2018 was certainly an exciting year for travel and airlines. Before 2019 fully takes off, we caught up with Thomas Helldorff, VP of Travel & Airlines at Worldpay, to get his thoughts of the past 12 months, and what he thinks 2019 has in store.
1. What were your top 3 highlights in Travel & Airlines of 2018?
First of all, the most important highlight of 2018 was the number of new customers we won over the last year. It was an exciting year! We had numerous new customers come on-board throughout the year, with Thai Airways International, one of the most recent accomplishments.
The second key element was our Mobile Payment Journey Report. We conducted research with about 30.000 travellers globally, who used mobile to book and pay for travel. The research was really interesting as it highlighted that the willingness to book and pay on mobile phones has increased massively over the last year. In fact, it was revealed that 84% of people that participated in the survey told us they would book a flight on a smartphone. This is particularly relevant for additional services that travellers might want to purchase while they are on the move (e.g. airport transfers, lounge access, fast track security, tours, events). We see plenty of airline and travel companies reviewing and optimising their mobile payment experience as part of their overall mobile distribution strategy.
The third highlight would definitely be the many enriching interactions I had with our customers and prospects in meetings and events over the last year. The airline sessions along our regional customer event "Rethink" in Bangkok are just one example of how we brought together customers, industry experts and thought leaders from across the airline eco-system. Together we discussed the 'payment journeys', 'regulations', 'how to optimise the payment set-up' and 'what the future holds'. It has been truly inspiring to see how the industry as a whole keeps evolving and how customers and Worldpay are progressing with it.
2. Worldpay and Vantiv merged last year, creating one of the world's largest acquirers. How does this benefit the Travel & Airlines sector?
For airlines customers, we have always had a pretty good proposition in America. This was possible due to our global airline license. So, it was predominantly travel customers who benefitted from the additional local US acquiring capabilities and many of them have already started using them. Customers processing on our US platform can also take advantage of solutions such as AuthMax, a payments authorisation optimisation solution that allows Worldpay’s customers to capture higher approvals, retain customers, and generate more revenue.
3. How have airline payments developed over the last twelve months? Are there any new products coming in 2019 that you want to tell us about?
Yes, we have been working on a couple of new products that we are going to launch in 2019. The first is an on-board retail proposition, which is ready to go live with a launch customer in Asia. It allows airlines to take on-board payments - EMV, chip & pin or contactless payments - regardless of whether there is Wi-Fi connectivity available or not.
The second product is a joint development with Amadeus (the ‘Amadeus Airport pay’). It is an in-airport payment system, allowing airlines to take payments at the check-in desk. So far, airlines couldn’t accept payments there. They had to send their passengers to the ticket desk if they had to pay for excess baggage or wanted to buy an upgrade. After that, the travellers had to come back to the check-in desk in order to finish checking-in. Our new solution can increase ancillary sales while improving at the same time the passenger journey significantly. We are also developing a similar solution for CUSS compliant airport kiosks.
The third product to mention is our work in the IATA BSP space, where we are going to optimise the way we pick up and process credit card files (CSI) for our airline customers. For this purpose, we are upgrading our infrastructure to process DISH version 23. Also, as we are now a listed acquirer in most of the global BSPs, we are making it a lot easier for our airline customers to switch over individual country volumes to us.
4. The PSD2 directive was a hot topic last year. What impact do you think it will have on the travel space?
It is certainly going to have a significant impact on the business of any of our airline and travel merchants who sell across Europe. On the positive side, I believe, it will help reduce fraud. On the flip side though, airlines and travel companies will encounter, initially anyway, reduced conversion rates. In fact, any additional step that you introduce in the booking flow, will negatively affect them.
Applying for exemptions and exclusions is one way to mitigate the impact. There is however, still a lot of legal uncertainty around which ones we will be able to be applied to Airlines & Travel scenarios. Think about virtual credit cards, lodged cards for TMC bookings or hotel transactions for a no-show. For all of those scenarios, Secure Customer Authentication (SCA) is just not possible in today's set-up. Therefore, we have been lobbying hard to bring those transactions out of scope of SCA.
For other scenarios, acquirers can apply for risk-based exemptions. Very soon we will be launching a decision engine that will support that process from a technical perspective. With regard to the remaining part of the transactions, we advise: do get ready for 3DS 2.0. It provides a much better user experience and is mobile-optimised. Both factors will contribute to reducing the friction as much as possible for two-factor authentication.
5. Are there any specific markets or regions you feel offer untapped opportunities this year?
I would like to highlight Australia. We recently opened an office there as we feel there are a lot of untapped opportunities for us and our customers. In Japan we are expecting a lot of activity around the upcoming Rugby World Cup and the Olympic games. In LATAM we have gone live with our own licence in Brazil and we will soon add Argentina. LATAM is a fast-growing market, so any travel organisation or airline thinking about expanding into these regions, come and ask us for guidance around the payment elements.