At the 7th Arab Aviation Summit, Bikram Pattanaik, senior managing consultant at Mastercard Advisors, participated on a number of panel discussions that explored the current sustainability challenges and trends currently driving the region’s aviation sector.
Pattanaik’s own presentation during the event delved into how data and technology are influencing aviation. He also highlighted the sector’s importance in sustainable development.
“Aviation is not a standalone industry. It attracts people from all around the world. From source destinations to the country, or from the country to other destinations. As a result, it fuels other industries, whether it is hospitality, retail, or transportation,” commented Pattanaik.
Sitting down briefly with Aviation Business during the event, Pattanaik went on to discuss the impact of evolving consumer behaviour. Firstly, he pointed at the prevalence of a younger generation within the Arab world.
According to the senior managing consultant, roughly 50% of the population of the Arab world is below the age of 25, while another 25% fall between the age bracket of 40 – 50 years. The demographic is typically comprised of heavy mobile phone users, who are also extremely active in social media.
Additionally, these consumers have a high level of online usage and a strong preference towards e-commerce platforms, which delivers a level of service that is yet to be fully embraced by the aviation industry.
“The consumer is getting used to being pampered, whereas the aviation industry is still several years behind. This is because aviation is still more focus on how to reduce cost, what pricing changes should be done, and how can it be made more convenient for the customer. Whereas customers are looking for the next level of service,” explained Pattanaik.
“That’s why it is important for the airlines to provide a personalised service for the customer, and how they enable this is through data … It is important to give them a complete end-to-end service. Starting from booking — making it seamless — to providing inflight services, and then post-flight.”
“When they are travelling in a certain country or region, ask what kind of services can you provide? Whether its transportation through other partners, tools, or other access to facilities.”
Pattanaik also made the case that the current model for loyalty programs is slowly losing favour with consumers. He argues that the pace at which consumers earn miles, as well as the restrictions put in place for their usage, is slowly devaluing the miles and points being earned.
Adding that most consumers don’t even bother to look at what their programs offer unless they are about to travel, Pattanaik believes that airlines need to transform their programs into a “lifestyle brand, instead of being an on-trip brand.”
This means identifying the lifestyle choices of their customers and then partnering with right banks or retailers to deliver meaningful rewards that will make their loyalty programs more attractive.
Another area that airlines need to focus on is implementing technologies that not only help in collecting data on consumers but also analyses the data to devise marketing insights on passengers.
“Then the next step is partnering with the right technology players, the telco providers, and the payment service providers … also partner with social media platforms — Twitter, LinkedIn — to get the social feeds and building a big data sort of system, where you can profile the customers and derive great insights from them,” explained Pattanaik.
“After that is basically artificial intelligence and machine learning … AI gives information on the kind of people you are friends with, places visiting, or things you are buying. It (AI) helps build a persona and assists in predicting what kind of thing the user would be most interested in,” he concluded.