Travel & Airlines – putting the traveller in control.

Written by:   Thomas Helldorff, VP Travel & Airlines, Worldpay,  12 Jul 2018

With most of the northern hemisphere getting ready for their summer vacations, it must mean we’re half way through the year. It’s the perfect time to catch up with Thomas to see if 2018 has lived up to his expectations so far.  

1. What have been your top 3 highlights of 2018 so far?

1) 2018 started really well with us switching two of the largest carriers in Australia live! Some of our airlines are excitingly now using our alternative payment offering through Navitaire.

2) My second highlight would be our global enterprise 'Rethink eCom' event in Cancun – we had 50 airline & travel customers in one room, which really highlighted how much we have grown our LATAM customer base, and we have gained traction. A fantastic event where we shared and learned from each other. There’s a further Rethink event coming up in Barcelona this September so if you’re a customer or thinking of becoming one this would be a great way to get involved with Worldpay.

3) The last highlight I would say is our work with Viva Aerobus – a huge success story how we have helped them grow their business. Switching their traffic to us allowed them to increase their acceptance rates by over 40% in some markets and reduce costs too – check out our case study here.

"Unlike other companies that do a great job selling a solution and then disappear, Worldpay is truly our business partner, they are constantly looking for ways to improve our results and grow our business."


2. We predicted 2018 would see some big changes to the way travellers purchase ancillary services, such as in airport chip-and-pin payments for airline add-ons. Do you think we’re starting to see these yet?

A lot of low cost and full-service carriers are unbundling their offering.  They unbundle their proposition and try and sell at more ancillary services at more customer touchpoints, and the in-airport experience is key opportunity that airline are more and more trying to tap into.

The other underlying trend is to move to a PCI compliant world. In a lot of those touchpoints airlines were using magnetic strip and PAN key entered as a way to capture payment card numbers. IATA and the card schemes are very keen to ensure that airports are also PCI compliant. There’s a big drive to rethink the in-airport infrastructure and install PCI-compliant chip and pin terminals to take payments.

Putting the two together there is a massive reinvestment in infrastructure about to happen. Only recently, I dropped off in my bags at a self-service counter at Gatwick – which was equipped with Chip & PIN payment facilities.

Slower to come to fruition are the check-in desks equipped with up-to-date payment facilities. The infrastructure is available now available for shared check-in desks – that’s multiple airlines, with multiple acquirers using the same Point of Sales (POS) device. We are working closely with some of the infrastructure providers (e.g. SITA and Amadeus) but it is going to take time as it requires investment.

"You need to offer e-wallets from Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and WeChat Pay and Alipay. The mobile experience is so linked to wallet usage that it’s critical to bear it in mind when envisaging the ideal travel consumer journey."

3. The purchasing power of millennials has increased this year. What impact do you think this has had on the travel and airline industries?

Much of our research shows that millennials are driving the usage of alternative payment methods – travel companies and airlines must cater for their payment preferences and have the relevant methods available. That goes beyond just cards and includes an ever growing array of mobile wallets, from Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and WeChat Pay to Alipay.

The second aspect to this is that millennials are managing their lives on mobile phones. The same applies to how they book and manage their travels. They increasingly want to book holiday components on the move and last-minute. Ensuring a sleek payment experience as part of the overall booking experience is vital. It can be the differentiator to other brands fighting for their loyalty.

4. It’s recently been reported that Amazon are partnering with Marriot; placing Alexa via Echo Dot in their hotel rooms. What impact do you think virtual assistants will have on the travel sector?

The initial use cases will center around customising the in-room experience, like turning on lights, the TV, closing the curtains and modifying the room temperature.

But this is only one step away from allowing guests to order goods or services like a taxi, or a table in the restaurant next door. This is where payment become relevant, regardless whether the hotel, the 3rd party service provider or Amazon is the one taking the payment.

"My pledge to the UK and Europe’s travel companies? Don’t lose out on these opportunities by default. Online Travel Agents and travel market places who are able to offer these local payment methods for in-destination services will have a competitive advantage (e.g. Uber vs the local taxi driver who does not offer anything than cash or the local cards.)"

5. Are we still seeing huge growth in global Chinese travellers coming to Europe as well as holidaying just within APAC? And are Western travel providers taking advantage of this?

Yes absolutely, Chinese travellers are more mobile than ever across all generations and not just heading abroad in large groups as they might have done before – though solo travellers from China are very rare, group sizes are getting more exclusive and people are seeking out better experiences.

The key is for local firms and service providers to offer the right payment methods. Even though Europe is benefiting from the influx, they are missing the ability to take payments the way Chinese consumers want to transact. Although key tourist sites are much better at offering Chinese methods, but there are many places that have not thought to offer them, and this is what we are trying to encourage.

For example, a Chinese family books their hotel online, let’s say with Alipay. But when they arrive thy need to provide an international card to pay for ancillary spend during their stay. As they don’t necessarily have such a card, they then have to revert back to cash as the only common exchange of value.

6. What are you looking forward to the most in the 2nd half of 2018?

We are starting to see some very exciting things - one of them is on-board retailing and the other is a Multi-Currency Proposition (MCP), I’ll share more when this goes live!

7. Finally, we researched the importance of the mobile payment journey earlier this year. Which airlines or travel businesses do you think are doing mobile well – and why?

A great example is the way Expedia have embedded the core components of a Mobile Payment Journey as we want to see it. It’s about going back to the basics of what is required:

  • An app that allows stored payment details within your profile and with a really easy to use platform.
  • No address is needed – just the postcode - so the payment entry field is totally optimised.
  • The service and how they handle errors is also really good – a very slick mobile experience.

There’s always ways to improve, but as a progressive travel business – I’d say they’re doing a pretty good job!

Find out more: Travel & Airlines

Written by:   Thomas Helldorff, VP Travel & Airlines, Worldpay,  12 Jul 2018