Airlines turning focus on mobile payments but grapple with integration

More than half of airlines surveyed by payment technology specialist WorldPay have identified mobile as a key driver of revenue.

The findings of the WorldPay study have been published in a whitepaper called Alternative Payment and Distribution Landscape: Airlines and Alternatives – The Facts.

It is based on a study of 56 global airlines including traditional full service carrier and their budget rivals.

The research found that mobile payments are now a key area of focus for airlines with 57% saying they have the greatest potential to drive revenue over the next two years.
This was equal to the number which said credit cards.

WorldPay says the acceptance of mobile payments has grown to 25% in 2013, an increase from 10% in 2012.

Mike Parkinson, vice-president airlines, WorldPay, said: “Airlines have recognised the revenue opportunities of mobile, and are now focused on improving their mobile offering.

“Over the next two years we can expect to see significant developments in this space, with new innovations in the ways consumers purchase tickets and services via mobile devices from airlines.

“In the future, services offered via a mobile device will become inherent to the airline experience from booking to check-in.”

Chris Chandler, vice president – financial services, at Emirates, said: “We currently accept payment through mobile devices through the mobile version of the website, and plan to accept all payment types on all devices in the future.”

The research also found meeting customer demand followed by cost savings were the main drivers for adoption of alternative payment schemes.
Key findings from the Alternative Payment and Distribution Landscape whitepaper:

•         Payment options – In 2013, credit cards (96%), charge cards (86%), debit cards (64%), air miles/loyalty points (54%) and e-wallets (38%) were the top payment methods accepted by airlines

•         Future of payment – A third (32%) of airlines are planning to offer mobile payments in the next two years, with e-wallets (29%) and online bank transfers (29%) also on the development radar

•         Benefits of multiple payment methods – Providing the ability to reach new customer segments (63%), lower payment processing fees (61%) and lower fraud rates (50%) were cited as the top three benefits of offering a range of payment options online

•         Incentives offered – 86% of airlines in 2013 offered discounts or rewards for customers using alternative payment methods to credit cards; an increase from 55% in 2012
The biggest challenge for airlines implementing alternative payment methods without external assistance was found to be the lack of integration with current systems and processes, followed by the cost of implementation (39%). 

Maarten Rooijers, senior manager e-payments at KLM, said: “Direct integration with a payment type is too complex both from an IT aspect as well as from an accounting and reconciliation perspective.

“The complexity increases if you, as an airline, want to implement more alternative payment options. Therefore we work with expert payment service providers to manage this connection on our behalf.”

However, 88% of airlines said enabling alternative payment methods was critical for revenue growth.

Parkinson added: “Airlines have long been reliant on credit cards as the primary payment type offered but they are increasingly embracing the implementation of alternative payment methods.

“There is a growing recognition of the benefits of providing a range of payment types, not only in terms of meeting customer demand but also reducing the cost of transactions.

“However, integration with current processes and systems is seen as the biggest challenge for implementing new payment types.

“Airlines therefore need to choose a payment partner that can manage this integration and advise on the most appropriate payment types to offer from the 230+ payment methods available globally.”

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