Ai Editorial: Optimizing flight shopping UX – where does the industry stand?

First Published on 20th March, 2019

Ai Editorial: The industry recognizes that a compelling offer alone isn’t enough. A passenger needs to fully understand the offer and options available before they make a commitment on any channel, writes Ai’s Ritesh Gupta  


Displaying what a flight shopper is looking for and getting them closer to completing a transaction with aplomb hasn’t really been a forte of the travel industry. If one gets to visualize a seat, in-flight entertainment, priority boarding, food on-board etc., all of this would make the experience much more enjoyable. As much as one can refer to the industry being slow to respond, there is no denying that flight as a product is fairly complex, and on top of it, airlines themselves are evolving their product as well. But the intent is clear and progress is coming along.

Selling air ancillaries and targeting the second wallet isn’t new, but letting travellers visualize what they can buy is what the industry is working on. How all of this is coming along on indirect channels?

If on one hand airlines are looking at being in control of the offer, via new airline-specific commerce systems and the NDC XML data transmission standard, on the other hand, there are initiatives like new data application and standard by ATPCO to showcase “like-type” airline offerings with the intent of showing of them in a way that makes it easy for travellers to understand.

Compelling offer alone not enough

Airlines, be it for full-service carriers or LCCs, are looking for ways to showcase their product in an appropriate manner. “There is a need to go beyond ticket pricing and to focus on showing the options airlines have to offer,” shared a source.

Airlines executives highlight that a compelling offer alone isn’t enough. It is also necessary that customers fully understand the offer and options available before they make a commitment.

“What really matters to our customers-- and to us as an airline-- is the total offer. The fare and the combination of flight-related options that each customer values,” Mike Robinson, Head of Ancillary Revenue, Frontier Airlines told Ai in a recent interview. “As a low fare carrier, those flight-related options are a core component of our total offer. So it’s really essential to us that our customers be able to understand and make the best choices possible for their trip.” While Frontier can manage the offer on the airline’s own website, presenting flight related options to customers booking elsewhere can be a challenge. “Without NDC (videos, pictures and text descriptions can be transmitted via the NDC API), it is essentially impossible to present such offers through intermediated channels.”

In a recent blog post on ATPCO, Delta Air Lines’ Sharon Mickelson mentioned, “…our customers deserve a great shopping experience in their channel of choice, including when shopping on third-party channels.”

The depth of what airlines have to offer, especially in the context of air ancillaries, is going deeper. It is imperative for the industry to find ways to let users compare multiple airline products in one single display.  

The industry is taking note of the fact that ATPCO is working on plans to sort this issue. The objective is to support modern shopping display, essentially portraying airlines’ offering aptly via simple representation of each product’s attributes. The Next-Generation Storefront or NGS initiative will set up common standards for amenity data. Plus, it would be easy to comprehend what’s included in a fare or whether available for additional cost.

According to ATPCO, the NGS initiative would:

  • Group similar fare products in shopping displays
  • Create data standards to consistently describe itinerary attributes 
  • Institute a common rating system to align and group features of an airline product

Trials are being conducted at this juncture, and ATPCO is constantly attempting to improve the accuracy of shelf algorithms, work out data and end-to-end processing flow for all data elements etc.

Fast and transparent CX

In addition to introduction of the retailing data standards, there are other areas, too, that the industry is working on. These include the overall UX on 3rd party channels – functionality, speed etc. to support comparison shopping. OTA and meta-search engines are gradually going beyond the base fare-oriented search results phenomena. A key here would be how such entities pull in more information from their visitors about what all they are looking for when they travel and accordingly coming up with ranking of offers not just fares in the search results.

Travel technology specialists are catering to more searches at faster speeds. Plus by banking on data analytics and artificial intelligence, they are also starting to improvise on their search algorithms. It incorporate several factors that assist in travel shopping – when to buy, where to go etc. Also, rather than analysing or computing every time, these companies are capitalizing on results stored as they cache judiciously.

All of this is going to result in more engaging flight shopping experience, one that is fast, transparent and offer choice in a simplified manner.


Hear from senior industry executives about the retailing and NDC at this year’s Ancillary Merchandising Conference, scheduled to take place in London, UK (9-11 April, 2019).

For more info about Ancillary Merchandising Conference, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us