LATIN AMERICA. 3Sixty and its Colombia-headquartered airline group partner Avianca Holdings are fine-tuning the trial of dedicated inflight retail attendants in an innovative attempt to drive spending onboard and online. The staff are free from the usual practical duties associated with airline crew.

As reported last month, the two companies are developing a new duty free and duty paid online market platform under a Joint Business Agreement (JBA). The retail attendant scheme is one of the first innovations to have arisen from the collaboration.

The platform, developed in partnership with digitalisation company AOE, will eventually allow over 30 million passengers to pre-order duty free and duty paid goods and services. Miami-based 3Sixty said that the marketplace will offer an “unparalleled range of shopping and delivery options”.

The JBA initially covers Colombia’s national carrier Avianca, Ecuador’s Aerogal, Peru’s TACA, and Costa Rica’s LACSA  and will be expanded to other AVH partner airlines in the Americas.

Roberto Graziani: “The idea is that they are not just selling what is physically onboard, but also the goods that passengers can buy online through 3Sixty.”

3Sixty Executive Vice Chairman Roberto Graziani told The Moodie Davitt Report that, after initially putting such attendants on all Avianca Airlines flights, the concentration is now on the most profitable flights that feature the highest spends per passenger.

Graziani said: “It’s a complete move away from the model where crew are going in and out with the carts and simply asking if passengers are interested in duty free. The idea is that they are not just selling what is physically onboard, but also the goods that passengers can buy online through 3Sixty.

“So, they move away from being a trolley seller to an ambassador of our new business proposition. They can encourage passengers to have a look at our app, at our website, and our inflight entertainment system to discover not only what we can offer apart from the physical items have on the plane, but also the products that they can buy digitally.”

Graziani, speaking as part of an exclusive and wide-ranging interview to be published later this month, explained further: “There are cost implications as the retail specialists of course have to be paid and they are taking a seat away from a normal passenger. Then you need to pay all the taxes in relation to that seat. On top of that, sometimes they have to stay away one night and their food and accommodation must be paid for.”

3Sixty and Avianca Airlines are looking to develop the idea further by arranging health and safety training for the retail attendants. When completed, it is hoped that this would allow them to use flight attendant rather than commercial seats and therefore cut one of the major costs of deployment.

An initial trial of the dedicated retail attendants has taken place onboard Colombia’s national carrier Avianca Airlines.

Graziani revealed that initial statistics show that direct sellers “sell an incredibly higher amount” than the normal crew staff, but acknowledged that “not every flight to every destination can support the costs”.

He said a dual business model is set to emerge: one involving the direct sellers and the other based on enhanced retail training for flight attendants aimed at boosting their understanding of the product offer, both online and offline.

3Sixty is also evaluating whether it could import the direct seller model into its joint venture with Singapore Airlines and KrisShop, though no decision has been finalised yet.