ITB 2023 Special Reporting
Why Frictionless Payments Matter: At the Airport, Destination and Post-Trip (part 3 of 3)
By Jean-Christophe Lacour
Tuesday, 16th November 2021

Our latest report, ‘Towards a frictionless future for travel payments’, seeks to highlight the opportunities for travel companies that take an end-to-end approach to payments throughout the entire traveler journey.

In this third blog, we examine how the industry can deliver a frictionless payment experience at the airport, on board the flight and once a traveler has reached their destination.

Supporting the transformation of the airport to become a commerce hub

The airport is an important point in the journey, where travelers often have spare time to consider their onward travel needs such as hotel amenities, transfers, in-destination services or on-board upgrades.

With boarding passes and passports to provide, as well as several touchpoints to navigate, travelers are already dealing with a lot of information. So, it is important that the airport infrastructure from the check-in kiosk or desk to the bag drop, to the lounge and even the boarding gate facilitate simple and easy ways to pay, contributing to a smooth airport experience for passengers.

Airlines can look towards companies such as Uber, which has made it extremely easy to pay in a single click. Now, imagine a business traveler that wants to add lounge access at the check-in desk or kiosk. If the traveler has already provided their payment card details to the airline at time of booking and the airline has securely stored those card details I.e. ‘card on file’, then airlines too can offer additional services triggering direct payment on their behalf. As long as airlines design such systems in-line with important industry regulations like Strong Customer Authentication, within the Payment Services Directive II, then the opportunities for an improved traveler experience are plentiful.

If a traveler is known to be running late, they could for example receive notifications offering fast track security or speedy boarding. Airlines can also use QR codes to enable passengers at the check-in desk, kiosk or bag drop to pay quickly and easily for ancillary services on their own devices, in the very same way many travellers have experienced when ordering food and drink from restaurant tables during the pandemic.

At Amadeus we work with airports of all sizes, both domestic and international, to simplify how travelers pay, bridging the gap between airlines and the passenger service points at the airport. By deploying the hardware and software needed for a smooth and automated experience from check-in to boarding, we’re well placed to consider modern payments as this change takes place.

At destination: supporting a customized and simplified hotel stay

On arrival at the destination, the traveler typically needs to check-in at the hotel. Just like the air travel part of the journey, travelers have the option to save a payment method with the hotel at check-in or booking. This method can then be used to pay for additional services throughout the stay with a single click e.g. booking a spa treatment or evening meal at the hotel via the hotel’s app.

This option is well suited to frequent visitors part of the hotel’s loyalty scheme or highly-valued guests for whom the hotel can use frictionless in-app payment to improve conversion for tailored offers. Due to COVID-19, helping guests to purchase and manage services this way has become significantly more important for hoteliers.

Hotels are seeing a wave of technology innovation with more guest services being automated and personalized. In-room voice-based concierge systems are increasingly popular, sometimes based on services like Amazon Alexa, which allow guests to ask, “how much is my bill?” and “can I settle that bill by talking with you?”.

Another popular payment option is the contactless bracelet. This allows a guest to explore the property and purchase services by swiping a bracelet provided by the hotel which charges the service to the guest’s account.

Just like the air booking portion of the trip, the ability to combine hotel loyalty points with cash or even airline miles or vouchers is a great way to encourage guests to spend a little bit more on additional services.

Post-trip: simplifying and inspiring

After the trip has finished, there is a golden window to inspire travelers for their next adventure. Now is the time to provide special tailored offers, perhaps where the traveler can earn additional miles, and to make it simple for the traveler to plan their next trip, with continued access to the payment methods they’ve chosen to store.

It’s likely travelers won’t have spent all their foreign currency and perhaps they have a few Euro balance remaining. One option available is to make it simple for this ‘dust’ to be donated to charity or converted back to the traveler’s native currency. For group bookings, it is possible to issue reminders to group members that owe money and for the group organizer to send refunds to specific members as needed.

Some travelers might have fallen just a little short of the next frequent flyer tier and might welcome the opportunity to purchase additional miles to meet the threshold, so enabling one click purchases for miles from the digital wallet can meet the needs of tier conscious flyers.

This blog series has sought to provide a high-level view for how the travel industry can remove payment friction at each stage of the traveler journey. For a deeper dive, we encourage you to read our latest report.

Jean-Christophe Lacour, Head of Merchant Services, Payments, Amadeus

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