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In-flight Banking, a World first for South Africa

17 April 2008 Absa

Absa Bank and low cost carrier 1time Airline have made history with a partnership that saw Absa Personal Bankers service the financial needs of passengers at 35 000 ft in the air. In-flight banking is not only a first in the South African banking and aviation industry, but also a first world wide.

Constantly looking for ways to meet and exceed ever changing customer expectations, Absa tested the concept from 11 February through to 28 March 2008, reaching over 20 000 passengers on nearly 200 1time flights.

Ten Absa personal bankers were on-board selected domestic flights serving the financial needs of passengers, completing applications and dealing with queries. The uptake and response from passengers was surprisingly positive, albeit with a discrete marketing approach. This answered the most important question of the pilot: would customers find the value and benefits of banking in-flight?

 (Click on image to enlarge)

Bev Counihan, General Manager, Group Service Innovation says, “The in-flight pilot was really like a customer focus group at 35 000 feet, live, for nearly two months. What better way to get the views and opinions of customers? This approach represents a significant shift in the way we gather customer insights, as it allowed for real customer responses to real situations. Besides, we experienced passengers as curious, understanding and generous in their participation.”

“1time is extremely pleased with the pilot results,” says Rodney James, CEO of 1time Airline. “We knew that the idea would be one that our passengers would love but both Absa and ourselves didn’t realise what a big impact it would actually have. Not only have Absa received positive results, but we have received a number of positive comments from passengers about the pilot project as well.”

Daily tracking has highlighted who flies, when they fly and what products and services passengers have preferences for in this channel. Passenger responses and the broader market potential are being evaluated to determine the commercial and strategic feasibility of in-flight banking, with recommendations being made in May.

“When you think about it, customers have the same needs, aspirations and anxieties regardless of where they spend their time, down on the ground or up in the air. Together with 1time, we have been able to tap into authentic customer thinking and behaviours whilst flying,” Counihan concludes.

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