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The time has come for airlines to enhance the booking experience and embrace digital transformation! That was the conclusion of the 49th Annual General Assembly (AGA) and Summit of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) held in Kigali, Rwanda from the 12-14 November.

During the four-day summit, where Amadeus participated as a Gold Sponsor, over 400 delegates, including global aviation leaders and several airlines representatives from across Africa, exchanged views on the challenges of the aviation industry in Africa.

One of the issues highlighted during the summit was that technology providers and airlines should work together to enhance the booking experience, and to follow a passenger through their journey, offering relevant touch points and service enhancements along the way.

Airlines need to provide real-time information, especially to the millennial consumer. Does the traveller have a layover of several hours? Get in touch and send the client an offer for lounge access. Has the traveller tagged the airline on social media? Use this opportunity to wish the client a good trip.

These insights were at the heart of the panel on  “Strategies to drive more revenues and reduce costs through e-commerce” that  I  moderated at the AFRAA Summit and are also the core of Amadeus’ latest research paper, Embracing Airline Digital Transformation. When travellers search for a flight they will base their decision on the variables they see online: price and flight schedule. But, there could be a missed opportunity here to sell the passenger something else they might want. Only 14% of passengers reported they found it really clear what the on-board experience would be like.

Airlines that offer quality, first-hand information enable travellers to base their purchasing decisions on more than base price and schedule. Increasingly, airlines are recognising that their websites are portals between their passengers and their brands. Without the right content, it’s impossible to serve the traveller’s needs fully in an increasingly data-driven marketplace.

The rewards are there to be reaped by those who are willing to embrace the challenges.

Messages from Key Stakeholders

AFRAA Secretary General, Dr Elijah Chingosho, explained that although many countries still need to come to the party, we are moving in the right direction with the Open Sky Yamoussoukro Decision to be implemented in January 2018. Twenty-two countries have already committed. Visa and passport regulations are also getting lighter and cheaper in many countries.

IATA Vice President – Africa, Raphael Kuuchi, mentioned that aviation is the business of freedom as it improves people’s lives. He added that if we work together as an industry, there is unlimited potential for the future of the continent.

Meanwhile, Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente reaffirmed his government’s commitment to continue supporting the aviation industry. “We have chosen aviation as an economic enabler and will continue to support all players by creating a conducive environment for airline business to thrive,” he said.

The CEO Round Table representing Ethiopian, Air Tanzania, Rwandair, Nile Air, Camir Co and Egypt Air, agreed that African Airlines – both big and small – will have to work together to compete against foreign carriers.