Better or Bust: A Three Point Digital Plan to Rescue the Airline Industry

Dear Sir/Madam



Cloud9 Insight open letter to airlines


1. Cloud9 Insight, a digital transformation consultancy with experience of more than 800 clients over 10 years, today writes to the airline industry to warn that some of its technologies and technological practices are out of date. Without modernisation, they could severely damage the viability of leisure air travel – at best causing a significant drop in custom by summer 2024 and, at worst, causing the failure of less resilient carriers.

2. We acknowledge the digital innovations that have taken place across the industry in recent years – such as self check-in for baggage, slicker online booking and more relevant marketing to better segmented audiences – but we believe more is needed to avoid significant harm to the industry.

3.We also understand that many of the challenges facing the industry are not directly related to digital transformation, such as rising fuel prices, staff shortages, climate change and the heavy and ongloing revenue losses caused by the pandemic. However some are.



The challenges


4. One-size-fits all treatment. Passengers often feel that airlines know little about them and treat passengers the same unless they are willing to pay more for better seats, priority boarding, or luggage upgrades and the like.

5. Lack of loyalty. Customers can pay to be on loyalty programmes but are not automatically rewarded for loyalty or frequent custom.

6. Legacy back office systems. When an airline’s technologies do not integrate well with other internal technologies and/or external technologies used by customers, poor experiences can be the result. For example, an airline might be reliant on three or more systems integrating well when a passenger is looking for a refund. The customer service operative might need to consult the customer’s history of interactions with the airline, access the booking data, and issue the refund payment all from one screen to ensure a good experience.

7. Creaking scheduling systems. Behind the scenes, airlines rely on a complex network of internal stakeholders running the business smoothly from a scheduling perspective. But employees often do not have at their fingertips access to the data they need relating to auxiliary crew, flight slots, baggage handling all in one place. The result can be missed flight slots, absent air crew, missing luggage, and more.



The potential effects, if not addressed


8. With flights being cancelled and delayed, families are likely consider alternative options for holidays, especially as UK summers are getting hotter. These disruptions also make business travel questionable at a time when video meetings are also more the norm.

9. We predict that thousands of consumers will decide not to fly next summer due to poor experiences of flying this year. We believe another summer of travel chaos in 2023 – with no obvious improvements on 2022 – could cause many thousands more to abandon the idea of travel.



Better or Bust: A Three Point Digital Plan to Rescue the Airline Industry


Know your customer better


10. Airlines have the ability to track data about individual customers, including what their travel preferences are and what transactions they commonly make. Airlines can and should do much more of this so they can build more intimate relationships with passengers, based on data, and provide a better service. For example, if that traveller prefers a window seat, one should be saved for them. Or they could send food, drink or film offers to passengers’ phones based on what they’ve already consumed.



Reward loyalty better


11. Airlines know how frequently their customers fly with them and how much money they spend every year. Yet, many still charge for membership of loyalty schemes, rather than properly rewarding that loyalty. This data should be used to provide a better service. For example, a frequent customer should be able to check in sooner and have a favourable bag allowance.



Allow better integration


12. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems could be better integrated with payments, booking and any other systems passengers use when they book flights and interact with airlines. This would give customer service staff have a single view of the customer and offer them the ability to fulfil more of a customer’s needs when they contact an airline. Behind the scenes, scheduling systems should be integrated into a single view, allowing seamless collaboration between any teams using the technology, including, for example, those deploying ground crew, those dealing with the movement of luggage and those booking gates for departures.

13. We hope this is helpful and we welcome any dialogue with any airline about ways of implementing the recommendations above.

Yours faithfully,

Carlene Jackson,

CEO, Cloud9 Insight


UPDATE (10/08/22): Airlines Warned To Transform Their Technology Within A Year To Avoid Calamity

UPDATE (17/08/22): Brighton tech firm urges airlines to modernise to avoid ‘disaster’

UPDATE (17/08/22): Airlines warned to embrace digital transformation


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