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Supporting Service Automation as Airlines are Forced to Cancel Flights

Our Airline Commerce Gateway was designed for retailing, enabling airlines to grow their revenue, reduce costs, and make customers happy. At the heart of its technical design are two main principles: ‘flexible’ and ‘future-proof.’ It’s fair to say that our current reality isn’t the future we were planning. But these technical design principles have stood our airline customers in good stead over recent weeks, which is something that makes us very proud.

Just over two months ago, I was helping our data science team with an internal demo of our science-powered dynamic seat pricing capabilities. The purpose of the demo was to predict seat pricing on a flight in real-time to highlight our algorithm’s efficacy and revenue improvement. The difficulty was finding flights that were flying as planned. One by one, we watched schedules change or drop from existence in front of our eyes. It was horrifying. What must have been happening on the ground must have been even more upsetting, as customers rushed to call centers to cancel or change bookings for disrupted flights. Servicing airline customers has been an industry pain point for a while, but never to the extent that it is today.

Many of our airline customers have been using the flexible rules capabilities of our offer engines, such as FLX Merchandise (FLX M), to immediately relieve some of the negative impacts of the disruption. For example:

  • Some airlines have rerouted cancellations from their websites to FLX M to determine eligibility for free cancellations. If the criteria are satisfied, a flag is sent back to the airliner where change fees are automatically waived. (See an example of FLX M rule construction below)

  • Other customers have employed waiver codes to override fare rules and enable refunds. In this instance, we automatically enter a waiver code in the travel agency selling and servicing platform, SPRK. The code is later appended to the endorsement line of the new ticket. This notifies the airline that the PNR is not subject to any penalty or reissue fees.
  • We have also been supporting our airline customers in ATPCO’s “Emergency Flexibility for Voluntary Changes and Refunds” enhancement. After the enhancement goes live on June 7th, our shopping engine (FLX Shop & Price) will take data from ATPCO and incorporate it into the pricing logic to override existing fare rules and waive change fees, without manual processing. Penalty overrides will show up in both SPRK and the airline’s NDC API. In SPRK NDC, the ability to ‘cancel flights and retain tickets’ and ‘reuse retained tickets’ will also feature in a near-term release.
  • We are also helping our customers create new types of reports using our data and analytics solution called NDC-Dash. To assist with flight management, the tool can onboard data from different sources such as OAG to track which flights are flying as planned, or to follow the spread of the virus. NDC-Dash provides insights to quickly spot patterns, trends, and anomalies to help the airline make faster and more informed decisions.

My colleagues and I will be sharing some more information and ideas on this blog in the coming days and weeks. We hope you find them of value.

If you are interested in learning more, click the button below.

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