has found a whole new level.”
She said the carrier was trialling self-service and biometrics, “even for bag drop”. “We believe we will be far more digital-savvy, with most things self-service and touchless.”
Taylor said the age of American Airlines’ customers “has lowered for several years”, and this was driving digital demand.
The carrier was the biggest into the Caribbean and Aspen, she said. “We’re seeing a rise in that package side. We believe there will be a rise in digital channels we have today with younger customers in sunshine and ski destinations.”
The panel agreed Covid would prompt wider adoption of Iata’s New Distribution Capability, which permits more content, personalisation, product differentiation and faster "time to market" for airlines.
Jonathan Savitch, chief commercial officer of ATPCO’s Routehappy Rich Content, said: “We are in a period now where so much is changing, so quickly, that NDC is the key facilitator.”
Taylor said leisure agents in the US were now adopting NDC. “On the whole, they are medium to small,” she said.
“We envisage a time when distribution is probably more agile and offering everything across the travel journey; from booking an Uber or hire car to a hotel – and you will be able to check in to a hotel or car on the same app.”
Xavier Lagardere, Lufthansa vice-president distribution, added: “There has never been such an innovative period in the industry.”
He said Covid had enabled the airline to make much faster decisions. “It’s making sure we keep flexible. Post-Covid, I would like to keep the flexibility we have currently.”