Access to ARC’s Dataset Helps Airline Better Manage Agency Sales Performance and Identify Opportunities for Growth
About the Organization:
LOT Polish Airlines is a modern airline connecting Europe with the world. It provides the shortest and most comfortable journey among 111 destinations for almost 9 million passengers per year. LOT offers direct longhaul flights using Boeing 787 Dreamliners to ports in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Sri Lanka. A member of Star Alliance, Poland’s flag carrier celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
The U.S. sales team at LOT Polish Airlines found itself without any external sources of data when headquarters decided to cancel its subscription to its old tool. Flying blind for close to a year, using only the airline’s internal data sources in raw form, the airline was in need of a comprehensive dataset that could offer a quick and easy way to analyze performance on the O&D and agency level.
Use ARC’s Airline BI tool to track U.S. travel agency sales at the O&D level, make educated decisions around sales strategies and validate route expansion.
Since the purchase of Airline BI less than two years ago, the tool has become an integral part of the airline’s U.S. sales team function and a guiding force in offering insight into its sales strategy. Using Airline BI, LOT Polish Airlines has improved performance measurement and agency reviews. The airline has also been able to improve its competitiveness on several routes with agency partners, as well as improve internal benchmarking on route performance, validating the addition of one nonstop route. Plus, the tool has saved the airline’s U.S. sales team approximately 15 percent more time on data compilation and analysis efforts alone.
Since its purchase in 2017, ARC’s Airline BI has become an essential tool for LOT Polish Airlines’ U.S. sales team, which uses it to measure sales and agency performance, better understand market share and help identify U.S. market potential. The airline’s Head of North American Sales Dominic Bernardo, now an Airline BI power user, claims the tool has provided his team with increased visibility into sales, particularly at the O&D level, and a quick and easy way to monitor all of their agency account activity – in turn, guiding insight into the airline’s indirect, U.S. sales strategy.
Prior to Airline BI, LOT Polish used a different sales intelligence tool for several years, until its headquarters decided to discontinue its subscription. The airline’s U.S. sales team was, as Bernardo puts it, “flying blind” for close to a year, using internal data sources in their raw form. His team manipulated the airline’s internal data best they could but spent a significant amount of time compiling and analyzing, while still lacking the insights a business intelligence tool could provide.
“When we learned of the opportunity with Airline BI, we felt it was going to be a great replacement for our previous solution, and what we’ve found is that it’s actually better,” said Bernardo. LOT Polish made the decision to purchase Airline BI based on its comprehensive dataset, 24/7 data access and the ability to dig deeper into the analysis. Plus, Bernardo continued, “There is so much diversity of use with the tool that the use cases really vary,” which made Airline BI an easy sell to management at the airline. The tool has since saved the team up to 15 percent more time on compiling and analyzing efforts alone.
LOT Polish now uses the tool to track and analyze its U.S. sales team and agency account performance, as well as to make educated decisions around regional sales strategies and potential route expansion. Bernardo continued, “How someone uses the tool really depends on the type of person within the organization – and we have a lot who do!”
Improving Sales Measurement
As the head of North American sales, Bernardo is responsible for keeping his team on track. He explained, “I tend to take a high-level, 10,000-foot view, and Airline BI gives me a quick and easy way to see how my team is performing and if they’re getting the business we need.”
Bernardo logs into Airline BI multiple times a week – sometimes even multiple times a day, depending on what’s going on with the business. “I log in every week to understand sales trends from the prior week and really make sure that everyone is performing. If we notice a sudden drop, for instance, I use the tool to dig deeper and understand to what extent it is.”
The tool has become Bernardo’s go-to point of reference for managing. Traditionally, airlines, like LOT Polish, have not had an easy way to access the data they need for this type of performance validation. Because of this, Bernardo explained, there really was a lack of internal benchmarking. Having this increased visibility of an airline’s indirect sales helps users better understand not only where its business fits into the market, but also what sales strategies are working to reach the airline’s forecasted goals.
For example, LOT Polish is focused on understanding the commission structure, Bernardo explained. “We go through a pretty rigorous process every year forecasting what our commercial policy will cost in terms of up-front commission and the back end, so being able to evaluate commissions from within Airline BI is huge,” he said, noting the team looks at this type of information on a quarterly basis.
Another critical feature of Airline BI, Bernardo explained, is the tool’s ability to update data essentially in real time. “One of the best things about Airline BI is that we’re able to get weekly updates. In our old product, we received a monthly data pull, so there were several weeks where we didn’t have the data unless you were looking at our own internal weekly sales in raw format,” he said, which took much more time to pull together. The tool offers customers their own prior week’s sales every Wednesday, providing views of monthly, weekly and now daily trends.
