Ai Editorial: Managing multi-dimensional payments

Airlines need an infrastructure that lets them manage complex payment ecosystems, passenger smart devices and other vendors, writes R
itesh Gupta, Airline Information Correspondent

Airlines today do acknowledge the significance of setting up a converged payment architecture, but at the same time they also intend to refrain from inviting any sort of complexity. More than incurring new expenditure, and handling complexity of system integration that needs to be taken care of with different gateways for different channels, airlines can’t afford to slip up on the customer experience issue.

Gearing up for change

Today an entity has to deal with numerous back-end systems supporting several channels, all of which have to interact seamlessly with multiple consumer devices, and transaction initiation points.

Kristian Gjerding, CEO of Cell Point Mobile, says the challenge for airlines is to extract themselves from the rapid changes and various ways that alternative payment methods (APM’s) are handled within the payments ecosystem. The entire system is rapidly expanding and becoming increasingly complex, and it needs to be put at arm’s length from the airline. “Therefore, the airline industry needs to gear its infrastructure to manage this rapid change and fragmentation, and not rely on any one provider and channel,” he says.

According to Gjerding, the airline needs a buffer in the form of an extraction layer between the external payment methods and consumer e-wallets such as Apple Pay, MasterPass and Google Wallet, and the digital transactions they support.

This extraction layer can orchestrate and integrate how these various payment methods and data sources become available within the airline’s own channels without compromising control, independence and cost of service.

The bottom line is that airlines need to own their own travel ecosystem, says Gjerding.

“They (airlines) pay a premium for every passenger they get, and once they have passengers in that universe, they should be relentless about ensuring that passengers remains, because that’s where loyalty, repeat business, ancillary revenue and all of the other revenue opportunities happen,” emphasizes Gjerding. Airlines need an infrastructure that lets them manage complex payments ecosystems, passenger smart devices and other vendors, and not be managed by them. “If they own and manage the travel universe - and thereby the user journey - then they can make the payment experience secondary to the overall experience with the airline, process payments more cost-effectively, negotiate better rates with payment providers and focus instead on making everything seamless for the passenger. But do to this, they need control of the payments universe,” states Gjerding.

Managing complexity

Airlines need to consider complexity of system integration and handle different gateways for different channels, multiple integrations required into a variety of business systems etc.  Airlines need to take into consideration a couple of issues:

  • As the complexity of the payments ecosystem increases, airlines need to take control of the transaction, and they need the flexibility to add or remove payment service providers, depending on local market conditions, consumer behaviors and the ever-evolving ecosystem. “What they don’t want is an arrangement that land-locks them or gives away control of their external channels to an outside vendor. If they do it will drive up cost and reduce competitiveness,” says Gjerding.
  • Secondly, airlines need external fraud solutions, as well as an internal last line of defense against fraud and security breaches. They need fraud mitigation and management tools that can look into the systems that are under attack from the inside and can monitor transactions from the inside out, not just from the outside in. If airlines miss one or the other, they open themselves to vulnerability, stresses Gjerding.

And as end-to-end digital commerce shopping becomes a reality, airlines need to not only orchestrate, translate and manage the complex external payments ecosystem but also manage all of the rest of the internal travel-related activities that occur – the issuing of boarding cards, ticketing, and ancillary revenue – anything that is going to be serviced through self-service channels as well as call centers.

  • Airlines also need to cope up with associated costs for mobile payments, e-wallets etc. The cost of adding these can be pretty high just from an implementation point of view. “Airlines are often forced to adapt their systems to support various payment forms and the ways the payment service provider’s deal with them; this also goes for consumer digital wallets. However, the cost of adding new payment methods might be punitive, because the airline might not have a high enough volume of transactions to justify the cost,” says Gjerding. He says airlines  need an extraction layer that can orchestrate new payments methods, reduce time-to-market and reduce the costs of supporting those transactions and methods across the various digital channels including mobile. An extraction layer gives them a competitive edge and more flexibility to handle new forms of payments and to negotiate better rates with vendors and providers as they become less dependent on the payment service providers etc.

Airlines need to relook at their digital commerce infrastructure today to streamline transactions in the multi-channel, multi-device shopping environment.

It’s critical that airlines create a uniform, omni-channel experience. The airline needs a smart infrastructure that can manage the transaction in a way that creates a predictable, recognizable user journey, no matter which channel the passenger chooses, says Gjerding. He adds, “Furthermore, the infrastructure needs to make it easy to continue a transaction if a passenger’s Internet connection dies or the phone line cuts out, without having to start over. The front-end environment also needs the capability to deploy new vendor functions and new payments features simultaneously across channels, maintaining competitiveness and increase passenger satisfaction.”

It’s all about cross-channel seamlessness and un-broken transactions, simplifying the pathway to purchase which is what the digital passenger expects and demands. Getting it right will increase revenues, margin and passenger loyalty.

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