Travel eSIM – the only airline ancillary that earns far more than its own revenue

Ancillaries are a growing facet of airlines’ revenue strategies, contributing significantly to overall income. The latest IdeaWorks/CarTrawler report estimates total airline ancillary revenue to be a record $118 billion for 2023, up 8% on the next best year recorded (2019). While some ancillary strategies are driven by a thirst for revenue, others see it in the broader context of other related benefits. Increasingly, new ancillaries – like travel eSIMs – represent innovative points of difference that stimulate delight and increase loyalty.

With travel eSIMs, revenue optimization and revenue retention work together

Ancillaries allow airlines to earn greater wallet share, but are rarely strategic to the aspiration of being perceived less as a mass transportation provider and more as a trusted travel brand that champions the passenger experience.

Loyalty and trust ultimately come down to the experience and how this matches up with customer expectations. We’ve seen how customers expect to stay connected while on trips abroad, so travel eSIMs are clearly a relevant and helpful ancillary to create revenue from. What’s less well appreciated is how travel eSIMs can enable the broader digital experience and allow airlines to become more indispensable to passengers.

Here are just 6 airline use cases for harnessing travel eSIMs to drive customer experience and loyalty.

Include in frequent flier loyalty programs

A common issue with airline loyalty programs is when passengers don’t redeem their points. And while that might appear commercially positive, the opposite is true. If your loyalty scheme has unspent rewards accumulating, that’s a major liability on your balance sheet. A severe lack of engagement (i.e. few redemptions) also shows that the cost and effort of running the scheme is going to waste.

Offering travel eSIMs can kick-start stalled loyalty programs and add value to successful ones. Substantially cheaper per unit than the price of a plane ticket, eSIMs are equally well tailored to what the passenger needs.

Protect passengers being exploited

Airlines prioritize safety in every aspect of their business, mitigating all risks to passengers while in their care.

Branded travel eSIMs are a way of expanding this sphere of protection, delivering a quality-assured service at a fair price, thereby ensuring passengers aren’t left at the mercy of extortionate roaming fees charged by their mobile operators, unscrupulous SIM card vendors lurking in airport terminals, or insecure Wi-Fi hotspots that spread malware and steal personal data.

Yes the airline can generate revenues with this approach, but the bigger prize is safeguarding passengers and earning their trust long-term.

Extend reach to destinations beyond your route map

Travel eSIMs disrupt the traditional ancillary model by enabling airlines to sell to repeat passengers who aren’t flying with them this time, or are heading to a destination the airline doesn’t serve.

The classic example is onward destinations. Within a few days of setting up, many of our airline and airport partners find they’re selling eSIMs to all kinds of places. It’s because passengers had a good experience using the data they bought, and figured they’d top-up from the same convenient source when crossing borders to their next destination.

Passengers who are also flying into a major hub for an international flight can get set up with data roaming from their original origin.

Use to maximize in-destination upselling

Another perennial issue airlines face is being unable to add value during the ‘dark period’ between a passenger’s arrival and subsequent return from a destination. What they do and what they need during this period is typically a complete mystery, but one that can be illuminated by a live eSIM.

With the right technology, airlines can use the travel eSIMs they sell as a platform for promoting relevant personalized offers. For example, an enticing seat upgrade for the homeward journey.

Keep passengers connected to your digital assets

Airlines are constantly refining their digital customer journeys, whether via dedicated apps or the general online experience. What if you could keep customers connected to that experience, all the time during their trip abroad?

This is within reach thanks to some smart back-end software that allows anyone to whom you’ve sold a travel eSIM to use your app or visit your site/s without eating into their data allowance. They can still contact you and retrieve essential travel information even if they’ve spent all their data. This is a golden recipe for customer delight and a brilliant way to keep them close, extend the brand experience, and engender loyalty.

Roll out to disrupted or stranded passengers

The inconvenient reality of airlines is delays and cancellations. And even if the circumstances are beyond your control, every disruption risks harming your reputation.

Having sold travel eSIMs to your passengers, you’re far better placed to manage the communications process to their satisfaction – ensuring they’re reachable during disruptions. Another option is to give travel eSIMs away to passengers you’ve inconvenienced, or have been affected by a ‘black swan’ event.

Giving away travel eSIMs is an inexpensive way to apologize there and then, and equips passengers finding it hard to communicate with their friends and loved ones with a valuable tool to do just that.

Travel eSIMs make logical sense for airlines, but it doesn’t have to be all about monetization. Airlines that consider eSIMs as a gateway to broader objectives like customer loyalty, digital experience, and data insights stand to make a stronger business case that earns more and does more in a competitive market where trust is at a premium.

Learn more about our work with leading airlines, or speak with one of our experienced airline industry experts about your next move offering travel eSIMs to your passengers.