Interview with Chai Eamsiri, CEO THAI Airways – Embracing digital
This short interview with Chai Eamsiri, explores THAI Airways’ evolving relationship with digitisation. In line with their rehabilitation plan, the airline has shifted their approach, positioning digitisation at its heart. This evolution translates across the company from running operations with half the previous staffing levels to the different ways of reaching out to customers.
How are digital investments helping to grow your airline’s revenue?
What changes have you made to enhance the sales experience for your customers?
How will the return of China’s tourist market impact your strategy?
United Airlines and Archer Aviation announce first commercial electric air taxi route
Yesterday, Archer Aviation and United Airlines announced their plans to launch the first air taxi route in Chicago, between O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Vertiport Chicago from 2025. Archer design and develop electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for use in urban air mobility networks. For more information on the history of the start-up’s ties with the airline giant read here.
The pair and seeking to provide a “safe, sustainable, low noise, and cost-competitive alternative to ground transportation.” The initial point to point route using Archer’s eVTOL aircraft will reduce the journey from O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Vertiport Chicago to ten minutes, down from over one hour at rush hour.
Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures said:
“Both Archer and United are committed to decarbonising air travel and leveraging innovative technologies to deliver on the promise of the electrification of the aviation industry […] Once operational, we’re excited to offer our customers a more sustainable, convenient, and cost-effective mode of transportation during their commutes to the airport.”
Governon JB Pritzker highlighted the sustainability potential from the partnership:
“Here in Illinois, we are taking bold steps to lead the clean revolution – paving the way for a more sustainable future for our state, our nation, and our world […] I can’t think of a better team than Archer and United to partner with as we work to ensure our existing aviation infrastructure can support this new and exciting form of transportation. This partnership is just another way that we will achieve our goal of transitioning to 100 per cent clean energy by 2050 – all while saving Illinoisans money and creating thousands of good paying jobs in the process.”
According to the press release, Archer and United’s early launch routes will focus on airport to city centre transportation aka. “trunk” routes before expanding to “branch” routes connecting the surrounding communities.
Interview with Aldric Chau, General Manager Digital, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited – Generative AI, data science, and tech trends
In this insightful interview with Aldric Chau, General Manager Digital, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, the conversation explores the prevalence of data science and digital innovations for the industry broadly, before focusing in on how they materialise at Cathay Pacific.
Here, Aldric also identifies the tech trends he foresees having the greatest impact on the industry in the next few years and explores the potential of generative AI and ChatGPT.
In what ways has data science influenced the industry, and how is Cathay Pacific leveraging this?
Can you explain what drives Cathay Pacific’s digital transformation?
Would you be able to outline some of the digital product innovations with the most power to transform the industry?
Could you name two or three tech trends that you think will have the biggest impact on the industry in the coming year?
Interview with Andreas Slettvoll, CEO CHOOOSE – Sustainability and regional trends
At Aviation Festival Asia 28th February – 1 March 2023, Andreas Slettvoll, CEO CHOOOSE discussed some of the climate-focused tech company’s recent partnerships, explored sustainability trends in the APAC region, and explained the dynamics between carbon capture and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), all in this five-minute interview.
From the geographical nuances of sustainability to the dynamics of corporate travel emissions, this brief interview gives a useful insight into the factors at play in reducing aviation emissions.
Could you tell us a bit about your partnership with JetBlue and what is happening here?
Could you explain your partnership with SAP and how the client app will help corporate travellers reduce their emissions?
What trends are you seeing in the APAC region with regards to discussions around sustainability?
Could you explain a bit about carbon capture’s relationship to SAF?
ZeroAvia and Fortum partner to develop hydrogen production
This week, ZeroAvia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fortum, one of Europe’s cleanest energy producers, focusing primarily on the Nordic region.
The Nordic countries consist of some of the most sustainable countries in the world including Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. These countries have ambitious goals with regards to reducing emissions. Last year, Denmark set 2030 as their target for dropping all fossil fuels from domestic aviation. Additionally, Finland set their sights on zero-emission domestic air travel by 2045.
ZeroAvia, a hydrogen-electric aircraft developer has a mission to see “a hydrogen-electric engine in every aircraft.” Only founded in 2017, the company already made history with a zero-emission flight back in January. This week, they announced a signed MoU with Fortum “to explore developing hydrogen production and refuelling infrastructure at airports in the region.”
“Scaling the renewable energy capacity and reducing costs pose clear, but fully surmountable, challenges to hydrogen as the fuel to power truly clean flights. Fortum is well positioned as a partner in this space, given the company’s clean energy focus and its emerging hydrogen leadership.”
According to the press release, the pair will look at removing emissions from flights and the wider airport ecosystem more broadly, exploring the potential development of on-the-ground hydrogen infrastructure at relevant airports.
The collaboration between ZeroAvia and Fortum creates a fertile ground for the challenges surrounding scalability to be worked through, hopefully producing advances in the hydrogen-electric space and pushing the industry closer to a sustainable future.
Korean Air harnesses Korean culture on a global scale with YG Entertainment agreement
Last week, Korean Air and YG Entertainment (YG) announced they signed an agreement to promote Korean culture globally.
The press release described the agreement as “a stepstone in further promoting K-culture and its brand value by leveraging Korean Air’s extensive global network and YG’s role as a pioneer in K-pop culture.”
YG Entertainment is a South Korean multinational entertainment agency operating as a record label, talent agency, music production company, event management and concert production company, and music publishing house.
The airline already embraces and promotes Korean culture onboard with traditional meal options and an expanding in-flight entertainment array which will now include more Korean dramas, entertainment shows, and K-pop.
This in itself is not necessarily a new approach. For years airlines have been translating their local culture into the passenger experience. For example, Eithad Airways designed amenity kits based on designs use on traditional blankets, cushions, and Bedouin tents in the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, Malaysia Airlines crafted their inflight experience blending traditional musical instruments to “offer a taste of Malaysia.” Yin May Lau, Group Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer, Malaysia Airlines expands on the influence of Malaysian culture on the airline in this exclusive interview.
However, Korean Air’s collaboration with YG takes this to the next level.
Explaining their collaboration, Kenneth Chang, Korean Air’s CMO said:
“Although the aviation and entertainment sectors have different characteristics, we expect Korean Air’s solid global network and YG’s insight in K-pop content to be leveraged to create synergy.”
Detailed in the announcement was Korean Air’s first step of becoming the official airline sponsor of YG artist Blackpink’s world tour, providing discounted plane tickets and waiving additional baggage fees for artists and staff part of the tour for limited time. YG will in turn provide concert tickets, signed CDs and posters for Korean Air’s SKYPASS members and Korean Air passengers will enjoy a special welcome message by Blackpink on board.
The symbiotic collaboration between the airline and YG to promote Korean culture should help Korean Air to expand their recognition on the global stage, and enhance the airline’s brand.
Interview with Dr. Kerem Kızıltunç, CIO Turkish Airlines – Technology and the aviation industry
This 15-minute interview with Dr. Kerem Kızıltunç, CIO Turkish Airlines and General Manager of Turkish Airlines Technology, covers a wide range of topics varying from the most promising use cases of generative AI to the redesigning of Turkish Airlines’ tech infrastructure to support digital transformation.
Towards the end of the conversation, the CIO selected several of the top technology trends he foresees having the greatest impact on the industry in the coming few years highlighting payments, AI, connectivity, mobile, and more as areas to watch in the near future.
Could you pick out the three most important investments to prioritise this year?
How are you redesigning your tech infrastructure to support Turkish Airlines’ digital transformation?
Can you outline some of the most exciting use cases of generative AI like ChatGPT across the industry?
How are Turkish Airlines transforming their retail offering?
Can you identify the top technology trends that you think will make the biggest impact on the industry within the next three years?
“A virtual credential derived from a state-issued passport and stored on the holder’s smartphone, being an exact representation of the electronic machine-readable travel document, which includes both the biographical data and facial image of the holder.”
DTC is designed to upkeep necessary, high levels of security while speeding up passengers’ journey through airport checks.
The pilot involves IDEMIA’s partnership with a Dutch Consortium consisting of the Ministry of Justice & Security, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Defense/Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, co-funded by the European Commission.
Launched by the European Commission, the pilot will test the use of DTC-1 on KLM flights between Canada and the Netherlands for three months. Passengers involved in the trial can create a DTC on a dedicated mobile app in before of their journey. This will allow them to share relevant data in advance, making their movement through the airport faster and smoother.
The video linked below details the process.
The pilot will be trialled for three months before “most likely” being deployed at a broader European level.
Interview with Ho Hoong Mau, Regional Director, APAC Sales, Plusgrade, and Paul Carroll, Group Chief Revenue and Network Officer, AirAsia
At Aviation Festival Asia in Singapore, AirAsia and Plusgrade announced their expansive multi-year and multi-product partnership. This will give AirAsia customers the opportunity to bid for upgrades and reserve extra seating space for travellers.
The collaboration between the ancillary revenue solutions provider and Asia’s leading low-cost carrier develops the airline’s ancillary revenue and expands Plusgrade’s presence in the APAC region.
To learn more about the partnership and its wider significance, watch this short five-minute interview.
How will this partnership between Plusgrade and AirAsia enhance the overall customer experience of airline travelers? Is this going to be available for all the AirAsia brands including Thai AirAsia X, AirAsia Indonesia, AirAsia Philippines etc?
Can you expand on this interesting opportunity that customers are enabled with to bid for more premium service offerings on flights?
How will this complement AirAsia’s overall ancillary revenue strategy? Flatbeds and hotbeds for bidding are obviously great offerings; will there be other collaborations with Plusgrade in the future (like speedpass etc)?
How do you think this partnership aligns with Plusgrade’s strategic direction? And will this partnership lead to future ventures with AirAsia?
As a leader in the ancillary revenue and commercial travel industry, how do you think this partnership and venture will shape the outlook of the industry in the near and medium term?
Interview with Sumesh Patel, APAC President, SITA – Megatrends, collaboration, and Gen Z
Sumesh Patel is responsible for developing and driving the strategic direction of SITA in the Asia Pacific region.
In this five-minute interview, Sumesh highlights the ways the pandemic has transformed the industry for the better, how passenger needs are changing, and the evolving relationship between key industry stakeholders. SITA’s APAC President also discusses megatrends for the the next 2-3 years, picking out a few key shifts to be mindful of as the industry advances.
What has been the most exciting development in the industry’s digital transformation journey so far?
How do you think the pandemic changed the relationship between various industry stakeholders?
As the APAC region resumes international travel, what is one key lesson learned from the last few years that we must take forward?
What are the megatrends that you expect to impact the industry in the next 2-3 years?
SITA and Lufthansa address the industry’s $2.2 billion pain point with the automation of reflighting of baggage
Mishandled baggage causes huge inconvenience for passengers, tainting their perception of the journey and causing unnecessary stress. It is also detrimental to the aviation industry more broadly, costing $2.2 billion in 2022 with over 4 million bags mishandled during transfer.
According to a recent press release, SITA estimates that widespread automation of reflighting baggage could save the industry $30 million a year. On 15th March, the IT provider and Lufthansa announced they are pairing up to address this industry pain point by automating bag reflight operations.
Sergio Colella, SITA President for Europe said:
“SITA’s automated baggage reflighting solution is built on the back of past successful co-innovations with Lufthansa and meets a critical industry baggage management requirement as we see the return to the skies. Our aim to make sure that when a bag is mishandled, it is reunited with its owner as soon and simply as possible.”
SITA’s WorldTracer Auto Reflight digitises the process of reflighting baggage, reducing the need for human intervention and minimizing cost on the operations side. It automatically suggests suitable flight routing for the bags and the original bag tag is used, updating the baggage system with the new bag routing. Also addressing the passenger experience aspect, the solution proactively notifies passengers of any delay with their baggage and collects delivery details allowing passengers to bypass the baggage hall entirely.
The solution uses automation to address operational costs as well as the passenger experience, transforming this costly industry pain point.
Interview with Mandy Ng, CEO of HK Express – The benefits of digitisation
In this five-minute interview, Mandy Ng, CEO of HK Express pointed towards digitisation as a priority for the airline. Throughout the conversation, Mandy outlined the ways a strong digital approach underpins success across a multitude of areas for HK Express. This includes keeping customers engaged by responding to post-pandemic expectations, improving efficiency across the board, unlocking the agility required from LCCs, and more.
The HK Express CEO also elaborates on how ramping up digital strategy has helped while the region re-emerges from the pandemic and discusses the improvements in conversion rates as a consequence of upgrading the airline’s mobile app.
How is the current macro economic climate impacting bookings and yields?
What are the challenges of scaling back up as the industry re-emerges in this region?
How much of a priority is your digital strategy and what impact does that have on the passenger experience?
United Airlines invests $5 million in algae biofuel company. Which SAF problem does this address?
United Airlines has made a $5 million investment in Viridos, a leading algae biofuel company working to produce sustainable, low-carbon, algae-based jet fuel at a commercially deployable level. Compared to traditional jet fuel, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced from Viridos algae oil is expected to have a reduced carbon footprint of 70 per cent making it an effective, more environmentally conscious alternative.
The investment was made by the United Airlines Ventures (UAV) Sustainable Flight Fund whose President, Mike Leskinen, said:
“SAF is proven, scalable, and the best tool we have to reduce our carbon emissions from flying, but we face a significant shortage of available feedstock […] Viridos’ algae-based biofuel technology has the potential to help solve our supply problem without the need for farmland or other agricultural resources and marks our inaugural investment in our new cross-industry UAV Sustainable Flight Fund.”
Here, the UAV President outlines a potential paradox between SAF feedstock and environmental priorities.
As aviation attempts to mediate its impact on the planet, availability of SAF becomes crucial. IATA estimates that SAF could contribute to 65 per cent of the reduction in emissions needed to reach net-zero by 2050. Furthermore, the World Economic Forum’s Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition aims for the industry to run on 10 per cent SAF by 2030, up from 0.1 per cent in 2021. To meet these demands, there must be a significant increase in production. However, it is important this rapid scaling up does not have a detrimental knock on effect at feedstock level.
Currently, a few of the key resources used to produce SAF are used cooking oil, municipal waste, and waste animal fat. As noted by BloombergNEF, “about 6 million metric tons of used cooking oil and 27 million metric tons of animal fats are traded globally every year, which would cover only around 5 per cent of jet fuel consumption.” To meet the quantities required for the industry to significantly reduce its impact, considerably more feedstock will be required. However, as quoted in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal:
“You can’t just increase everybody’s consumption of french fries because we decided we need to double the amount of used cooking oil.” – BloombergNEF’s Ms. Davies
As SAF plays a substantial role in the industry’s reduction of its environmental impact, the origins of the feedstock must be kept in mind.
Discussing their process, Oliver Fetzer, CEO of Viridos said:
“By establishing production sites to grow Viridos-engineered microalgae in saltwater, we are creating the foundation for a biofuel future that moves away from fossil fuels without competing for precious resources such as fresh water and arable land.”
Viridos algae is grown in vessels containing seawater, allowing “contained deployment in hot and dry locations without taxing scarce freshwater and arable land resources, while eliminating runoff.” The algae also has high surface area oil productivities allowing for a high output in comparatively small areas. Moreover, through bioengineering microalgae, oil productivity compared to wild algae can be improved seven fold making it efficient.
As demand for SAF rises, it is crucial that the nuances around the feedstocks used are kept in mind.
Amadeus and Microsoft’s report ‘Delivering Traveller Value’ restates the potential of data
Last week, Amadeus and Microsoft published a co-authored a whitepaper exploring ‘how new technologies will make the experience of travel better.’ The report broadly explores how an understanding of the ‘purpose’ and ‘context’ of each trip would unlock value for the travel industry whilst greatly improving the experience for each passenger.
One facet of the report explores the central role of data in achieving the next stage of the sector’s evolution. The paper stated “the industry will not be able to move forward without more effective usage of data.” One such improvement, the whitepaper advocates, is a more collaborative approach across the entire passenger journey.
“Too often different stakeholders – airlines, hotels, agents, and ground transportation cannot share what they know about travellers’ preferences. Data is siloed, both within organisations and across the industry. If a plane is late arriving, a hotel may not be aware, or a transfer may depart without the delayed traveller. This will have to fundamentally change if the industry is to realize the maximum potential of each trip.”
Importantly, the paper stresses the need to dismantle these siloes, navigating a path by which insights can be shared.
Wolfgang Krips, Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy, at Amadeus said:
“When a person travels, they go through several channels, generating data each time. Our goal is to create a link between each of these data pools and to allow our customers to extract relevant analysis, ensuring compliance at all times with applicable legislation and the highest security standards.”
This has the potential to transform the service the industry can provide passengers, creating a seamless and personalised experience whilst establishing new revenue streams. Through a collaborative approach to data, the passenger journey can be transformed, reducing friction and unlocking new possibilities.
Emirates airlines introduce a check-in robot announcing “we’ll be taking it to a step higher”
Last week, Emirates airlines, one of two flag carriers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it is set to introduce over 200 multilingual robots to improve check-in services for their passengers. These check-in robots are AI-enabled and will help the airline to efficiently process high levels of passengers, avoiding bottlenecks at the airport with the user-friendly, guided machines.
Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer said:
“We are the first airline globally that has introduced or plans to introduce portable check-in robotics. We will be the first one to use a robot that can complete all check-in processes, including issuing a boarding pass that will be sent to your registered number or email, and facial recognition by scanning your passport. […] You will go through the passport control and then go through the gates or the lounges without having to show you documentation again.”
Emirates’ check-in robot on display at the airline’s aviation innovation event ForsaTEK. Image credit: Deena Kamel / The National
Offering assistance in a minimum of six different languages, the technology is just one product of Emirates’ investment in tech and innovation. This AI-enabled technology will facilitate a seamless experience for passengers, but this is only the beginning.
Emirates’ COO explained:
“We will be improving it and taking it to a higher level where it will be able to link with immigration to establish whether you have the right permission to enter the country, whether you have got the right visa, give you a hotel booking confirmation, or book a hotel.”
Rolling out initially at Terminal 3 of Dubai International Airport, the first robots will be seen in the next few months and will increase in number over the coming years.
The challenges generative AI poses for the industry
Generative AI, “artificial intelligence that can generate novel content, rather than simply analysing or acting on existing data” has caught the world’s attention in recent months. Open AI‘s state-of-the-art language processing AI model, ChatGPT, sparked widespread discussion of the technology’s potential, but what are the challenges that come with generative AI? Below is a conversation with ChatGPT, exploring the difficulties that the technology poses with regards to the aviation industry.
Q: How will generative AI impact the aviation industry?
A: Generative AI, which is a subset of artificial intelligence that involves using algorithms to generate new data, has the potential to impact the aviation industry in several ways. Here are a few examples:
Improved aircraft design: Generative AI can be used to generate and evaluate new aircraft designs. By analyzing data on aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, and other factors, generative AI can help engineers design aircraft that are more efficient, safer, and easier to maintain.
Predictive maintenance: Airlines can use generative AI to analyze data from sensors on aircraft to predict when components will fail. This can help airlines avoid costly unscheduled maintenance and reduce downtime for aircraft.
Air traffic control: Generative AI can be used to analyze and optimize air traffic control systems, helping to reduce congestion and improve safety.
Pilot training: Generative AI can be used to simulate a wide range of flight conditions, allowing pilots to train in a safe and controlled environment. This can help to improve pilot skills and reduce the risk of accidents.
Overall, generative AI has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency, safety, and profitability of the aviation industry. However, it is important to carefully consider the potential risks and ethical implications of using these technologies, particularly when it comes to issues such as privacy, data security, and job displacement.
Q: What would you say the challenges are of integrating generative AI to the aviation industry?
A: While there are many potential benefits of integrating generative AI into the aviation industry, there are also several challenges that need to be considered. Here are a few examples:
Data quality: Generative AI relies on large amounts of high-quality data to generate accurate results. In the aviation industry, obtaining this data can be challenging due to factors such as data privacy concerns and the complexity of aircraft systems.
Safety and regulation: Safety is a critical concern in the aviation industry, and any new technology must be thoroughly tested and validated before it can be integrated into operational systems. In addition, regulatory agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must approve any new technology before it can be used in commercial aviation.
Integration with existing systems: Generative AI systems must be integrated with existing aviation systems, such as air traffic control and aircraft maintenance systems. This can be challenging due to the complexity of these systems and the need to ensure that the new technology does not disrupt existing operations.
Ethical concerns: The use of generative AI raises ethical concerns related to issues such as data privacy, bias, and job displacement. For example, the use of AI in pilot training could potentially reduce the need for human pilots, leading to job losses in the industry.
Q: Could you please elaborate on the challenges of integrating generative AI with existing systems?
A: Integrating generative AI with existing aviation systems can be a complex and challenging task. Here are some specific challenges that need to be addressed:
Compatibility: Generative AI systems must be compatible with existing aviation systems, such as air traffic control and aircraft maintenance systems. This requires ensuring that the data formats, communication protocols, and interfaces used by the new system are compatible with the existing systems.
Complexity: Aviation systems are highly complex and often involve multiple interconnected systems that must work together seamlessly. Any new technology must be able to integrate with these systems without disrupting existing operations or compromising safety.
Security: Aviation systems are also highly sensitive and require robust security measures to protect against cyber threats. Any new technology must be designed with security in mind and must be able to integrate with existing security measures to ensure that sensitive data is protected.
Reliability: The aviation industry has very high standards for reliability, and any new technology must meet these standards. Generative AI systems must be thoroughly tested and validated to ensure that they can operate reliably in a real-world aviation environment.
Training: Integrating generative AI with existing aviation systems also requires training personnel to use the new technology effectively. This requires developing training programs and materials that can effectively teach personnel how to use the new technology.
Overall, integrating generative AI with existing aviation systems is a complex task that requires careful consideration of a range of factors. This requires collaboration between stakeholders in the aviation industry, including regulators, airlines, and technology providers, to ensure that the technology is developed and implemented in a safe, responsible, and effective manner.
Q: Can you give more detail on the ethical concerns of generative AI?
A: Generative AI raises several ethical concerns that must be carefully considered before integrating the technology into the aviation industry. Here are some specific ethical concerns:
Data privacy: Generative AI relies on large amounts of data to generate accurate results, and this data may include sensitive information such as personal information about passengers or flight crew. There is a risk that this data could be misused or mishandled, potentially leading to privacy violations.
Bias: Generative AI systems may be biased if they are trained on data that is not representative of the entire population. This could lead to unfair or discriminatory outcomes, particularly when it comes to issues such as hiring or resource allocation.
Job displacement: The use of generative AI in the aviation industry could potentially lead to job displacement, particularly in areas such as pilot training or aircraft maintenance. This could have a significant impact on workers and communities, particularly if there are no alternative job opportunities available.
Accountability: Generative AI systems are often opaque and difficult to understand, making it challenging to assign responsibility when something goes wrong. This raises questions about accountability and the ability to hold individuals or organizations responsible for the outcomes of AI-generated decisions.
Safety: The use of generative AI in safety-critical systems, such as aircraft design or air traffic control, raises concerns about the safety of these systems. There is a risk that errors or biases in the AI system could lead to accidents or other safety incidents.
Overall, the ethical concerns of generative AI must be carefully considered and addressed before integrating the technology into the aviation industry. This requires collaboration between stakeholders in the aviation industry, including regulators, airlines, and technology providers, to ensure that the technology is developed and implemented in a safe, responsible, and ethical manner.
Q: Overall, do you think generative AI’s contribution to the aviation industry would outweigh the challenges?
A: Generative AI has the potential to bring significant benefits to the aviation industry, such as improved safety, increased efficiency, and cost savings. However, integrating generative AI into the aviation industry also poses several challenges, such as data quality, safety and regulation, integration with existing systems, and ethical concerns.
Ultimately, the success of generative AI in the aviation industry will depend on how effectively these challenges are addressed. While some challenges may be difficult to overcome, with careful planning, collaboration, and investment, many of these challenges can be mitigated or overcome.
Therefore, whether generative AI’s contribution to the aviation industry outweighs the challenges will depend on the specific applications and contexts in which the technology is used, as well as the effectiveness of the measures taken to address the challenges. If the benefits of using generative AI in aviation are significant enough and the technology is implemented in a safe, responsible, and ethical manner, then the contribution of generative AI to the aviation industry could outweigh the challenges.
The Travel in Motion and Oystin teams attended Aviation Festival Asia this week. We had the opportunity to catch up with industry colleagues in warmer climates, and the opportunity to taste some fantastic local dishes too! Though there was one experience that we rarely get to trial at home in Europe: the super app.
Super apps are prominent here in Southeast Asia and China. They offer a wide range of financial instruments and online-to-offline services such as food delivery, package delivery and transportation. These super apps position themselves in their user’s daily life and create a marketplace around just about anything. The apps are typically connecting buyers with suppliers that, until now, may not have had a digital presence, for example taxi drivers, takeaway houses, and laundrettes.
The super apps have the similar measures for success: user acquisition and retention. It’s all about user activity (and accompanying revenue, of course). They prioritise having access to the right content overlaid with making a customer’s shopping, booking and fulfilment experience excellent. In doing so they increase their share of sales with the supplier, putting them in a superior distribution position. For some services they even set the price, for example with ride hailing.
Customers who find something easy to use return time and time again, often no longer giving the competitors a second look. The super apps are a snowball, the value users place in their brands are increasing and the more daily users they acquire, the easier it is to launch a successful new service.
Airlines too have capitalised on their well-known brand to become part of a user’s daily life, albeit in a different way – the loyalty programme partnership. Your wallet may contain a credit card with an airline logo, your supermarket may advertise the opportunity to earn points and whilst you top up fuel for your car, you may also be topping up your air miles account too.
Whilst airlines are striving to become better retailers, a super app is an extreme form and its value versus cost is unproven. Here are some questions to consider before going down this path:
“Is it a feasible proposition for an airline to execute on? Would it lead to positive daily experiences with its brand or lead to negative brand impact?”,
“Why would consumers choose an airline over Grab, Uber, WeChat etc…?”,
“Should an airline offer these additional services and become a more integral part of users’ daily lives?”,
“Does the current loyalty play, where airlines partner with everyday brands, already go far enough to build brand loyalty and affinity to the airline?”, and
“Would it lead to consumers valuing the airline brand so much that they don’t shop for flights elsewhere?”
Super apps are built on a deep motivation for excellent user experience, consistency, and commercial policies which promote an ease of doing business. To meet these expectations, super apps have modern, fast, and scalable systems.
One question that arises is whether super apps pose a risk to an airline’s distribution and commercial strategies, could a super app change the airline market in the same way it did for ride hailing. Very few super apps offer public transportation services today. Air Asia’s super app does sell flights and hotels. However, it is powered by an online travel agency (OTA) so the experience is limited to what the OTA can provide, which in turn is often limited by the functionality of the airline. Uber has recently launched trains and coaches on its app and has shown an intent to sell flights too. However, they obtain their content, they are likely to face the same issues as Air Asia, the experience they can provide is limited to what the airline’s capabilities are.
So, should an airline enter this space too? Are they at risk of missing out? Airlines have a lot of competing priorities to contend with, such as their own financial stability as they recover from the COVID-era. Purists may argue that airlines should focus on efficient, safe, and enjoyable transportation. Others within the airlines are focused on a diversification of income streams by leveraging the airline brand. An example of where this has been successful is the airline loyalty business units. They were able to raise funds during COVID, which for some airlines provided a significant lifeline.
Travel in Motion’s (TiM) opinion is that running a consistent experience across multiple services is not for the faint-hearted. This takes considerable focus to get it right, and that will lead to less attention on the airline’s core business. However, we do believe airlines still can learn a lot from the super app experience to guide their own digital offering. Offering relevant and personalised offers, easy-to-use booking systems and a well-designed digital experience to accompany the physical travel journey is extremely valuable to a growing segment of customers.
Airlines have already started down this path by pursuing modern offer and order management systems, a key enabler to meeting the modern customer’s expectation. Those systems could help airlines become a super app. However, we at TiM believe there are many areas airlines will choose to improve once they have a modern technology stack. In doing so they will strive to improve customer satisfaction, revenue, and de- risk being commoditised.
In the meantime, whether you are attended Aviation Festival Asia or not, consider downloading a super app and experience what your customers are experiencing on a daily basis.
AirAsia and Plusgrade Announce Partnership to Enable Bid for Upgrades and Extra Seating Space for Travelers
PRESS RELEASE: Montreal – Tuesday, February 28th, 2023
Expansive multi-year and multi-product Plusgrade and AirAsia partnership announced at Aviation Festival Asia in Singapore
AirAsia guests will soon have the opportunity to bid for upgrades and reserve empty seats beside them on flights
This is a significant partnership for Plusgrade as they continue to expand their footprint in the APAC region
Plusgrade, the leading provider of ancillary revenue solutions for the global travel industry, is proud to announce its partnership with AirAsia, Asia’s leading low-cost carrier. This extensive partnership will soon allow AirAsia customers to bid for upgrades and reserve the seat(s) beside them for extra space and comfort. The deal was unveiled today in Singapore at Aviation Festival Asia, the largest aviation tech event in Asia.
With the relaxation of the remaining travel restrictions in the Asia-Pacific region in early 2023, travel industry recovery is well underway. Ancillary services that delight customers and drive revenue will be an essential tool for airline, hotel and rail companies as travel returns to – or even exceeds – pre-pandemic levels. Today’s travellers are looking for streamlined travel experiences with a focus on comfort and innovative services to improve their journeys.
For consumers, ancillary services such as upgrades or the ability to reserve open seats beside them on their flight can make travel more enjoyable, giving them room to stretch out and relax, or enabling them to experience premium products and services that might otherwise be out of reach.
“We are thrilled to join forces with AirAsia to support them in driving meaningful ancillary revenue through incredible traveler experiences,” said Plusgrade CEO, Ken Harris. “We look forward to supporting AirAsia as they continue to innovate and develop new products and services for their customers, and to expanding our footprint in the thriving APAC region.”
Ms Karen Chan, Group Chief Commercial Officer at AirAsia added: “This collaboration will enable us to offer more passengers the chance to access our premium products and services, such as our award winning premium flatbeds or hot seats with extra legroom. We are confident that our guests will love this innovative and seamless way to enhance their travel experience.”
AirAsia is the World’s Best Low Cost Airline, flying to more than 130 destinations in the region and beyond. Founded in 2001, the airline has flown close to a billion passengers. With the resume of travel worldwide, AirAsia has gradually reinstated flights for many of its popular routes whilst launching new ones. AirAsia’s vision and mission have always been to serve the underserved. Throughout its two decades of service, the airline has connected people and places, and has largely been credited for democratising affordable air travel in the region with its now famous tagline ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’’.
Plusgrade powers the global travel industry with its portfolio of leading ancillary revenue solutions. Over 200 airline, hospitality, cruise, passenger rail, and financial services companies trust Plusgrade to create new, meaningful revenue streams through incredible customer experiences. As an ancillary revenue powerhouse, Plusgrade has generated billions of dollars in new revenue opportunities across its platform for its partners, while creating enhanced travel experiences for millions of their passengers and guests. Plusgrade was founded in 2009 with headquarters in Montreal and has offices around the world.
The future era of technology-driven smart airports
To keep pace with the ever-increasing needs and demands, airports worldwide are constantly evolving. With air travel on the rise again, airports are not just expected to facilitate passengers and cargo movement; they also need to expand their horizons to cover other crucial aspects, like:
Execution of seamless operations with low to minimal manual intervention,
Augmenting safety and health protocols,
Optimizing the use of facilities, preventing wastage, and becoming sustainable,
Scaling up scrutiny and security, and,
Boosting passenger experience.
At the same time, with the high scarcity of human resources in most of Europe and North America, the need to establish measures to utilize resources efficiently has never been as critical.
The challenges are not new; airports have been addressing them over the years by embracing technology at different stages of their growth. However, each of these challenges has evolved and needs airports to adopt state-of-the-art technologies to keep up with the changed dynamics. This evolving era of airport digitalization and digital disruption, which saw its inception decades back, constitutes what we call ”smart airports”.
Within the smart airport ecosystem
Smart airports stimulate the need for an integrated and comprehensive ecosystem that demands the airports to be not only fully functional but also intuitive, efficient, and predictive. This also requires that the manual airport processes, which are often slow and error-prone, be reduced and digitally governed to bring automation, efficiency, and accuracy to day-to-day functioning.
Smart airports are functional, intuitive, efficient, predictive, and digitally governed.
Therefore, it becomes imperative that digital technologies and solutions like cloud networks, biometrics, mobility solutions, data science and related fields, immersive technologies and IoT, and other sensors-based solutions, be leveraged increasingly to encompass the diverse areas of airport operations and processes.
