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Would you subscribe to an airline?

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#1 CHamilton



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Posted 12 May 2017 - 10:50 AM


At some point, the major airlines will make AI-based subscriptions a regular part of doing business. And that will open up even more innovative possibilities. AI software can come to understand the travel traits of individual customers, much as Netflix gets to know its subscribers’ movie tastes. Let’s say United adopted this technology. The software could learn that you book a lot trips to a particular city, usually pay for extra legroom and buy Wi-Fi and a couple bourbons after takeoff. AI could put all that together with United’s costs and seat availability, and automatically negotiate with you for a subscription tailored to you. The deal might save you a little money, but it would also save you the time and stress it takes to set up each one of those trips, and the arrangement would give both you and the airline some pricing certainty. The relationship between you and United could be transformed from transactional and adversarial to a cuddly long-term bond.

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#2 jis



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Posted 12 May 2017 - 01:14 PM

Many people already subscribe to airlines through affinity card programs that give you free checked luggage allowance and such. They also subscribe through lounge programs as well as frequent flyer programs. All that is going to change is more targeted packages will become available based on usage patterns. Does not require AI. All it requires is some good data mining and analytics tools.


This is true not only of airlines. They are true of Amtrak, hotels, car rental and plain old credit card issuing companies and on and on, and of later trading of status among them. So for example getting a Amex affinity card with Hilton gets you Gold Status for the year for $75, which would cost way more if you actually stayed the number of nights required to get Gold.


So the answer is Yes, most likely a lot of people will do and I certainly do, even with the Amtrak affinity card.

#3 Anderson



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Posted 13 May 2017 - 04:28 AM

This reminds me of the hypothetical I raised of getting status on Amtrak in exchange for putting down for a set of non-refundable vouchers at the start of the year.  Of course, something like that also raises philisophical issues about simply cutting a check to retain status (and associated perks).

FWIW, using the term "AI" here is somewhat misleading...as jis said, you don't need to hire a bunch of Cylons to make this work.  You just need the appropriate analytics software and some folks in Marketing who're thinking.


An interesting thought, by the way, would be going back to effectively selling "multi-ride" tickets between destinations (where you'd have a certain number of "coupons" for use between XXX and YYY for a certain class of service) at a semi-fixed price.  For example, on DL your domestic First buckets are FPAG (with the corresponding Delta One buckets being, IIRC, JDIZ).  So you could buy a batch of coupons which are good in PAG (or DIZ in the few cases of domestic flights using the other designations) with a charge if only F/J is available, or a more expensive batch which are "last seat available" tickets.  Same with economy, though obviously that gets more complex due to the stacks of buckets.


Obviously these would be priced somewhere below where the "highest" corresponding bucket would be priced (both since the airline is getting cash in advance and since at least some coupons would be cashed in for "cheaper" seats), but how much lower is an open question.

Edited by Anderson, 13 May 2017 - 04:30 AM.

Amtrak mileage to date: Somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000 miles...I /really/ need to run all of my trips through a calculator sometime.

...and no, I am not /that/ Anderson...;-)

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