Airblue airline is currently the second-largest airline in Pakistan with a strong fleet of nine Airbus A320 family aircraft. The airline has a strong market share in both domestic and international passenger markets. Airblue’s current digital solutions provider is an American-based company “Zapways Inc“. With great potential for growth and having the youngest fleet in Pakistan. Airblue has only one sales channel which is their own internet booking engine. Airblue agent also has their special access through the agency login where they can sell tickets for Airblue. Similarly for online ticket sales directly to the passenger, which are also sold through the website.
Airblue Ticket Sales:
Airblue has adopted the non-nested approach to selling their tickets which features selling a bracket of tickets and seats separately depending on the level of service. Airblue has three different levels of service which are, Value, Flexi, and Xtra. by allocating a defined number of seats to each service selling seats, passengers can choose between the levels according to their needs. Besides, this approach gives more control of commissions to be distributed to the agents against each ticket sold. In my opinion with only one sales channel, it becomes easier to evaluate the revenue management and other finances. Airblue’s internet booking engine is extremely user-friendly which enables the user to book the desired ticket in easy steps.
Everything seems so perfect until the user reaches the final stage when the website prompt asks for the payment. Airblue currently has two payment gateways one is locally provided by Habib Bank (HBL) and the other is Dubai-based Etisalat. Both payment gateways are accessible with 3D secure layers enabled.
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Okay, until now things are smooth, payment is done and a passenger is now satisfied with the method of purchase and the experience was amazing. Anyhow, the story is not over yet. Once payment is made through the gateway, and the ticket is confirmed to the passenger, Airblue has a unique demand from the passenger if he/she really wants to board the flight. Airblue’s has this unique and it becomes a headache for someone who travels with airblue for the first time. Credit Card verification procedures are the airline’s shield to protect them from fraudulent activities, bogus payments, etc. Every airline has a different approach to this problem. Airblue has this unique way to overcome this problem. If the card used for the purchase is owned by the passenger and it can be presented at the time of the booking then it may not be a problem, yet there is one thing that is concerning. In this era of digital frauds and credit card masking or skimming why a passenger is forced to show their card at the time of check-in. The counter staff has to verify the card with its complete information visible. Mostly the banks and local authorities always try to educate people, not to share their card details with anyone. Knowing this fact, airblue’s staff still has to take the card complete details to verify if the purchase is made with the same card.
If the passenger is not willing to go through the hassle of getting questioned at the time of check-in, there is another way of getting the card verified. The passenger must visit the nearest Airblue sales office and present the card similarly with all numbers visible to get the card verified. Now you must be thinking what’s the benefit of buying the ticket online if the passenger still has to visit the sales office to get the card verified? It definitely doesn’t make sense. The third way to get your card verified is even more vulnerable. If the passenger is not the card owner, the airblue staff ask for a clear picture of a card visible through email, and this practice is considered normal.
State Bank of Pakistan, local banks, and other authorities repeatedly remind the general public NOT to share their personal card details with anyone. This becomes more vulnerable when it comes to data security in Pakistan. There had been multiple attempts when the personal data was hacked and published on the dark web. The question comes here that why an international airline requires someone to completely ignore all the protocols and ask for visible card numbers in the email. Since the data security in Pakistan is not up to international standards, what if we start receiving complaints that phishers disguised as airblue staff start calling people who recently booked flights with Airblue and ask for the credit card details. Once the data is leaked the people will lose money. Later, Airblue will have to release official statements to deny these unfortunate events.
The above screenshot was the email I received 2 years ago when the local airblue staff asked me to share the card picture with all numbers visible on it. Taking the example of sharing card pictures, no airline either in Pakistan or the region requires passengers to share their personal card details with all numbers visible on it. Qatar Airways requires the passenger to share a signed authority letter from the card owner along with the card scanned copy with the last four digits visible.
first of all, online transactions in Pakistan are now completely secured with 3D secure service provided by Visa and Master Card. Which allows users to receive a one-time password for each transaction they make online. Airblue should understand that a 3D secure system is placed to overcome fraudulent activities. If the card owner is traveling, then he/she must be exempted from this extra verification. If the card owner is not traveling, Airblue should ask the passenger to confirm if the card owner is traveling or not. If not, then there should be an automated system that should be encrypted, an automated email should be sent to the provided email and the card owners can enter their card details and verify them through this automated system. This may not only result in improved data security ratings for Airblue itself but it will set an example for other airlines and upcoming airlines as well.