Perspective on Frictionless Travel-1

In this series, we present our perspective on frictionless travel. We explore the increasing use of AI (artificial intelligence) and its potential to disrupt the current travel model status quo. We start with a hi-level overview of the current travel model status.

Current Travel Model Status
  • Stakeholders include customers (aka passengers or travelers) and travel service providers (airlines, GDS, airports, hotels, travel agencies, et al.)
  • Lots of talk and experimentation with emerging technologies e.g. IoT , AI, NLP
  • Focus on apps for selling
  • Some disruptive approaches relying on extracted data – WiFi and/or IoT sensors, generating spurious data to support existing marketing push interactions
  • Social media trends tracked and monitored for marketing, operations and CX initiatives
  • IoT starting to be used for operations, remote applications, field operations, security etc.
  • Early development use of AI in travel (e.g. customer service)

There is some early experimentation with AI for chat systems. These are integrated services using self-learning algorithms in support of omni-channel communications with customers. Most are focused on Customer Service Experience (CX), for example, flight status or other broad use cases, such as, high volume, repetitive inquiries.

Efficient Operations vs. Disruptive Innovation

Travel service providers focus mainly on linear cost centre improvements, where savings can be achieved. But customers get segmented, disconnected data on which to act. At the heart of the problem is the plethora of data silos. These data silos are held by the various travel service providers (airlines, hotels, etc.), which incorrectly believe they ‘own the customer’. They hold the customer data for their own benefit and use e.g. airline and flights.

Data silos impact frictionless travel

If these data were aggregated and analyzed, it would be in the customer’s best interest. It would facilitate a much better travel experience, resulting in the customer’s stress level being lowered. And less stressed customers, have a tendency to spend more while traveling on purchases for duty free, retail and food & beverage.

As stated previously, the travel journey comprises several discrete elements. But, travel changes, due to unforeseen circumstances, are always the ‘moments of truth’. Travel changes are always understandable. But it is not necessarily the lack of customer service, but that of not having a single view of the customer. The data silos create this discontinuity and are the root cause of a poor Customer Experience (PaxEx).

Data provide insights that support value creation i.e. “Collective Intelligence.” AI is seen as a tool to aggregate and analyze these data, effectively “smart data’. This would certainly benefit both the customer and the travel service providers. And it would go a long way to changing a traveler’s perspective on frictionless travel.

In the next segment of our series on ‘A future perspective on Frictionless Travel’, we discuss “What change is needed? And how can stakeholders choose to use data and interactions?