Air Namibia has halved its cost of ticket sales and increased its turnover by up to five percent since implementing an online payment system, says the airline’s General Manager of Commercial Services Xavier Masule.
“Customer behaviour has changed and most people now want to be able to book and pay for their tickets online,” says Masule. “Since we implemented online sales in 2007 it costs us about 45 percent less to sell our tickets, because we avoid paying agent commissions and GDS system costs. Our customers are also happy because this is much more convenient for them.”
Air Namibia has also been able to retain customers, because “if they can’t buy online they will just choose another airline,” says Masule. “So online payments have helped us keep our market share, as well as enter new market in many parts of the world, without having to open expensive physical offices.”
While credit card fraud is always a risk, Masule says Air Namibia has worked closely with PayGate, its payment services provider, to improve its controls. “PayGate is very up to date on best practices and have given us excellent advice and guidance,” he says. “For example, in discussion with them we have decided to close online bookings 72 hours before each flight, and to suspend any booking made using a credit card that is red flagged on PayGate’s system.”
The result, says Masule, is that fraudulent transactions have dropped from 15 a day to “one every second or third day”.
This does sometimes mean that legitimate customers are inconvenienced, he says, “but we have a number of ways to reduce the pain. Our customer service centre will unblock a booking if the card holder can answer certain security questions, and we offer a ‘book now, pay later’ option as well. Most of our customers appreciate that we are trying to protect ourselves, and them, from fraud.”
Masule says the process of implementing online sales was easy, and has enabled the airline to offer online checkin as well. “PayGate has made the whole process very easy,” he says. “They have a lot of experience with African airlines and we get excellent, personalised service – I’m on a first-name basis with the MD and the marketing director. We get lots of value from our relationship and look forward to maintaining it.”