Users can filter this ticketing data by date of issue as well as by date of departure for quick internal performance reporting. Plus, Airline BI displays all of the data out to the end of the GDS schedule. While LOT Polish uses Airline BI to get a visual, aggregated view of weekly and monthly sales performance, the airline also examines individual account portfolios. Airlines can actually create their own customized sales territories in Airline BI by region, state and more for easy reporting.
Strengthening Agency Business
Bernardo’s team of eight account managers uses the tool to view data at the agency level to monitor sales and more effectively communicate with accounts on performance, contract expectations and new areas for partnership growth. They also use the tool when constructing portfolios and planning account visits.
In Airline BI, the sales team is able to see a high-level synopsis of agency performance and quickly determine which agencies are selling well, or could be selling more, on individual routes. Bernardo explained, “They’re able to look at this dashboard, because we have the tool set up with their portfolio, so they can view their specific regions.”
For agency conversations, account managers are able to go into Airline BI and pull information by ARC numbers to evaluate what the sales are doing in comparison to the industry in the top O&Ds and also understand where opportunities are. “Everyone wants the high-yield business, so it’s beneficial having the ability to go in and look at a specific account, because sometimes contracts include more than one ARC number,” Bernardo explained. “We can look and see what fare classes have been sold, if an agency is selling a ticket geared toward the commercial policy, and if it is really pushing some of the high-yield business that we’re seeking.”
The tool provides LOT’s team with in-depth speaking points, by account, allowing for more productive conversations during reviews. One example of this occurred during an account review with International Travel Network (ITN), a consolidator located in Northern California. Bernardo said, “We met with them earlier in the year to try to understand how we could work with them more cohesively.” Using Airline BI, LOT Polish identified several key routes where ITN had pretty significant business that the airline wasn’t getting.
He continued, “We examined what we were providing them and what more we could do to shift some of that market share. Between the data ITN provided and the data we had from Airline BI, we were able to put together a really thorough and succinct business case with our pricing and revenue management plans. This led to us putting together a tactical initiative for three O&Ds initially.” Since this initiative, the airline has increased its performance with this agency to seven routes, based on the positive results they received – an increase of 491 percent over the last 12 months, representing more than $400,000 in growth.
The airline also uses the tool’s Agency Directory, which consists of agency contact information, to assist in constructing portfolios. “For sales planning purposes, we’re really big on understanding the accounts and putting together plans for how many visits account managers are going to make in a week or over the course of a month. While maybe not a traditional use case, Airline BI has been really beneficial in that regard,” Bernardo explained.
Validating Market Opportunities
While LOT Polish primarily uses Airline BI to inform sales strategy and support account management, the airline’s U.S. office also uses the tool to do internal benchmarking on route performance and support educated decisions around network growth.
The tool helps airlines see market share – at the individual airline level as well as by customized peer group. This helps airlines like LOT Polish view data by O&D to really compare performance on routes with partners and find opportunities for more competition. Bernardo said, “We launched several new routes this year, and for me, I was able to drill down and just look at those individual routes and understand what was taking place both from a share perspective as well as what agencies were producing.”
Bernardo continued, “It’s really valuable whenever you’re trying to launch new routes to really make sure you have a finger on the pulse of how things are trending. Airline BI has helped us with speed to market in introducing new initiatives and tactics.”
The airline used ARC’s tool to help decide if it should begin flying a new nonstop Miami-Warsaw. Validating its decision with Airline BI in 2018, LOT Polish began service on this route in June 2019. According to Bernardo, Airline BI informed the team’s conversations around growth, and it helped them determine whether it made sense to start the new route.
Bernardo continued, “We obviously always have a short list of routes that we’re looking at, since we’re in expansion and growth mode, and the tool is really beneficial for us in this regard.” In the coming months, the team will begin analysis for possible route expansion options in 2020.
Key Use Cases
Evolving Use Cases
Over the past two years, Airline BI has become an essential part of LOT Polish Airlines’ U.S. sales function. “For me, Airline BI is really about being able to understand our business and the industry by O&D and by agency,” said Bernardo, but Airline BI has also enabled the entire team to be more self-sufficient. He continued, “The account managers are able to go in, put together a dashboard, email it to their accounts, review it with them and make an impact on the account level. For our analysts, the tool provides a more in-depth view of our data, plus we’re able to download the data, filter and sort it in a variety of ways to meet our needs.”
ARC’s business intelligence tool has saved the airline more time – approximately 15 percent – just on data compiling and analysis, helping with performance measurement and, in turn, agency reviews. LOT Polish has increased market share on several routes with agency partners thanks to Airline BI, as well improved internal benchmarking on route performance, validating the addition of at least one additional nonstop route.
Plus, the use cases for Airline BI are proving to be endless, according this this power user, who also notes the real importance of the tool’s ever-evolving state. “I appreciate that the tool is consistently evolving,” said Bernardo. “ARC is always seeking feedback on how we’re using it, how they can improve the experience — and then we’re actually seeing our suggestions implemented.”