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21 October 2020 | Blog

Build or buy?

“In order to meet and exceed the expectations of modern travellers, you need a platform with the resilience required to process thousands of PNRs, the sophistication to create and send hyper-personalised messages and the reliability that allows you to reach every single passenger, often at short notice and via multiple channels.”
Al Tredinnick – Head of Commercial, 15below

Building a passenger communications platform is something that many airlines have tried. Some have attempted it and given up; accepting that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Others have continued to use their systems but have not been able to rely on them during the most trying year our industry has ever seen. 

A customer of ours recently said to us:

“It’s never been clearer how much we need you: You will never hear the ‘build or buy’ argument from us again.” 

It led us to share a few thoughts with any other travel companies who are perhaps still wondering if building or maintaining their own system is the right way to go…

Do you know what you want/need? 

There are so many considerations…

  • Can you translate your messages into all the languages that you need to keep every passenger informed?
  • Do you know the value of each passenger so that you can provide the context that will prove you understand their individual situation? Have they been disrupted before? What was their experience like last time?
  • Are you able to time the sending of messages so that you only wake up the passengers that need to know their situation immediately? No one needs to be woken up at 3am to be told their flight in two weeks has been affected!
  • Is your infrastructure up to the challenge of sending millions of notifications at short notice? Your customers will not accept excuses like spam filters preventing them from receiving the information they need.

And this is just the beginning. Over 20 years you can appreciate we’ve built up quite a list of things to consider to ensure every passenger is kept informed and empowered and would encourage you to complete an exhaustive list yourselves before embarking on the project.

You then have to build, test, and optimise your system. Do you have the dedicated expertise you need to build and maintain the system properly? If your IT resource has any responsibilities other than customer communications, we would urge you not to pursue this path as the reputational damage you will incur from getting this wrong is too high.

Do you still have the expertise in your business?

You may have built a system that allowed you to communicate with your passengers to a standard that you were happy with pre-pandemic, but early retirement and redundancies have left you in the lurch. If you no longer have the expertise that designed the system, or the skills that built it, it is probably time to move on and consider a new approach. The risk of trying to continue to use a system that you don’t have the skills to maintain is that if it fails you, the result will be costly fines and a lot of negative press that we’re sure no airline can afford right now. 

We work with a large number of travel companies that don’t have the dedicated resource they need in-house, so instead they know they can rely on the dozens of developers, passenger experience experts, and fantastic support team that we provide. 



One person and one template are all you need

With millions of passengers affected by closed borders, new mandates that differ by route, airport, country or state, and ever-changing testing regimes, airlines are having to become more agile and make decisions faster than ever before. But airlines are also seeing their IT and operational teams being cut, leaving those that remain over-worked and under-resourced. 

So, this is not the time (nor will it ever be) to spend precious hours trying to adapt a generalist tool to deliver a specialist function. 

Automation is the perfect way to deliver the best passenger experience possible without manual intervention or the risk of human error and trying to muddle along with a template for every scenario just doesn’t make sense – time-wise, or financially. Instead, you’ll find that putting operational messaging first will break down the siloes across your business, give you access to more contact details than you ever realised possible, and offer an advanced logic engine that allows you to use dynamic content within just one template. 

And the best part is that you only need a small team – or even just one person – to manage all of your operational communications. SWISS International Air Lines has been a customer of ours since 2014 and has just four people that are responsible for communicating with its 18 million passengers.

Tried and tested for 20 years

Being trusted by more than 50 of the world’s best-known travel companies – including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Ryanair and Etihad – means that you won’t have a hard time verifying us as a supplier. Our partnerships with the world’s biggest reservation systems mean that not only will you benefit from the work we’ve done together, but we bring a whole wealth of knowledge about airline systems that will help you get the best out of your entire tech stack. 

And when it comes to data security, this is a top priority for us. A recent update to our disaster recovery processes means that data held on servers in the U.S. are now automatically replicated every 30 minutes from production over to our disaster recovery site within minutes. This includes all transactions within the user interface too, so you can guarantee your data and operations are in safe hands.


It’s unlikely you’ll have any questions that we haven’t had to answer many times before over the last 20 years, and once you’ve made a decision you’ll be able to drive things forward very quickly. In fact, we can onboard airlines that use Amadeus, Sabre, Navitaire or SITA in as little as three days!

And if your budgets are tight (let’s face it, whose aren’t?) then don’t let that impact your decision to work with our specialist team. We are proud to have a retention rate of nearly 90% in our customer community – and apart from our expertise, our customers cite our flexibility and “doing the right thing” as reasons they love working with us. 

“From all of us at BA, thank you for the continuing support during these extraordinary times. We recognise that we and every other carrier in your extended family is communicating with customers like never before, and we couldn't do it without you.”
Michael O’Hagan, Commercial Operations Manager, Revenue Management, British Airways

If you’d like more information on the topic, download our eGuide: 10 things to consider before building your own passenger communications platform, or get in touch to chat through your thoughts with one of our passenger experience experts.