I’m travelling to the historic walled city of Ávila today for an internal work conference, but in the true spirit of breaking down the walls and getting closer to airlines, I have to leave early to attend a customer workshop in Amsterdam, so will miss dinner and the second day.

The point about breaking down the walls is not really on the agenda, but if I had been writing it, that would have been an irresistible pun.

Those that saw my 2010 predictions would know that I expect data to play a bigger role this year for airlines in better understanding and getting closer to their customers. I mentioned American Express then in relation to the work they are doing with Leading Hotels of the World, and I’ve recently seen them mentioned again in relation to working with Delta in a similar area.

The company [Amex] recently launched a business insights arm, which aggregates transactional data to help clients segment customers. While the two launches are not related, Hamouly [American Express spokesperson Mona Hamouly] said that American Express is exploring various ways to help its clients acquire and retain customers. “The timing [of the launches] is more coincidental than anything else, but what both new divisions have in common is that we realized we had assets, information and expertise in areas outside of just being a payment processor,” she said.

Another wall is the one that blocks effective communication – for example, just assuming it is someone else’s job to take care of an important task. Very embarrassing situation for South African Airways over the weekend with the website going down due to a failure to renew the flysaa.com domain name.

Virtual walls can be just as effective in blocking progress as walls that are nearly 1,000 years old if you let them; and that is definitely enough clichés for one day!

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