Qantas taps new tech to avoid overbooking

By David Flynn, February 14 2018
Qantas taps new tech to avoid overbooking

Qantas is looking at new technology to avoid overbooking flights by knowing which passengers will be willing to change their booking – several days before the step onto the plane.

The airline's venture capital arm Qantas Ventures has chipped into a $3.3m kitty for startup Volantio, alongside British Airways parent IAG and US carrier JetBlue.

Volantio’s Yana platform aims to identify passengers who are most likely to be flexible with their travel plans, based on feeding their previous booking patterns into a ‘machine learning algorithm’.

Faced with an overbooked flight, airlines can have Yana flag passengers to approach and proactively offer a change of flights with the lure of incentives such as a travel voucher, frequent flyer points or even a business class upgrade.

The same technology can also be used to shift flexible passengers from high-demand flights to flights where there are more seats available, in turn allowing the airline to sell those newly-vacated seats for a higher fare.

Volantio CEO Azim Barodawala says the system will work on an opt-in basis to avoid concerns over privacy.

Passengers would be notified via their smartphone days ahead of departure with the offer to rebook to a suggested flight, with the rebooking proceeding  automatically once they accept the offer.

“Flexible passengers receive a benefit for changing their travel plans, last-minute travellers are able to access flights that otherwise would have been full, and airlines can better maximize network capacity and unit revenue, while putting greater predictability and control back in the hands of their customers," Barodawala says.

Volantio was a participant in Qantas Ventures’ original AVRO Accelerator program.

“Volantio is a great example of the impact that investment in scale-ups can make,” suggests Rob Marcolina, Qantas Group Executive for Strategy, Innovation and Technology.

“The travel industry and customer needs continue to evolve and investments in innovations like Volantio are important to ensure we keep exploring ideas, disrupting the status quo and discovering new ways of working to deliver better outcomes for our business and our customers.”

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1428

Much better than the American systems where they reverse auction at the boarding gate. Who will take a voucher to move to another flight; then the price goes up as people are unwilling to move, until there are enough seats for the overbooked passengers. A fairly unedifying way of doing it but maybe it appeals the American gambling culture.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1027

I have some friends in the US who book flights likely to be overbooked on purpose, so that they can get the voucher when they need to bump people.

05 May 2016

Total posts 636

A free upgrade to Business would definitely tempt me to change the date I fly if I’m able to be flexible.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1035

Whilst an upgrade is attractive, airlines are much more likely to offer you a voucher for future travel. A voucher is a way of ensuring you use the airline again in the future.

09 Jan 2016

Total posts 44

They're dreamin if they think a voucher would be enough for me to head out of the airport and home again returning another day. Discounted upgrade only.

05 May 2016

Total posts 636

I think the incentives could differ depending on your status and travel patterns. Someone who travels a lot and has stacks of points will probably find a handful of points quite unappealing and a free/heavily discounted upgrade to Business very appealing.

Someone who travels infrequently with not many points may find some points or a flight voucher more attractive.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1272

Same. A travel voucher or frequent flyer points don't matter as much to me.

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 89

This is all well and good and consistent with the current buzzwords and start-up obsession in current corporate culture, but I’m really not comfortable with another avenue for an airline to share my date with a third party owned by other airlines.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 379

It is an opt-in service. Don't opt in and they won't share your details. I am not sure what your concern is here

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1027

Depends what is meant by "opt in". Is it the airline that opts in, or the passenger? If the passenger opts in, how do they do so? Does the act of booking a flight mean you've opted in, or is there a check box somewhere (and if so, is that check box defaulted to on by the airline so people who never check their bookings on the airline website are always opted in).

I don't think this system would sent passenger details to a 3rd party. It's likely this Yana is some sort of plug in/add on to the airlines existing booking systems (similar to how BA has modified the Amadeus Altea platform for their own use).

ajd
ajd

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2014

Total posts 52

The not-opting-in comes at the cost of not being offered potentially quite substantial benefits - and if opting-in becomes the norm, that means you're really being penalised for opting out.

However, if done right, I think they can offer this service without too many privacy concerns. I would be very concerned if they were sucking in data that comes from outside the airline's booking systems, e.g. scraping social media profiles or whatever, but if it's purely based on airline booking patterns and data that they've already got then I have less of an issue.

06 Feb 2018

Total posts 3

I found it is hard to believe this ‘machine learning algorithm’ can predict people’s behaviour. Heard this buzzword so many times.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 601

pie in the sky

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 68

They had me at "lure of incentives". Now that will mean me flying more on QF :o

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1428

Traveller5 the first thing the algorithm will look for is the fare class. Fully flexible fares may point to flexible travelers, single men who fly a lot, may be before married women who may have home commitments. It isn’t that hard to work out.

ajd
ajd

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2014

Total posts 52

I'd say booking a full flex fare is a *bad* sign - who books a flex fare unless they're travelling on business and need the flexibility to bend the flights around their business needs, rather than to bend their business needs around the preferences of the airline.

I'm far more flexible when I'm travelling for leisure than business.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 271

Well done getting away with “ married women who may have home commitments.”


Especially on Valentine’s Day :))

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1428

ajd it may also be that if they have to be flexible to meet their business needs they may also be flexible enough to take any benefits on offer. I book flexible fares for business needs all the time (meetings go over etc) but if they said would I be prepare to take a later flight with a perk (and the meeting hadn't gone over), depending on the perk I may take it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Feb 2018

Total posts 1

Every time I have been issued a Qantas flight voucher and tried to spend it you get sucked into an entirely different booking system where the flights are way more expensive than on their normal site. Never accept a Qantas voucher.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 271

This is where they should be investing for sure. Such an untapped opportunity for the airline.

05 May 2016

Total posts 636

These offers may not just be given to people on flex bookings. It depends what QF wants to do. This is getting people to change to suit QF. Whereas Flex bookings allow you to change for no other reason than it suits you to do so.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 23

I was booked economy (with FF upgrade request, not available) last November for DC DFW SYD MEL on Qantas which was overbooked - I was asked if I could travel the following day, which offer I declined, partly because they could not offer me the purchased exit seat I had secured.

To my surprise, and delight, they called me an hour or so later and offered me business full upgrade (no points, and full status and points bonus) DC LAX MEL which I gratefully accepted.
So to those who love complaining about Qantas’ customer service, here is at least one very satisfied FF, at least in the context of this thread.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1394

The whole machine learning concept seems weird. So it identifies Mr Big Shot Exec who has changed 70% of his flights - precisely the wrong person to ask.


Why not simply ask when booking the fare.. The person not booking for an event, business etc might say yes.

Also interesting that the CEO spent time at Jetstar has Head of Strategy

STU
STU

13 Feb 2013

Total posts 3

I received an offer by text which is what I assume this is referring to. Very tempted to take the voucher but it was swapping a 4pm flight to a 9am flight which made working that day impossible. Text message I received had this website attached: https://www.qantas.com/au/en/travel-info/flight-switch.html.


The opt in to me was did you agree qantas can market to you. If yes you are in. You can reply stop to the message to not receive one again.

Was provided with a survey afterwards on my thoughts.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 109

Sounds wonderful - Not!

What will happen is simply "vulnerable" passengers will be exploited with non negotiable date and flight changes while being sold a variety of false excuses for the changes and in return offered a stale carrot, while their seat will have already been resold to last minute cashed up passengers.

It sounds like a plus to get free FF points and promises of upgrades, but really, will they get them. A prefect example of reverse marketing. Good one Qantas, living the dream.


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