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 blowing 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.”