15below and the business of disruption management

Named after their commitment to answering the phone in 15 seconds or less, 15below is a global tech company firm dedicated to arming travel companies with the tools they need, in order to provide up-to-the-minute automated passengers and staff notifications as well as workflows solutions. 

To find out more about the company and a very recent partnership, I spoke to Nicholas Key,15below’s CEO.

Nicholas Key
TD: Before we get into the nitty-gritty, can you tell me a little more about what exactly you guys do and how you benefit the industry?

Nicholas Key (NK): 15below is a privately owned software development company based in Brighton, UK with offices in Lithuania and Australia.

Everything we do is built for travel, with the purpose of making journeys easier and more enjoyable by enabling travel companies to keep their passengers informed and empowered – even when things go wrong. In 2000 we began creating systems and workflows to help airlines manage day-to-day travel services: our initial focus was to keep passengers informed during acts of disruption and this continues to be our “bread and butter”.

“We now send 1.8 million notifications every single day”

Our disruption solution is used by 95% of our customers, made up of 54 of the world’s best-known travel companies, including Qantas, Ryanair, the Lufthansa Group, Cathay Pacific, and JetBlue.

Since then, we’ve developed a whole suite of passenger notification solutions that include pre-departure communications, which provide passengers with unrivalled levels of personalised information, and which generate significant levels of ancillary revenue for our customers as a result.

We also generate millions of tickets, boarding passes, itineraries, and receipts for passengers every year, all of which are updated dynamically whenever any element of the booking changes.

We now send 1.8 million notifications every single day, for 54 clients boarding 800 million passengers a year. Our customers keep their passengers connected throughout their journey across multiple channels – including email, SMS, social media messaging, voice-activated messaging, app push notifications and print documentation.

15below meets Amadeus

TD: What’s the deal with your partnership with Amadeus (announced at Amadeus AES 2019 in Istanbul earlier this year)?

(NK): 15below and Amadeus are working together to rethink the way technology can be used by airlines, which puts the customer experience at the heart of everything they do.

In the past, technology has often been built and implemented by individual service providers, then used and managed in siloed teams within the airline.

This not only leaves operational inefficiencies within the organisation (e.g. multiple communication providers which is costly and inconsistent) but also hugely restricts the true value of a more integrated technology approach.  By understanding the bigger problems airlines need to solve and working together to solve them using our own areas of expertise, we can make life a lot easier – for the passenger and also for staff.

TD: Such as?

NK: Some examples of where this is happening, are around the consolidation of all our available data, and the use of an omnichannel approach to improve the passenger experience through best-in-class communication.

By exploring deeper integrations between our systems, 15below will, with the consent of the relevant airlines where required, be able to reach previously unavailable data from the Amadeus platform, meaning passengers will enjoy even greater relevance and personalisation in every communication created within the 15below platform.

Best-in-class communication

However, the developments we make through this partnership will not only benefit those airlines using the Amadeus platform, but will enable us to share learnings with airlines using other reservation systems, like Navitaire. So whilst this recent development will specifically benefit the Amadeus community in the short term, 15below remains 100% committed to delivering best-in-class communication solutions for the entire travel community, and this is just one of several partnerships we are exploring.

We’ve also recently set up the 15below Research Lab, through which we’ll collect the opinions and insights from the airlines themselves that will enable us to innovate even further to meet the everyday challenges that airlines – and passengers – experience.

Beyond airlines

TD: Outside of aviation, do you work with other sectors in the travel industry?

(NK): We predominantly work with airlines, but about 20% of our customers are from other types of companies within the travel industry, including rail firms, travel management companies, and travel agencies. Our initial objective was to become the market-leader in passenger communications for airlines and after nearly 20 years we’re incredibly proud to have reached that point.

Our plan now is to begin to develop the 15below platform to meet the nuanced challenges met by other businesses within the travel and tourism industry. This includes cruise operators, hotels, corporate travel businesses, and everything in between. We have proven the incredible benefits of using automation in the airline industry and are now excited to look to offer these same benefits to other types of business that need to inform and empower their customers by keeping them up to date with relevant, hyper-personalised communications.

Pain point

TD: Any exciting plans for the future?

NK: As part of our relationship with Amadeus, we will be exploring multiple areas where we can either improve processes and the way our technology works together or where we can collaboratively build new solutions which will meet currently unmet needs.  But first, we are focusing on how we can help airlines manage disruption better.

Travel disruption has always been a huge pain point for the industry – causing both a financial and human drain on resources – and with rising passenger numbers this is only set to get worse.

Rich Communication Services will replace traditional SMS

Building on our area of expertise, 15below and Amadeus are mapping out an end-to-end technology solution which can be delivered at scale, and fast.  This will enable airlines to optimise passenger recovery options, and provide tailored self-accommodation to customers, all whilst keeping them informed and in control at every step of the way.  This is something we were invited to demo at the IATA GAPS conference last month, as well as the Aviation Festival, and the feedback has been incredibly positive. Watch this space…


TD: How does the ascendancy of mobile impact your business?

NK: Well, 15below continues to invest in new ways to communicate and engage with customers – driven by technological trends, consumer preferences and behaviours. Often these are global in nature.

For example, it’s been predicted that RCS (Rich Communication Services) will replace traditional SMS entirely within 5 years, and WhatsApp channel for business is also gaining traction in large parts of the world.  Push notifications to mobile apps continue to see demand grow (37% of airline app users download the app purely for disruption), but let’s not forget the more localised conversational channels such as WeChat and LINE…

Adapting channel strategies in line with these changes is essential for any global airline serving these markets.  With the support of our customer airlines, 15below is building on our omni-channel platform capabilities so that airlines will be able to communicate with their customers (and staff) whatever channel they use, and wherever they are in their journey – to deliver great customer service.

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