Qantas taps new tech to avoid overbooking

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 Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

25 comments

  • patrickk

    patrickk

    14 Feb, 2018 08:06 am

    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.
    Member who gave thanks

    deegee93

  • Himeno

    Himeno

    14 Feb, 2018 03:09 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • mviy

    mviy

    14 Feb, 2018 08:11 am

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

    bmq747

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    14 Feb, 2018 09:50 am

    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.
    Member who gave thanks

    Frank

  • V Champion

    Vulch

    14 Feb, 2018 05:17 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • mviy

    mviy

    14 Feb, 2018 05:20 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • eminere

    eminere

    14 Feb, 2018 09:50 am

    Same. A travel voucher or frequent flyer points don't matter as much to me.
    No member give thanks

  • MarkJohnSon

    MarkJohnSon
    Banned

    14 Feb, 2018 10:46 am

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • Dave

    Grannular

    14 Feb, 2018 11:06 am

    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
    No member give thanks

  • Himeno

    Himeno

    14 Feb, 2018 03:17 pm

    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).
    No member give thanks

  • ajd

    ajd

    14 Feb, 2018 03:54 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • Traveller5

    Traveller5

    14 Feb, 2018 11:20 am

    I found it is hard to believe this ‘machine learning algorithm’ can predict people’s behaviour. Heard this buzzword so many times.
    No member give thanks

  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    14 Feb, 2018 12:14 pm

    pie in the sky
    No member give thanks

  • Lindsay Wilson

    QF WP

    14 Feb, 2018 03:14 pm

    They had me at "lure of incentives". Now that will mean me flying more on QF :o
    No member give thanks

  • patrickk

    patrickk

    14 Feb, 2018 03:23 pm

    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.
    Member who gave thanks

    Traveller5

  • ajd

    ajd

    14 Feb, 2018 03:45 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • Steve987

    Steve987

    15 Feb, 2018 07:31 pm

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

    Especially on Valentine’s Day :))
    No member give thanks

  • patrickk

    patrickk

    14 Feb, 2018 03:51 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • Robin Price

    Pricer

    14 Feb, 2018 04:05 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • Steve987

    Steve987

    15 Feb, 2018 07:32 pm

    This is where they should be investing for sure. Such an untapped opportunity for the airline.
    No member give thanks

  • mviy

    mviy

    14 Feb, 2018 05:18 pm

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • John Leslie

    monoccular

    14 Feb, 2018 05:59 pm

    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.

    Member who gave thanks

    Frank

  • moa999

    moa999

    14 Feb, 2018 10:54 pm

    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
    No member give thanks

  • STU

    STU

    15 Feb, 2018 05:53 am

    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.
    No member give thanks

  • traveller90

    traveller90

    15 Feb, 2018 04:56 pm

    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.

    Member who gave thanks

    DaveK

Guest

23 Oct, 2018 12:54 pm

×
×

Forgot Password

If you’ve forgotten your password, simply enter your email address below, then click 'Submit'. We’ll send you an email to re-activate your account and enter a new password.

×