SkyTeam says it's making progress with its data sharing integration between members and what that might mean for personalised air travel.
The alliance has nearly completed the first phase of its travel disruption management strategy, involving open coordination of the four PSS systems used by SkyTeam airlines: Amadeus, TravelSky, Deltamatic and Sabre.
While the scope of the initial project was to ensure seamless management of travel disruptions, SkyTeam boss Perry Cantarutti believes it is only the beginning for systems cross-over which could improve airline customer service and boost ancillary sales.
But given the protective and territorial nature of these systems and the data they manage, getting the job done has been a prolonged and delicate process.
Speaking to Tnooz during the IATA Annual General Meeting in Cancun, Cantarutti explains:
"The PSSs are built as systems that are intended to keep information within the system. We had to do a lot of work with PSS providers in order to share data outside of the partition.
"I think it worked because of a shared commitment that we need to do a better job on helping the customer with irregular operations cases.
"This has been a multi-year effort, but what's exciting is that we're within six months of being able to turn on all of those data links. It would only be applicable in cases where a customer is facing an irregular operation—within 48 hours—so it's not a wide-open connection. It's in a very specific context."
But that limited context proves that the systems can play together when they need to and, Cantarutti hopes, they will also play together when all SkyTeam members stand to benefit from such an exchange.
One application already under review is the sales of ancillary products and services.
"On the ancillary work that we're doing right now, we're realizing that even the basic ability to sell in the booking path or in the ‘manage my reservation’ path is pretty limited when it's an interline booking...there are lots of gaps that we put in front of the customer.
"Even when we're selling code-share, where we want to market as one airline, there are a lot of ancillary services that we can't sell."
The initial focus will be to sell simple things, like seats and extra baggage, but these transactions are complicated because airlines classify and package their ancillary products differently.
Cantarutti says the alliance will focus on getting simple ancillaries right before moving on to integrated personalization.
"Right now, it's fundamental concern about being able to present the full range of offerings to customers, so that they can take advantage of airline services. And also so that the airlines can generate revenue from a greater cross-section of customers."
But, ultimately, he believes a greater level of shared consumer awareness will soon be critical to the future of the airline alliance model and to airline competitiveness.
“I personally believe that the role and the importance of personalization will become a priority for the industry in the next five to ten years, if not sooner. We're looking at how SkyTeam can be an enabler for our members in that regard.”
“This is the kind of thing that presents a big opportunity…Millennials, who are more digitally savvy, will expect this level of personalization; this level of insight and information about the travel experience. They want to be known, not just on the individual airline that they normally fly but on the group of carriers."