Booking door-to-door is the next opportunity for airlines

Airlines have long partnered with hotels and rental car companies to offer packages and earn commissions.

Yet, professional driver services were often missing.

The reason: affordable multi-national brands did not exist. Large legacy chauffeur services were too expensive for most travelers. Local providers were too small to integrate city by city.

NB: This is an analysis by Timon Bock, head of distribution partnerships at Blacklane.

But those restrictions no longer exist. Thus, airlines have added professional driver services to their strategic roadmaps in recent years.

The opportunity extends far beyond new revenue sources. Airlines can improve the traveler and booking experiences and re-think their long-term brand strategies.

Airlines must replicate the end-to-end ecommerce experience

Airlines excel at transporting flyers between airport terminals – yet the word “terminal” comes from the Latin word “terminalis”, which means “pertaining to a boundary or end, final”.

That definition fits only for airplanes, not travelers. Our journeys begin an end at homes, offices, hotels or convention centers.

By integrating innovative professional driver services, airlines can serve passengers’ journeys from beginning to end.

They can evolve from flying travelers between terminals to taking customers door to door.

This approach replicates the e-commerce model. Online, alliances of products and services provide a seamless customer experience.

What we enjoy in other industries, we desire in travel, too.

When we order shoes online, for example, we don’t buy delivery services on a separate website and figure out how to get the shoes to that service.

It’s a given that one brand provides the end-to-end experience.

We choose among options such as delivery speed, company and price to align with our preferences.

The retailer seamlessly integrates the options. Customers merely point and click to complete the sale. Anything less would erode brand loyalty and destroy conversion rates.

Airlines can mirror this experience for travelers. Their essential role as a travel supplier predestines them to close the missing link in the travel chain with integrated professional driver services.

They also understand the long-term vision this casts for customer retention, brand loyalty and a competitive edge.

Airlines and airport transfers naturally align

The beauty of integrated professional driver services is that they share many of the same qualities as airline tickets.

  • Both services create a consistent global experience. Whether you board a flight in Dubai or Dublin, the aircraft and cabin service are familiar. Similarly, a professional driver service maintains the same vehicle quality and driver service in both Chicago and Shanghai.
  • Customers receive guaranteed reservations at a set price. They know exactly what they will pay when they book, with no surprises added after the fact.
  • Airlines and professional driver services provide full duty of care. Both require professional licensing, certification and insurances, and both provide real-time service control.
  • Travelers can choose their service class. Airlines offer economy (plus), business and first class seating. Professional driver services offer sedans and business vans/SUVs as well as business class and first class rides.

These similarities make professional driver services a natural part of purchasing flights.

After all, we are door-to-door travelers, not terminal-to-terminal flyers. Ground transportation is inherent in the travel chain, yet it also remains a gap facing airline customers with each trip booked.

It is not a matter of if airlines will close this gap, but when they will provide a seamless end-to-end travel experience.

In a few years, integrated professional driver services will be the expectation, not the exception. To not offer scheduled, fixed-rate, professional ride services will diminish the customer experience.

What do you think of the timeframe for this to happen? Please let us know in the comments.

NB: This is an analysis by Timon Bock, head of distribution partnerships at Blacklane.

NB2: Airlines car image via BigStock.

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