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Cityjet founder predicts brave new world for airlines

Cityjet founder and executive chairman Pat Byrne has predicted a future where airlines increasingly market their brands while not operating their own aircraft.

The veteran aviation boss, speaking at the ITM conference in Dublin, said he could envisage a “progressive separation in legacy carriers, between marketing and production”, with those airlines contracting out operations because otherwise “they can’t survive against the LCCs”.

He added that the legacy carriers could leverage their brands while benefiting from a more flexible workforce offered by outsourced contractors operating the aircraft. 

Byrne also told delegates that he does not believe in air miles-type schemes: “They are poor value for the customer and expensive for airline.”

But loyalty schemes are different, he said. These can offer what customers really want: recognition, and access to a personal level of service “with a human being on the phone”, plus some frills and benefits such as fast-track security access.

Also on the panel making predictions for 2020 was Paschal Nee, director of Travelport-owned IT firm MTT.

Nee said at some point all travellers’ individual profiles would be in the cloud, with those travellers choosing who they could share their personal data with – whether car rental provider, airline, hotel or other travel supplier.

This will enable “more contextual” mobile technology, he said, with all suppliers interacting with a traveller’s profile and each other to provide seamless travel.

 Google account manager Damian Lynch said the search engine is “literally just scraping the surface of ‘anticipation’ – it’s going to really take off”.

He was referring to ever improving technology that provides the most relevant search and booking content by anticipating the user’s needs, based on individual profile and history. The challenge for travel managers, said Lynch, was to provide tools that can match the user experience of Google and OTAs.

He said a game-changer in travel booking would be the growth of mobile booking, a view echoed by Aer Lingus director Theo Ocks, who said this trend would be enabled by more reliable mobile payment solutions.

Lynch said the UK was behind Japan in this arena, citing the example from leisure booking statistics: conversion rates for a €1,500 holiday search on a mobile device in Japan are 9-16 per cent, while in the UK they are 0.1-1 per cent.

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