It is impossible, and would be unfair, to summarize two days of intense debates at the 27th International Airline Symposium (IAS) in just a few lines. Here are some highlights anyway:
? Physical vs virtual meetings: Last year’s IAS took place online due to travel restrictions. This year IAS was back “in-real-life”. It made one thing clear. Zoom meetings don’t compare or replace face-to-face events, but they augment phone calls with a video feed. A cup of Jasmin tea may be a drink of the same colour as a glass of Chardonnay, but they do not compare or replace one another ?
? Forces impacting an airline business: as the uncertainty about the future economic situation (e.g. planning for summer 2023) keeps growing, a relevant approach may be (1) to map out scenarios (travel restrictions, disposable income, war zones, etc.) (2) to define pragmatic solutions for each scenario (capacity, routes, crews, etc.) (3) to detect early signs pointing to one of the scenarios and (4) to adjust accordingly without short timeframes (e.g. 4-6 weeks prior to scheduled flight). Flexibility, agility.
? Reducing carbon emissions: while critics are busy with greenwashing accusations, sometimes rightfully, the current options for airlines are (1) to explore short-haul regional flights with electric aircraft (e.g. 9-seater) and (2) to ramp up long-haul intercontinental flights with blended SAF. Measure performance, communicate progress and set realistic targets. Eventually the signal will come out of the noise.
? Customer centricity vs loyalty: customer-centric airlines put their customers first (e.g. make it easy to change flights, free to have a carry-on bag, instantaneous to get a refund) and manage any complexity in the background. This superior customer experience drives loyalty for the most loved airlines. Airline loyalty programs are tools to collect customer data, which otherwise are meaningless because airlines deal with transactions (PNRs). To what extent customers are loyal to an airline because of the loyalty program?
? Future of Revenue Management: The airline revenue for a customer journey includes (1) the base fare on which airlines steer their inventory, plus (2) the few options added in the shopping basket at the time of product comparison and purchase decision, plus (3) all the other expenses, either post-booking (e.g. insurance, bag) or inflight (e.g. seat, meal). Will RM evolve from optimizing based on fares (#1) towards optimizing based on what customers really buy (#2) or later what customers really spend (#3)?
Thanks to Nawal Taneja and the IAS team for the invitation and another insightful event.