Expert Interview: What can we learn from airline companies in our ticketing world?

Insider Interview Series 6 min read
Ticketing Business and what we can learn from the Airline Industry
What the Ticketing Industry can learn from the Airline Industry - an insider interview with Andrew Thomas.

In our Insider Interview Series, the world’s leading ticketing experts share their vision and insights on the industry. Asking the questions is our CEO Hans Nissens.

Today's expert is Andrew Thomas. If you don’t know Andrew already due to his extensive expertise and consulting work in the world of arts, sports and entertainment, leveraging technology for more financial gain and/or customer engagement, this interview is your chance to get to know more about his insights. He is also the Director of the Ticketing Professionals Conference in the UK, and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Ticketing Association.

Hans Nissens sat down with Andrew Thomas to find out what the ticketing business can learn from airline companies. Yes – airline companies – you heard that right. The results are not what you would initially expect, and will provide you with very valuable insights.

Hi Andrew! It is a pleasure to welcome you as an expert to our Interview Series. We are very much looking forward to hear more about your idea that the ticketing business should be more like airlines.

Hi Hans, it is great to meet you again, and I would like to thank you and Oxynade for the opportunity to argue my case. Hopefully we will meet again later this year during one of my other presentations across North America, Australia, as well as Europe’s Ticketing Professionals Conference. It would be a great opportunity to continue our conversation.

Q: What exactly is your reasoning when you state that we should be more like an airline company? You're not actually trying to get us up into the air, are you?

A: No, don’t you worry. You don’t actually have to get up into the air. I’m saying we should be MORE like them, monetise the assets that we already own, and therefore maximise our ROI.

Q: More? That would imply that we already have common denominators.

A: Yes, more is exactly what I mean. Let’s face some facts here. Our industry is using the same search engines as the airlines to help consumers find the products that they desire. The same applies to the deployment of smart APIs to enable an omni-channel, multi-retailer market place. Venues and attractions engage with bookers 24–48 hours before the product is consumed, and – once again – so do airlines. We offer personalised experience and preferred seating arrangements. Do you see where I’m going? We already ARE like airlines in so many ways. I want to point out that we simply should get better at it.

Q: Glad we are trying to skyrocket our ROI and not ourselves. But seriously, I am very curious about your ideas on how we should adopt the concept of airline companies. Please tell me more about how you see our industry evolve towards this idea.

A: Gladly. First an important note here: the idea to offer more than one price for the same seat. I’m not talking about dynamic pricing, I am talking about selling the same experience, on the same day with different tangible or intangible benefits, added or removed, and with the price altered accordingly. Airlines have stripped out everything, apart from the seat and seat-belt to offer us basic economy class. The result? The ability to offer a lower baseline price. Overhead bin space, or a specific seat reservation? That’ll cost extra. Do you want a checked bag? Ditto. No refunds or exchanges. Don’t you love that phrase?

Q: Following your line of thought, this gives us more revenue opportunities, correct?

A: Absolutely. Spot on. These increased revenue opportunities give us more than the normal economy price. It is all about revenue, but also about offering the customers what they want. I am cost sensitive and prepared to accept a center seat at the back of the plane with no carry-on luggage. Fine, I will pay just €29.99. Those of you who want a bag, or to sit up front – well – that’ll be €49.99, or perhaps even €109.99.

Q: So those ‘new revenue’ opportunities should be applied in different stages? What comes after the first step that was mentioned earlier?

A: Of course, this is not all ‘new revenue’. Much of it is about charging for the elements that we removed, as I outlined earlier. Not everybody will be satisfied with the basic economy service, and those that aren’t will often buy ancillaries. Just to provide some numbers here, guess how much the top-10 airlines made in selling ancillaries in 2017? The answer is: US$22.1 billion! Quite a figure. In 2007 this was just US$2.1 billion. That is a ten-fold increase in just a single decade!

Q: That is actually a mind-blowing increase! Let’s get to the segmentation, and see how we can best implement the idea of being more like an airline. What are the main segments in which we could easily be more like an airline in your opinion?

A: Well, there are indeed many ancillaries that the airlines are selling, but I would stick with the following three basic categories: · Airline offers and pure margin products: seats, boarding, WiFi, etc.
· Airport or partners offers with high margins: luggage, security, car parking.
· Partner and experience offers with lower margins: airport transfers, hotels, currency exchange.
It is essential that we rethink our buying flows, and offer the relevant ancillaries at the right time. Do I need hotel options in Barcelona at the time when I book my ticket? No. Offering them too early entails the risk to distract the purchaser at a critical moment of his buying process. The confirmation page and follow-up emails are often very underused places for upselling.

Q: Do you see additional ways to maximise the customer engagement, and therefore additional sales opportunities?

A: Absolutely! One of my main techniques is to draw the bookers' attention just before their visit, and to maximise their engagement.

Q: In your expert opinion, what concept has the biggest potential? And which one is less relevant?

A: So far I presented the concept twice in a discussion, and there were two very different winners. The winners of each session surprised me, as I thought that certain audiences and backgrounds would lean more to one way than another, but then, heh, what do I know about your challenges and your customers? I think that this answer definitely depends on the specific target audience. Once your target audience is clearly defined, the answer will be clear as day.

Andrew, I sincerely thank you for this interview and the insights that you shared with us today! I am sure this is a subject not even close to be discussed to the fullest and I am very much looking forward to getting into this deeper in the future.

It was my pleasure Hans, and I am looking forward to reading additional thoughts and comments below. Remember that I didn’t say we should be like airlines, just that we need to be MORE like them, in being smart with our product offerings and with revenue.

In the Airline Industry, a company, who’s branding you'll never see during the booking or during your journey, is delivering the airplane with a motor. This is exactly what the Oxynade eTaaS Platform does for the Ticketing Industry with our cutting-edge technology. Delivering a full functioning platform for your business and your customers as well as the end customer whom will never see the brand behind it due to our 100% White Label feature and API integration. Just like an airline company handles all decisions about the Brand-ID, interior, etc. this is all up to you. You decide. You are in controle and are free & 100% supported to leave your mark within your market.

This interview was conducted by our CEO Hans Nissens and edited by our Marketing Manager Lea Vanessa Stiels.
Photo: unsplash

Interview Series