Paws for thought: Personalised pet travel can win passenger business
18 / 01 / 2019
Marcia Alden, chief executive of PawsGlobal, examines the upside of adding digital experiences for pet owners.
On the fifth call to the airline’s call centre to ask questions about bringing her pet on the flight to Los Angeles, Kim Adams breathed a sigh of relief.
Kim views her pet as a member of the family; she wanted to ensure her pet’s acceptance at the airport.
After a great deal of research, she cobbled together various answers from the airline website and call centre to feel relatively comfortable to travel with her pet. She is not entirely certain because she needed to make multiple decisions based on her research.
The twist is that pet owners, like Kim, are not fully confident because of the necessity to make judgement calls on multiple aspects of pet travel.
Airline websites take the approach of one size fits all. Pet owners want to eliminate guesswork. They want pet travel guidance tailored to their pet.
In today’s digital age, travellers are looking for personalised experiences and convenient online services in every part of their lives. The pet owner consumer sector is deeply interested in airlines that can offer concierge level experiences coupled with consistency of online service delivery. Their wish-list is in stark contrast with today’s largely inconsistent approaches for pet travel.
PawsGlobal is an industry leader whose technology innovation focuses on enabling the airline industry to transform their customers’ end-to-end pet travel journey.
PawsGlobal is extensively familiar with pet travel issues for owners/shippers as well as airlines.
Since 2016, the company has engaged with multiple global airlines, the US Department of Transportation, disability organisations, national veterinarians, global pet retailers and animal welfare organisations.
PawsGlobal’s autumn 2018 Travel Survey finds that many owners, including repeat travellers, approach pet travel with trepidation that is more complex than merely animal safety in transit.
Their concerns include animal eligibility for in-cabin or cargo, service animal eligibility, kennel size and appropriate documentation. They surveyed pet owners who travel more than once a year overnight with their pet, travel by air already or are receptive to air travel, more than 30 years old and household income of more than $130,000.
PawsGlobal has defined the pet owner travel journey as comprised of three phases, travel planning, travel management and day of travel.
Travel planning, the first phase of the travel journey, is comprised of pet owner activities that occur prior to booking.
The Travel Survey demonstrates that pet owners are receptive to a range of self-guided online services besides online reservations.
The services include animal type calculator, pet in-cabin or cargo eligibility engine calculator, a kennel sizing calculator, and online cost calculators.
Pet owners’ desire for these services demonstrates pet travel is more than simply the destination, it is about airlines adding more value for the pet owner.
Travel Management, the second phase of the journey, covers pet owner tasks and preparation after pet travel is booked. The Travel Survey determined pet owner interest for a customised travel checklist tailored to their pet and itinerary in conjunction with a pet account.
Additionally, they desire tailored documentation download and upload, preliminary documentation approval for flight readiness and alerts to ensure checklist completion.
The online pet account is a straightforward approach to facilitate future pet travel with the airline.
An airline is more likely to be selected for travel by the pet owner if their travel management responsibilities are customised.
The third phase of the journey, Day of Travel, is today’s dominant focus of the airline industry.
Airlines emphasise animal safety in transit and owner adherence to rules and requirements during airport check-in.
In 2018, the airline industry invested significant resources in website enhancements, processes to ensure accurate representation of type of animal, advancements in required documentation and cargo safety on day of travel.
These measures are now in place and are vital to ensure animal acceptance at airport arrival and animal safety in transit.
The downside is that airlines have found it difficult to prioritise customised capabilities for travel preparation and travel management.
Looking ahead to 2019, the airline industry could leverage their foundation as a natural springboard into a 360-degree hospitality mindset.
Airlines have hesitated to embrace a transformed online pet owner experience. Their reluctance can be superseded by the knowledge that delivering meaningful online experiences will shape customer expectations and drive competitive differentiation.
Innovative technology services empower airlines to deliver prescriptive and personalised experiences to pet owners.
Airlines could easily upgrade their existing websites to include travel preparation and/or travel management services without a significant amount of disruption to existing systems and processes.
Airlines that deliver cloud-based white label pet services, such as PawsGlobal’s solution suite, either in entirety or a la carte can transform their capabilities within months.
Digital transformation for cultivated and curated customer experiences is gradually unfolding across the travel industry. In contrast to passenger travel, pet travel is relatively unconstrained by pre-existing technology connections to legacy technology platforms. Online booking and issuance of online boarding passes are more complex and can be deployed as follow-on capabilities.
Pet travel online experiences represent an opportunity to provide a showcase passenger travel potential.
Pet travel provides the airline industry with significant opportunity to focus on all phases of pet owner travel journeys.
Simultaneously, airlines can competitively differentiate, change media narratives, drive revenue forward, and deliver a long-term upswing in customer satisfaction.
Airlines focus on end-to-end journeys enable pet owners to view an airline travel journey excitement and anticipation.