Airbus has joined forces with flight merchandising content specialist Routehappy to build a platform that enables passengers to make a much more informed choice when deciding which airline to use, based on details such as aircraft type, seat pitch and onboard services.

In much the same way as hotel booking sites provide information on the available facilities at individual hotels, along with photographs of the rooms, the Airbus/Routehappy partnership aims to transform the flight shopping experience by showing passengers exactly what to expect when they book a flight.

The Routehappy Hub content management platform differentiates airline product offerings through the use of both descriptive and visual content. Airbus has chosen to initially highlight the attributes of its A380 and A350 aircraft, and its branded content will highlight the personal space, in-flight entertainment and connectivity, and ambient lighting options available on those aircraft types.

Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Lufthansa Group and Singapore Airlines have signed up as launch partners in the initiative.

Airbus head of market and product strategy Bob Lange believes it has been a long time coming, and that this differentiated sales technique will catch on quickly as airlines begin to see the benefits of highlighting their individual passenger experience offerings to potential customers.

“When you look at any other field of commerce the degree of information you get before you click on the credit card button is getting better and better, and more factual and accurate, with every year that goes past,” says Lange. While airlines “have been differentiating their products for years”, both Airbus and Routehappy “felt the air travel industry was underserved” when it comes to showcasing these differentiated products on sales channels.

The new platform will allow airline passengers to compare and contrast in-flight experiences based on a number of factors that are becoming increasingly important to them. “You will see an icon that says whether you’re going to get Wi-Fi and how big the seats are going to be, as well as photographs to give even more data,” says Lange, adding that the partnership with Routehappy is “the first step on a journey” to providing a whole host of differentiating information.

The Airbus-branded Routehappy content will go live in the second quarter of this year and will initially be specific to the A380 and A350. However, Lange is confident the trend will spread to other airlines and aircraft types.

“Low-cost carriers flying [Airbus] A320s and [Boeing] 737s will also want to use these points of comparison as soon as they start seeing the booking behaviours,” he notes.

Passengers are becoming increasingly savvy about the differences between types of aircraft and the associated in-flight experience.

“Study after study shows the ever-growing importance of the in-flight experience for the more than 3.5 billion people who travel by air every year,” says Lange. “In a 2016 survey Atmosphere Research Group found that 53% of leisure passengers and 61% of business passengers pay attention to the type of aircraft they will fly on. And yet passengers have little information to go on when booking their flights. Finally this is changing.”

By including such details in the flight booking process, Airbus is hoping the billions it has invested in creating quieter, smoother, more spacious aircraft will pay off in increased demand from passengers to book flights on which they know these aircraft will be deployed.

For airlines, the advantage is “simply being able to promote the strengths of their differentiated products”, says Lange.

“Clearly this will be led by airlines who have invested to create an advantage,” he adds. “The question is whether, over time, other airlines have any choice over whether to follow. This will raise the bar and the game for the whole industry.”

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Source: Flight International