Voice of the Industry

Towards a frictionless future for travel payments

Friday 8 October 2021 10:24 CET | Editor: Raluca Constantinescu | Voice of the industry

Jean-Christophe Lacour, Amadeus Payments: ‘Making travel payments frictionless creates a more convenient experience for the traveller, being essential to the industry’s merchandising strategy’


In a world influenced by COVID-19 where travellers are increasingly choosing to use digital channels, it is more important than ever to understand and actively design the customer’s journey – and when it comes to paying for travel, providers need to be able to meet the demands of passengers in today’s environment. 

The way we pay for goods and services has changed drastically over the past decade, driven by the convenience of mobile devices, new e-wallet options, contactless payments, QR codes, new approaches to authentication, and alternative payment methods. Our recent Travel Payments Guide highlighted that 84% of travellers now pay with non-cash methods like contactless or mobile payments when traveling. 

These advances can be valuable to a traveller in isolation; however, the real prize for travel providers and travellers themselves is an end-to-end payment experience that adds value to the overall trip experience. At Amadeus Payments we took a typical air travel journey, from booking through to the airport and journey itself, to identify the potential stages where innovative digital payments can transform the traveller’s experience. A full report on this can be found here

Better payment options at time of booking 

Any travel journey starts with inspiration, and this is where payments need to be frictionless – as this can make the difference between a booking or a move to a different provider. Although airlines are making great initial steps through allowing card details to be held on file or alternative payment methods to be used on their website, there is additional value to be found by solving payment pain points proactively throughout the entire trip. 

Many travel companies have the traveller’s profile from prior interactions, making personalisation possible; however, according to recent research 64% of airlines have the same booking experience for every customer. If the traveller is a frequent flyer that has previously paid with a given credit card, why not make that specific card the default payment option? 

Being able to combine miles, cash, or vouchers to book a single trip delivers what travellers want – and with a simple ‘slider’ airlines can make it easy for travellers to combine different types of funds for a single booking. 

Pre-trip: facilitating additional purchases and managing disruption 

COVID-19 has highlighted the difficulty of managing large scale disruption, leading to a perfect storm when it came to cancellations and refunds. Digital payment innovation can help automate the disruption management process whilst improving the experience for passengers. For example, when a flight is cancelled the traveller can be issued with a digital voucher directly to their e-wallet. 

Airlines could also proactively alert travellers when the exchange rate is favourable in advance of their trip. Foreign currency could be purchased from the airline to be spent during the trip, simplifying the FX process and securing a commission for the carrier. 

Supporting the transformation of the airport to become a commerce hub 

Airlines can look towards companies – such as Uber – which have made it extremely easy to pay in a single click. Now, imagine a business traveller that wants to add lounge access at the check-in desk or kiosk. If the traveller has already provided their card on file, then airlines too can offer additional services triggering direct payment on their behalf. 

Travellers can receive notifications to board alongside an offer of an extra legroom seat upgrade, or if the passenger is known to be running late then offering fast track security or speedy boarding is an option. Airlines can also offer QR codes to passengers at the check-in kiosk or bag drop to direct travellers to quickly and easily pay for ancillary services without touching a screen. 

The journey: facilitating the onboard experience and simplifying transfers 

Even at 30,000 feet in the sky, travellers want to experience the same frictionless payment experience they would expect on the ground. It is becoming increasingly likely that planes will become Wi-Fi-enabled as standard. The airline will then be able to use card-on-file to enable frictionless payments. Even when there is no connectivity, the technology exists to allow travellers to purchase items through their pre-authorised payment method. 

Why a frictionless end-to-end payment experience matters 

Taking a step back, it is important to look at why this all matters. Frictionless payments both enable a more convenient experience for the traveller throughout the trip and are essential to the industry’s merchandising strategy. 

By breaking down silos and considering the journey from beginning to end, payments can become a strategic differentiator, supporting a better experience for travellers and overcoming pain points like complexity, stress, fragmentation, and a lack of choice when paying. 

About Jean-Christophe Lacour 

Jean-Christophe is an experienced payments professional, currently responsible for the payment gateway business at Amadeus. He is passionate about maximising the positive contribution payments can make to a travel merchant’s business and its customers. Prior to joining Amadeus, he held senior product and strategy roles at Visa Europe. Jean-Christophe holds an MSc in Engineering (Computer Science and Electronics) from Tier 1 French university École Centrale de Marseille. He started his career at Gemalto. 


About Amadeus Payments 

Amadeus Payments serves every part of the global travel ecosystem, processing payments for travel agencies, airlines, airports, ground handlers, hotel chains, rail operators, car rental companies, tour operators, travel insurance providers, and cruise and ferry operators in 192 countries.


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Keywords: Amadeus, travel payments, e-wallet, QR code, contactless payments, FX , COVID-19
Categories: Payments & Commerce | Online Payments
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce