Aviation

What’s next in the aviation industry?

Hannah Edensor

We sat down with the president of APAC & ANZ for NIIT Technologies, Deepak Khosla, to find out what’s going to change next time we step on a plane.

1. How is technology disrupting the way we fly?

Technology is revolutionising the way we experience air travel by touching all aspects of our travelling experience from planning a trip to boarding a flight to journey completion. Until recently, the travellers’ journey ended for airlines as soon as they stepped off the plane.

Nowadays, the connected traveller is increasingly accessible at all times throughout the journey. This opens up huge opportunities for airlines to reinforce customer relationships ‘on-trip’ and even ‘post-trip’ with personalised services and tailored offers.

With growing engagements in enterprise mobility, business analytics and digital advisory, digitisation and mobility are now integral to every passenger’s travel experience.

Users no longer fall into neat categories of smartphone, tablet or laptop users. Of course, smartphones are most ubiquitous for mobile needs; location-specific searches, account access and time-sensitive transactions.

2. What technologies/tools will be next in terms of making flying easier for travellers?

The next five years will see huge milestones in the areas of digital transformation across all major business functions as well as the use of predictive analytics systems to identify traveller preferences and habits. These insights will be analysed to transform the face of passenger experience both in the air and on the ground.

With the help of a digital grid, real-time operations and process integrations will take place, opening up new revenue streams and improving passenger experiences. API-enabled infrastructure and apps will provide a robust and flexible foundation for these digital solutions.

3. How are airlines and airports ensuring they keep up with technology advancements?

Airlines and airports are keeping pace with technology advances by adapting to the needs of the new age ‘Digital Traveller’ and adopting solutions for delivering enhanced customer experience, leading to measurable business benefits.

Digital Transformation is the most significant technology breakthrough for airports and airlines and it is helping them stay in step with the ever-changing needs of today’s passengers. Through digital transformation, airports and airlines are enhancing experiences for travellers by providing personalised services.

For example, many Australian airlines are providing passengers with the chance to redeem rewards and points at fuel outlets. Many leading airlines have included features in their online booking engine, where passengers can pre-order a meal service to ensure a timely and convenient in-flight food experience for passengers.

Airports are increasingly deploying technology to keep travellers engaged and meet their needs on the go.

4. Which airlines are producing the best tech advancements to simplify the travelling experience?

Today all airlines are geared to provide exceptional experience to their customers, using technology interventions at every step in the travel cycle of the passenger. Rising passenger numbers and competition are forcing airlines to differentiate their offerings to increase market share.

Technology has been playing a key role in optimising operational cost over the years and today it has moved to the front line at attract, engage and retain the digitally connected traveller.

Most airlines are trying to differentiate via the customer experience that equals to a seamless brand experience across the passenger journey. The importance of this is also reflected in IATA’s Simplify the Business (StB) initiatives which focus on differentiated product offerings, real time interaction and hassle free experience for passengers.

In order to achieve this ideal state, most systems in the airline’s IT landscape have to either evolve or be replaced with newer technology and with limited budgets. The entire heterogeneous ecosystem has to simplify and work as one single unit to deliver a smooth flying experience.

Some key areas for technology investments include:

1. Next Gen Portals: To create a content rich omni-channel experience, sell differentiated offerings (both seats and ancillaries) and enable self-service options.

Most carriers today have implemented such projects to generate revenue and also provide indirect cost savings on GDS fee, global call centres, back office operations etc.

2. Mobility: has been widely used to enable the mobile workforce to deliver the brand promise to its customers. While carriers in America like Delta first leveraged it for on-board retail on regional sectors, full service carriers have adopted it to provide real time information to cabin crew for delivering better and personalised on-board service.

Some airlines are also using tablet devices for inflight entertainment and exploring the BYOD option.

3. Wearable Technology: Airlines like Virgin Atlantic, Air Berlin, Veuling and Spring airlines have adopted wearable technology, replacing boarding passes, providing flight, baggage and airport information.

On the employee side it is used to provide real time information to ground staff and crew for delivering personalised and contextual service to passengers.

4. Airport modernization: airports are fast tracking their check-in, security and boarding procedures by implementing self-service kiosks, electronic gates, advanced screening mechanisms, real time flight and airport information for e.g. KLM was one of the pioneers to adopt baggage self-drop at Schiphol airport.

In addition to upgrades to existing systems some carriers like American Airlines have adopted iBeacon technology for providing contextual information.

5. Drones: used for aircraft maintenance checks make the process faster and more accurate especially in times of disruption. Easy Jet has been one of the early adopters of this technology to ensure on-time service.

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