The Corporate Customer

South African Airways Increased Corporate Accounts By 300 Percent

One of the world’s oldest airlines, South African Airways, is anything but old. It has a track record of continually evolving to remain modern and competitive. Aiming to build its corporate customer base, in 2009, the airline implemented PRISM technology. As a result, it has experienced a 300 percent increase in corporate accounts.

South African Airways, which celebrated its 80th birthday in February 2014, is one of the oldest airlines in the world. However, it would be a mistake to refer to the airline or any part of its operation as outdated. In fact, the Johannesburg-based carrier operates one of the most technologically advanced fleets in the world and offers customers premium, award-winning service.

Among its numerous honors, the national flag carrier of Africa was recently awarded the 4-Star Airline ranking by Skytrax, a leading independent global airline rating organization, for the 12th consecutive time.

More Than 160 Awards

81-year-old South African Airways’ slogan, “Africa’s Most Award Winning Airline,” holds credence. Since the turn of the century, the airline has earned more than 160 awards, and for 12 consecutive years, it’s earned the 4-star ranking from Skytrax.

Truly a global airline, South African Airways flies to 42 destinations on every continent, including 26 within Africa and prominent business centers such as New York; Washington, D.C.; Sao Paulo; Frankfurt; Munich; London; Hong Kong; Beijing and Perth. The airline has access to an additional 1,900 destinations worldwide through its membership in the Star Alliance. This global reach, as well as its vision to be Africa’s leading airline, necessitated the carrier to find a way to increase its high-yield customers, such as corporations.

“We were looking for an opportunity to grow our corporate business, and we really didn’t have a tool to do so,” explained Dave DeFossey, director of sales development for global accounts at South African Airways.

“We had difficulty tracing our corporate revenue. We were using OSI [Other Supplementary Information] fields and inputting certain codes. When we ran reports, we would look for the codes. The problem was we could only see flown revenue data and not the data we really wanted to see: how we were doing compared with our competitors, corporate client travel spend and the preference of those clients for one airline over another.”

Based on previous experience with PRISM, now part of Sabre Airline Solutions®, at another global carrier a few years earlier, DeFossey suggested that a corporate-customer-management solution might also prove advantageous for use at South African Airways. His team evaluated a number of third-party systems — some quite comprehensive — but found PRISM was the only solution able to truly capture backroom travel management company data.

“Almost immediately we saw an increase in the number of global accounts we handled because PRISM gave us the ability to look across wide ranges of points of sale,” said DeFossey. “PRISM helped us capture data that we never had before.

“We had the ability to see corporate contracted revenue and where our customers were flying. Before, when we looked at a corporation, we may have thought it was very small based on the data we received. With PRISM, we could see it was actually quite large and encompassing and had points of origin from all over the world. It really helped us examine and understand the true value of a corporation and what we could do, working with that corporation, to move it forward and enhance our portfolio as well.”

Since the implementation of the PRISM solution in 2009, South African Airways has experienced a 300 percent increase in corporate accounts, most of which are global and have two or more points of sale. The average price also increased, indicating a rise in valuable higher-yield passengers.

“PRISM helps us make adjustments to our portfolio on a regular basis,” explained DeFossey. “We can analyze account performance and use the insights to target underperformers to increase their business or continue to increase business with our top performers.

“It has enabled us to walk away from accounts that were not performing well and bring in other ones that we initially thought weren’t advantageous.”

The dramatic growth in corporate accounts generated a significant increase in sales, client and contract data and the need for a tool to efficiently track and effectively maintain account information.

“PRISM works much like a customer- relationship-management system for us,” DeFossey said. “For the first time, we know all the corporate accounts we are handling, who is handling each one, their contact names and ways to contact them. It’s helped us with content management.

“That was a component we really hadn’t expected. In any case where we must transition an account from one key account manager to another, the transition is quite simple because we are using PRISM not only for data collection, but to track the number and types of accounts we have in our portfolio.”

South African Airways’ implementation of PRISM also created some unexpected synergies between the airline and its customers, especially in the area of account reviews.

Additional 1,900 Worldwide Destinations

Through its Star Alliance membership, South African Airways has access to an additional 1,900 destinations worldwide. In April 2006, Star Alliance welcomed the airline as its 18th member. Star Alliance was the first global aviation alliance to include an African airline, and South African Airways was the first airline from Africa to join a global alliance. South African Airways Chief Executive Officer Khaya Ngqula (left) was welcomed by Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht (center) and Deutsche Lufthansa AG CEO Christoph Franz (right).

“Our largest customer uses PRISM for its accumulation of data,” explained DeFossey. “It’s always nice to be able to sit down with that customer and find that we are on the same page. We feel confident that the decisions we’re making and the discounts we’re offering are coherent with the data they see as well.

“It helps us start up a conversation and then move forward to single out specific markets where there is potential for the customer to not only save more money, but for us to grow our business. PRISM has enabled us to not just be an airline, but also a consultant to customers, showing them why they should fly with us versus our competitors.”

The corporate-customer-management tool is also instrumental in supporting South African Airways’ competitive efforts, especially with pressure from low-cost carriers mounting.

“Competition has really increased in South Africa,” noted DeFossey. “Many airlines flying from the Middle East and Europe have never flown to the region before, so we use the solution to keep a step ahead to identify where the corporate customer is flying and enhance our product and frequencies. Having all of this data at our fingertips is paramount to be able to move market share toward our airline.”

Because PRISM is a Web-based tool, the airline benefits from its flexibility and secure features.

“Security is very important to us,” DeFossey said. “We have the ability to use PRISM around the world, any time, on any computer, and we don’t have to download software onto our work computers, which is against company policy.”

South African Airways’ use of PRISM has helped the airline drive new business and enhance existing business, generating more high-yield revenue.

“PRISM has assisted us in our markets in Washington and New York, but also in far-reaching African countries,” DeFossey said. “We use the system when we’re entering a market to identify where our customers are flying and their business mix. It has given our key account managers another tool in their tool boxes to bring in new business, improve existing business and move forward in pursuing more high-yield revenue than ever before.

“I can’t picture doing corporate business without PRISM by my side.”

300 Percent Increase In Corporate Accounts

In Corporate Accounts South Africa Airways’ use of PRISM solutions to grow its corporate customer base has paid off. Since implementing PRISM in 2009, the airline’s corporate accounts increased by 300 percent. Most of these accounts are global and have two or more points of sale.