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Airtickets about to evolve

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PayU, the company that secures payments for SAA, Mango, Flysafair and Skywise, believes that airline ticket payments are set to transition over the next five years, making it even easier and safer to secure seats.

Air travel may be statistically safer than other forms, but what about the transactions that surround it?

According to Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) figures, over 9.5 million passengers bought tickets for domestic flights in 2014. In this August alone – the latest statistics available – the number stands at more than 743 thousand.

International Air Transport Association passenger numbers are predicted to reach 7.3 billion by 2034, more than double that of 2014 and 2015. China with 856 million new passengers is expected to overtake the US (559 million) in volumes with India (266 million), Indonesia (183 million) and Brazil (170 million) sitting in the top five.

These figures underscore the importance of having secure and dynamic payment systems that tap into the trends and recognise how people use technology to purchase their tickets and handle their travel.

One fraudulent transaction can cost thousands of Rands, and for the airline companies sound fraud management is essential, as this will impact on the business significantly. Air travel is a capital-intensive industry – it costs around R100k to fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town and the margins are slim. While only 8% of payments are cash-free in South Africa, that 8% is valuable and needs to be driven even higher through availability, security and ensuring trust.

“All businesses are exposed to fraud, and it can be a big issue for airline operators and the consumer,” says Kirby Gordon, Vice President: Sales and Distribution at Flysafair. “The biggest hesitation around online transactions is always around the payment system. The fear of fraud and the reality of it are daunting as our transactions are often big numbers.”

When the plane takes off, the seats leave with it. Every detail must be attended to or there is potential for both the customer and corporate to suffer either loss of funds or, for the corporate, reputation.

“When profit margins are thin and the capacity to be defrauded is high you really need a stable payment system. We are conscious that all of our payments are maintained properly so that when a flight departs, we have the funds in our account,” says Gordon.

Airline ticket purchases make up the largest portion of e-commerce transactions in South Africa. And, according to Euromonitor, the local online travel market is estimated at approximately R17.7 billion in 2015.  PayU, the company that secures payments for SAA, Mango, Flysafair and Skywise, believes that airline ticket payment is set to transition over the next five years.

“The airline industry represents a microcosm of the payments industry as a whole, with nuances and challenges around dynamic stock movement and modifications keeping us on our toes,” says Mustapha Zaouini, CEO of PayU MEA. “This will only get more intricate as the power continues to shift to the consumer and payment methods become more on-demand.”

The fast-evolving ticketing ecosystem will play a significant role in the flying experience, says Gordon. “There is a need for high level augmentation in the airline payments environment, not a standard payment gateway,” says Gordon. “In our world, modifications to bookings are a frequent occurrence – changing flights, adding a suitcase, buying an extra seat or insurance. That payment needs to be taken a second time and recorded against the first to ensure we have a complete record. It can get complicated. The next phase will be accepting in-flight payment.”

Corporate travellers commit the worst offences in airline booking with around 31-37% of reservations requiring modifications. Flysafair has led the way in unbundling in South Africa, taking the suitcase out of the net fare paid and making check-in optional. With 42% of passengers booking a bag it means that the remainder may change their mind at the last minute, impacting the transaction and the tally. While this presents challenges it also offers further opportunity.

“The trends we are seeing in mobile development are huge and are playing a giant role in how the payment industry is advancing. This means that working with a partner like PayU, one that is aware of these shifts and is prepared for them, ensures that our customer’s credit cards stay as safe as they do when they fly with us.”

Juniper Research has predicted that mobile tickets and digital ticketing are expected to take more than one in two ticket transactions by 2019. This means that payment methods such as credit and debit cards will increasingly move to digital and this demands that the security around payment needs to be completely watertight.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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