Major market disruptions foster fresh ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage especially in the U.S. Air travel demand remains low. This is a perfect time for airlines to consider new, more customer-friendly airfare purchasing options. The old ways of purchasing tickets might not be as customer-centric as they should be. To help bring back travelers when they’re ready. Let’s explore why airline ticketing needs an upgrade.
Today’s Pre-Pay Model
Buying a plane ticket is easy when everything aligns perfectly.
A potential customer finds a fare to a destination they like. Is fine with the departure/arrival dates and times. Said person becomes a customer by paying for at a minimum, a departing flight normally weeks or even months in advance.
Ah, if it could only be that simple.
The reality is many flyers want a good deal. Some want a great deal. A great fare on rare occasions is waiting for you on the first search.
But if that fare you want isn’t there, you’ll probably wait days, or weeks, or even months. Checking back when you remember.
Perhaps you have an app that will signal when a price change occurs. But, is that the price you want to pay? If haven’t found one yet that works well.
This takes a lot of your time. It shouldn’t. The process should be a lot faster with less onus on you to act. You are already willing to pay for a ticket.
What changes can be made to make this easier for us? Let’s dive in.
What if the booking process could be automated?
Imagine you’re dreaming about an exciting trip to London. You begin to search for flights and discover there are two airlines that provide non-stop service. But current pricing is a bit beyond your budget and/or what you consider a good deal.
In a new glorious world, airline apps have a feature that allows you to set London as your destination. You pick the dates and general times. Set a price you’re willing to pay. You can set how long your offer will last.
The airline could then determine if it would accept that price. Which could take hours, days, weeks, or months leading up to the departure date. If your offer expires without action from the airline, then no ticket issued.
If the airline determines at any point based on revenue models it will take your offer, it sends you a notice via the app. Perhaps a 24-hour hold is placed. Click agree within the 24-hour window and you’re booked. A setting for automatic booking in this scenario would create more convenience. Payment is made using the credit card on file, available credits, or points.
Now wouldn’t that be great!
Convenience is king. Many would-be travelers don’t want to search for hours trying to get the deal they want or continually check back. Airlines could save us time and make buying easy peasy at the price we’re excited to pay.
Then again, why do we need to pay in advance?
Pay At Check-In Model
A recent article discusses how airlines could move to the hotel payment model. Pay at check-in.
Similarly, you could reserve your spot on the plane at a price and hold it with a credit card. If you need to cancel or change the itinerary, no problem, no charge. Your credit card is charged or points redeemed once you check-in for your flight.
There is a lot to like about this model as a customer.
However, it creates more uncertainty for the airline particularly regarding revenue. Airlines prefer to get paid in advance. Who wouldn’t?
Airlines still use the ticketing terminology for flights. Which similar to event ticketing for music concerts or sporting events, we pay in advance for a ticket.
But we’re really reserving a space like a hotel room. Albeit a much smaller space as a seat scrunched next to hundreds of friends.
It would be interesting to see an airline try this model.
The current purchasing options for flights isn’t perfect. It could be so much better.
COVID-19 is an industry-altering event. Many travel insiders suggest superior innovations are on the horizon.
No question there are some cool things coming. Perhaps an upgraded purchasing process will be one of them.
Read. Plan. Travel. Repeat!