In a paradoxical business climate of rising traveller numbers and declining profit margins, nearly every airline is seeking new ways to increase revenue. Investing efforts in ancillary sales is one proven survival strategy.

While many travellers bargain-hunt for the lowest ticket fares, paying extra for ancillary services such as extra baggage and airport lounge access is becoming more widely accepted. The possibilities for ancillary sales are vast, and some airlines are now expanding to include external offerings ranging from car rentals to events and tourist attractions.

However, in order to successfully leverage this revenue stream and rise above the competition, airlines need to do more than simply make the offering. To effectively boost ancillary sales, airlines need to upgrade their sales approach and embrace personalisation. Here are five ways you can start boosting ancillary sales today.

1. Learn what passengers really want

The road towards better ancillary sales invariably goes through passenger data analysis. Learning the behaviours and preferences of different customer segments is the key to discovering new ways to add value with relevant service and product offerings.

Having a deeper understanding of your passengers is also beneficial when it comes to marketing efforts. Marketing—via webshop banners, e-mail, text message, app, social media, or in-flight communication—based on passenger data, enables you to match different passenger profiles with personalised deals and offerings. For example, a family travelling to Mallorca should receive different offers compared to a couple visiting Paris. Presenting the right offer to the right customer is a sure way to increase traffic to the webshop.

2. Eliminate purchasing friction 

Is your webshop easy to navigate? A simple and frictionless user interface that is adapted to the modern traveller not only increases sales, it helps you provide a better customer experience. Make sure that your webshop is fully-branded, integrated, and optimised for conversion. This includes ensuring that the interface is user-friendly and accessible on all kinds of mobile devices. It should also be easy for users to make payments.

This measure also extends beyond the webshop. All potential sales channels, from text messages to product catalogues and conversations with booking agents, should be brand-aligned and provide customers with an equally seamless user experience.

3. Take advantage of the post-booking period 

The window for ancillary sales does not close the moment a ticket is purchased. There are plenty of opportunities to sell additional products and services during the post-booking period. This includes the time passengers check in for their flight, the time they spend at the airport and the time they spend in the air. Airlines can also follow up with passengers post-flight.

According to a recent survey conducted by Diggintravel and Switchfly, “Ancillary revenue leaders generate 30-50% of their ancillary revenue in the post-booking stage.”

To fully leverage this valuable period and boost your ancillary sales, make sure that you understand your passengers’ needs along every point in the customer journey, and adapt marketing activities accordingly.

4. Give passengers more in-flight comfort

Another major opportunity for ancillary sales is, of course, the time passengers spend in flight. Any way that airlines can make an infamously uncomfortable experience more comfortable, and even enjoyable, is extremely valuable to passengers.

In-flight comfort items range from extra legroom to gourmet meals, and include upgrades that can be purchased both before and during the journey.

Can you let passengers book champagne for a special pre-takeoff toast? Offer premium entertainment streaming options? Or perhaps there’s an opportunity for an imaginative brand collaboration that lets you delight passengers with the unexpected?

This is a chance to be creative and differentiate your brand through unforgettable service moments.

5. Add chatbots to your sales team  

What if you could deploy an expert sales rep to engage with every single app or website visitor? Chatbots make this possible. Not only can chatbots answer customer questions, they can make relevant product and service recommendations based on visitor data such as web-browsing history.

Chatbots can even come in handy during the post-booking period, acting as a personal assistant with the sole purpose of keeping passengers happy along every point of the journey—providing helpful information, and any product or service recommendations they might need.