A contactless experience could become the norm at airports in the not-so-distant future. As this article explains further, this could create an opportunity for airlines to improve their upsell and cross sell capabilities.
The face of travel is considerably different to this time last year. With passengers aware of the perceived current risks associated with flying, airports are considering how they can help to rebuild customer confidence.
With travel one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, airports and airlines appear to have much to do to rebuild trust and confidence with their audience that it's safe to fly. Going contactless is one way this challenge is being tackled.
The pandemic is accelerating technology innovation in airports
One way that airlines, particularly across Asia, are developing a safe self-service environment is by testing a range of contactless technologies.
These include infra-red scanners, voice control, QR codes, motion control, cameras, telepresence and greatly enhanced mobile app features. The objective is to remove the need to directly interact with high-traffic touchscreens and airline employees, reduce the perceived risk and improve the overall airport experience for the traveller.
This is a trend we're seeing across many customer-facing industries, not just travel. The events of 2020 have accelerated digital transformation for sectors such as retail and hospitality, rapidly changing both customer expectations surrounding safety and also the digital shopping experience.
One main difference with a customer's journey through the airport is that there's not just one point of engagement, creating additional complexity and increasing the risk of a disjointed customer experience.
High-touch to zero-touch
Airports are by default "high-touch" environments. As well as check-in, baggage drop and security, there are a number of opportunities for travellers to purchase ancillary goods and services on the ground and in the air, whether that's a seat upgrade, leg room, duty free goods, hotel transfers or in-flight refreshments.
This has historically been achieved via face-to-face interaction, or via self-service terminals.
One challenge that airlines have long faced is the ability to create a convenient payment experience at the airport.
With so many purchase points and different device options available to facilitate customers' purchases, including personal devices and card terminals, and restrictions accepting payments on shared self-service hardware, consistency can be hard to come by.
Contactless technology represents an opportunity for airlines
This demand for a contactless airport experience could create opportunities for airlines ready to embrace this change.
A touchless ecosystem could provide the means for airlines to engage with their customers from the point they enter the airport, or even earlier.
A touchless system may encourage travellers to utilize airline-owned mobile applications or streamlined zero-touch self-service payment terminals that make paying for ancillary services simpler, more flexible and more customer friendly.
We already know that travellers are able to purchase upgrades directly from an airline.
Worldpay from FIS's recent Power Your Payments travel report highlighted that 51% of travellers would be willing to purchase additional services from an airline, but the data also suggests that travellers are more likely to buy ancillary products and services if it’s convenient to do so.
For example, 35% of passengers surveyed were more likely to book a seat upgrade if they could pay at the check-in desk, rather than having to navigate through the airport to a separate upgrades desk.
With check-in desks closing due to the pandemic, airlines will need to lean more towards self-service alternatives if they want to ensure things remain convenient for the traveller.
The beauty of self-service is that in many circumstances it's accessible anywhere via mobile devices. Integrating ancillary services such as airport transfers and duty-free purchases into mobile platforms could allow travellers to plan out – and pay for – their entire travel experience from one central point, which is controlled and owned by the airline.
To achieve this, airlines should consider how these flexible, new payment touchpoints can remain aligned to the preferences of travellers.
Managing payment preferences
Another challenge facing airlines looking to offer an exceptional payment experience at the airport is the diversity of their customer base.
As the same Worldpay from FIS's study highlights, traveller payment preferences vary considerably by country and also by age group. 42% of respondents stated that they would drop out of the payment process if they couldn’t pay with their preferred payment method.
To further complicate matters, Worldpay from FIS's survey indicates preferences also vary based on what is being purchased.
While credit and debit card remain popular for airline tickets (with notable exceptions), for lower-value transactions such as ground transport, many travellers favour digital wallets such as PayPal, as well as local payment methods such as PayTM in India and MercadoPago in Brazil.
China bucks this trend, with a strong majority of surveyed travellers preferring to pay using Alipay or WeChat, even for high-value transactions such as air travel. Ultimately, offering only credit or debit card payment methods could create challenges for airlines looking to make the most of ancillary revenue opportunities.
Making airport payments easy could attract more ancillary revenue
The payment experience doesn't stop for the traveller when a flight is booked, so it doesn't need to end there for the airline either.
Airlines have an opportunity to attract customers to use their services by creating a safe yet convenient way to pay for add-ons and extras.
Users may have previously opted to forego that extra walk to the upgrade desk or been reluctant to engage with airline mobile apps.
Yet today, and in the future, the demand for contactless technology to facilitate travel administration requirements in a safe way is creating the perfect platform to upsell and cross sell, but only if the payment experience is convenient and aligned with the expectations of your audience.
More insights from Power Your Payments
Power Your Payments is a research campaign commissioned by Worldpay from FIS that compiles the digital payment experiences and preferences of 33,000 consumers from 12 countries around the world. Discover more insights from the Power your Payments research and download the reports.