Airlines are retailers

By | Category: Travel rumblings
This isn't really a plane; it'a retail outlet Pix.Tim Anderson

This isn’t really a plane; it’a retail outlet
Pix.Tim Anderson

At the Aviation Festival that began in London today, I was beginning to think that I had come to the wrong conference. It is because two airline chief executives described their companies as being retailers.

Both Carolyn McCall of EasyJet and Jayne Hrdlicka of the Asian-Pacific based Jetstar Group referred to their airlines in these terms.

McCall said that she didn’t see easyJet as an airline when it comes to the digital world but an e-commerce platform allowing them to contact passengers and upsell them services as people go through the booking process. She saw digital as enabling the airline to attend to the needs of us passengers in a more responsive, faster way and to be able to personalise the offerings. About 75% of EasyJet passengers, she said, book directly on their website so she has those e-mails addresses to be able to contact passengers directly.

Hrdlicka also said that her group (there are five airlines all called Jetstar but with differentshareholdings that make up the brand) has to be a world-class retailer so that they can sell more things to their passengers. Unlike easyJet, Jetstar has a combination of digital platforms as well as high street shops selling their products.

That they both want to sell more to their existing passengers might be why both see themselves as retailers. At present airlines sell accommodation, care-hire, insurance, connecting transport tickets to get you from the airport to the centre of the city into which you have flown and, in at least one case, lottery tickets.  At the festival there was even a speaker from a “traditional” retailer – John Lewis – and a conference section called “Air Retail” which shows how important retailing is to airlines is to airlines.

I conclude that both would wish to be a one-stop shop a bit like Amazon is trying to be or which the major supermarkets have become. In the biggest stores you can buy almost anything. Is this to our advantage as much as it is to the airline? On the one-hand it will tell the airline even more about us so that they will be able to target their messages. On the other if they can provide all those services and products at rates competitive to specialised companies or at better rates then which passenger is not going to agree?

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