GUEST BLOG: Innovations to make the travel experience even sweeter

Amadeus Next foster the leading travel tech startup community in Asia Pacific. At the heart of the global travel industry, they join and connect the key players in travel tech to shape the future of travel. Stephanie Strunk, head of Amadeus Next shares some of the latest and greatest innovations coming through in the travel industry.

 

Many of us share a love of travel. Whether it’s a long trip to an exotic country on the other side of the world, or a short break in the country side, a holiday away can do wonders for the mind, body and soul.

However, we know that travel isn’t all sweetness and light. While technology has certainly improved many aspects of travel over the years, there are still a number of pain points that can detract from the overall travel experience. But where there are pain points, there is also opportunity, and many startups have started to develop innovative solutions to address these common travel issues.

Over-booked flights

Ever turned up at the airport, excited about your pending trip, only to be turned away because the flight was over booked? Hopefully with Volantio, this will become a thing of the past. Volantio’s technology uses machine learning to proactively identify flexible passengers on full flights and provides them with an incentive (such as frequent flyer miles, travel vouchers, or upgrades) to voluntarily move to lower demand flights. The platform automatically rebooks passengers who accept and fulfils the selected incentive. Passengers are notified on their mobile devices, even days in advance of departure, to avoid last-minute hassles. The process not only improves the experience for travellers, but also maximises capacity and revenue for airlines.

Carrying your luggage around

Wouldn’t it be lovely if you didn’t have to lug your bags to the airport? How much better would it be if instead of you bringing your bags to the airport, the airport brought the check-in service to you? Australian startup OACIS (Off Airport Check-in Solution) has created the technology that will allow airlines to do just this. With a laptop and internet connection, an airline check-in system can be created at any location – including hotels, an inner-city hub, or a major event. Passengers can check in for their flights, weigh their bags, receive their luggage tags, and have their bags transferred to their airport. From there, they can enjoy the rest of their holiday time luggage free, until they need to go to the airport to catch their flight.

Standing in line at the airport

Long queues are a common theme at airports – especially at check-in, boarding, and immigration. This is where the slow and cumbersome process of checking people’s identification occurs. However, a number of travel technology companies are looking at the use of biometrics to speed up this process.

For example, in Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru has partnered with Vistara to launch the Digi Yatra project — a fully biometric-based self-boarding solution. Once complete, this platform will allow passengers to enrol their ID, biometric data and flight details before entering the terminal. As they travel through the airport, passengers can put their travel documents away, as they will be authenticated and verified at every touchpoint by state-of-the-art biometric technology. This process offers the highest degree of safety and security while ensuring stringent standards of privacy. The biometric data is used only for authentication and verification of passengers to assist the boarding process, and not for recognition. In addition, the passenger data is deleted within a few hours of flight completion.

In a similar vein, Amadeus and Lufthansa have worked together on facial-recognition technology to help the airline with boarding at Los Angeles International Airport. The system uses facial-recognition cameras that capture a photo of the passenger’s face as he or she approaches the gates. The image is instantly and securely sent to the US Customs and Border Protection database for real-time matching and verification. Once the match is made, within a few seconds, the system counts the passenger as “boarded,” and the person can walk onto the plane without needing to show a boarding pass or passport. Lufthansa reports that during an initial trial it was able to board 350 passengers onto an A380 plane in about 20 minutes.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is also developing One ID to streamline the traveler journey with a document-free process based on identity management and biometric recognition. Passengers will no longer need to juggle between different ID documents. With a single identification, they will be easily recognised by all service providers. This will eliminate repetitive processes, resulting in less queuing. Ultimately, it will enable passengers to arrive at the airport ready to fly in nearly every travel scenario.

Such biometric technology not only has the potential to significantly improve the experience for travellers, but it will also improve airport operations. By minimising crowding, we can ensure better security, and improve the chances for flights to depart on time.

Inflight entertainment

For shopaholics, inflight entertainment is getting better, with the introduction of “in-flight shoppertainment”.

For example, Air France is offering SKYdeals through its in-flight connectivity portal, allowing brands to provide exclusive dynamic commercial offers to passengers in flight, including flash sales and flyover offers. While flash sales will be valid for just 15 minutes at specific times during flights, flyover offers will be triggered according to the region or country being flown over. Other potential features of SKYdeals’ platform are real-time auctions that last for the duration of a flight; and group buying offers, wherein passengers can club together to achieve more advantageous prices or deals.

Another startup, airfree, is planning the commercial launch of its inflight Duty Free product marketplace at the end of 2019. The airfree platform makes airports’ Duty Free products and services available inflight.

Getting around in a foreign city

Finding your way around a place where you don’t speak the native tongue can be tough. Luckily, there are lots of different startups entering this space of the travel market.

One of these startups is Huangbaoche, a Chinese company that has created a platform to find tour guides who will drive Chinese tourists in 1,800 locations in 90 countries around the world. Huangbaoche recruits Chinese-speaking drivers in each destination and allows users to find specific tourist routes or create bespoke tours.

In Japan, a startup called Bespoke has created an AI-powered chatbot to help English-speaking travellers. The chatbot, Bebot, provides tourists with an intuitive, responsive and friendly channel to ask all questions that arise during travel. Its advanced AI is developed and refined with a focus on empowering travellers with essential information and tips in an intuitive and familiar, yet powerful chat service. Bebot is currently being used in Japan’s Narita and Sendai International Airports.

These examples only scratch the surface of innovation happening in the travel industry. At Amadeus Next we are lucky enough to discover and work with the latest startups solving these pain points for the traveler. We help foster travel tech startups with a community of experts from within Amadeus, we allow knowledge sharing between entrepreneurs and help connect the key players in travel tech meaning startups can validate new ideas and business models quicker. Startups that are a part of Amadeus Next can receive support from the different startup programs within Amadeus including technology building, expert advice, customer reach and funding referral. Looking ahead, as organisations big and small race to address the various pain points of travel, we can expect the joy of the travel tech startup community to grow exponentially.

 

Amadus Next are a supporter of the Lightning Lab Tourism programme for 2019. You can find out more about what they do on their website. Be sure to subscribe to the Lightning Lab newsletter to stay up to date with all things Lightning Lab!

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