A digital voucher company is helping bridge the gap between passengers and airlines when flights are delayed, allowing them to claim compensation by scanning smart phones at airport shops for food and drink.
Its aim is to make life easier for the passenger, the airline, the airport – as well as retail outlets – by streamlining the process and cutting out queues.
Credit is instantly uploaded to digital boarding passes or frequent flyer cards and can be claimed at participating stores. It automates the administration of vouchers, and claims to simplify billing between the airline and retailer.
Richard Bye, founder of iCoupon, said: “Flying can be a stressful experience and any interruption to travel just adds to that stress. We have created a technology able to automate one of passengers’ biggest bugbears when things go wrong – having to wait in queues.”
The approach is different to other firms trying to capitalise on the flight delay space, of which surveys have estimated £112 million goes unclaimed.
Instead of encouraging customers to claim from airlines and taking a slice, iCoupon has teamed up with airlines including Ryanair, Jet2, Finnair and Swissport, to try and save them time and money by automating the process.
In fact, founder Richard Bye said Ryanair activates iCloud as soon as the company goes live in an airport it flies from.
Speaking to Travolution while he was waiting for a delayed flight at Manchester airport, Bye said: “We have good partnerships with some of the big players now. The main reason is because of our integration with the retail outlets. We can create digital vouchers automatically.
“That whole process used to be done by the airlines or ground handlers, and was very expensive in terms of time and resource. Retailers previously used to have to cope with lots of different paper vouchers from different airlines and ground handlers, so they find it easier to just have the one digital solution.
“So we are removing the blockage for the airlines and for the retailers. People don’t need to queue for their vouchers anymore, so you no longer get this swell of people at the airport when there’s a delay on a flight. And retailers love it because the efficiency gain is massive. From a passenger’s point of view, it’s as easy as scanning your boarding pass before you buy something from duty free. I’m sure there’s been a little confusion when people first use them, but there’s a learning curve with all technology.”
Delayed passengers are entitled to compensation under European Union law, EU261. Airlines offer differing amounts to their customers, with low cost carriers like Ryanair giving the minimum of £3.50 for sustenance while some premium airlines like Emirates may offer upwards of US$40.
“So it comes down to the generosity of the airlines,” Bye said, adding that iCoupon has the potential to add value like lounge access or even offer the compensation as cash to be withdrawn from Travelex if airlines wish to give their customers more options.
UK-based iCoupon has a deal with Select Service Partner (SSP), which looks after retail units at 125 airports and 270 railway stations including for well-known brands such as Upper Crust, Burger King, Starbucks and Millie’s Cookies. Delayed passengers can use their one-time use vouchers at any of the firm’s units.
“Currently our partners are airport-based,” said Bye who said that iCoupon is already set up at 62 locations across 49 airports and has partnerships with 30 airlines in the UK. It is live in nearly 100 airports in Europe, and has an “aggressive” expansion plan for 2017 in Europe, Asia and the USA.
But iCoupon also plans to roll out the technology to railway stations where SSP is has units in the future, and Bye sees a move towards “smart promotions” – where the companies can use the data held on the customer by the airline to offer relevant deals with which to spend their vouchers. “We will be working on much more complex solutions,” he added. “We are building a knowledge base where we know where people spend their vouchers and what they prefer to spend them on.”