Although the smart airport concept is blooming in several spheres, the following are the three regions where we think airports can drive maximum gains:
1. Achieving airport operational efficiency through data and digital engineering
Airports are structurally complex, and a single channel does not drive their smooth functioning. A deeper understanding of the intricate association and dependency of various airport departments has brought awareness that siloed operations cannot be the solution to achieving operational efficiency and resilience. Airport stakeholders need to be transparent and readily available with real-time data they can exchange to deliver consistent and exceptional performance.
With the right technology and data solutions, airport stakeholders can achieve efficiency and productivity.
To achieve this, more and more airports should start adopting networking and collaborative frameworks like AOP (Airport Operational Plan) and ACDM (Airline Airport Collaborative Decision Making). These frameworks encourage initiatives to promote data sharing and transparency within and between airports.
Data science and AI must be leveraged to derive meaningful insights from past and present data. Building such data-rich integration platforms can help airports extract immediate and real-time information from various interconnected departments. This will help smoothen communication and increase responsiveness in multiple ways. For instance:
Swift and efficient allocation of gates and counters to airlines
Smooth passenger flow management with better predictability
Better resource management
Improved runway slot adherence
Further, airports can also employ sensor-based solutions in various areas to improve efficiency. For example, using RFID-based solutions that can read data instantly from numerous items like luggage and cargo and can aid in bulk item transportation with proper tracking and tracing. Also, it simplifies the manual and time-consuming inspection of assets by instantly reading information like expiry date, next due scan date, etc., from the asset and sending it back to the data source.
Similarly, technology in the form of mobile solutions can also stand out in comparison to the usual paper-based checks. Their highly interactive and data-rich interfaces allow airport staff to send immediate updates, retrieve data, and take corrective actions.
2. Upscaling the passenger experience
Since passengers spend more than 60% of their total travel time at the airport premises, their comfort and convenience put a lot of onus on the airport’s authority. Even with many initiatives to smoothen the process, passengers invariably express their distress towards adhering to the airport’s elaborate checks and protocols. The actual journey that begins from flight take-off for passengers exhausts them beforehand due to the:
Need to reach airports hours before flights take off,
Long and unpredictable waiting times in several queues,
The exhaustive process of baggage tracking and collection,
Extensive scans and scrutiny, and,
Being unheard and feeling lost in the complex airport maze.
Understanding passengers’ needs, their interaction with various touch points across the whole journey, predicting their next move, recommending them with the right offer, and intuitively guiding them in the right way are some areas where airports can effectively act. Again, customer data plays an important role here. Keeping track of customer preferences, concerns, and historical transactions can help airports in improving those relationships and bring in a personal touch.
The long-term vision of airports for a passenger aims to shift the notion of “being stuck inside the airport” to “experiencing a world of leisure and excitement.”
With features like smart parking, virtual queues, digital identities, baggage notifications, personalized merchandizing and recommendations, smart menus and smart washrooms, virtual assistance, and an immersive feel, more and more airports can work to provide a different experience beyond the usual to the passengers.
3. Bringing in greener initiatives
Now that the aviation industry’s contribution towards global greenhouse emissions is well established (around 3% of the total emissions), airports need to pace up to achieve their target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 or before. The path to net zero is long and challenging, and although there are measures being taken, much is yet to be done in this zone.
By embracing smart operations using data and analytics, airports can reduce their carbon emissions.
Some ways to become a green airport would involve the following:
Tracking & MitigationThe first step requires thorough analysis and regular tracking of direct and indirect sources that contribute to emissions. After that, airports need to define immediate short-term and long-term sustainability targets. To achieve this, airports must start by leveraging sustainability tracking solutions and showing progress towards net zero objectives. For example, using cloud-based sustainability platforms that offer detailed dashboards and provide periodic details on fuel consumption, offset achieved, emissions via waste, business travel, etc., and other sources and provide a clear progress report using science-based targets.
Moderating the consumptionAlthough some airports are also considering shifting towards renewable energy sources by setting up solar panels and using CNG, reducing incidents from day-to-day airport operations (wherein the consumption of resources like fuel, water, and electricity goes much beyond the need) should also be tracked. Keeping a continuous and consistent check on these expenditures would certainly go a long way in keeping up with the net zero goals.
Technologies like sensor-based IoT devices could also be harnessed to regulate the usage of electricity, water, and air conditioning as per need by sensing a human presence. Similarly, computer vision-based ML solutions could be used to build smart dustbins that identify types of waste and help in proper disposal. Leveraging AI and analytics could aid airports in measuring the food, paper, and other waste passengers generate. This can help drive eco-conscious passenger initiatives.
In the stride to become exceptionally performant, there is a continuous need for airports to explore further upcoming avenues and adapt. Also, emerging technologies and innovations play a huge role in curating specific solutions, and the coming times will see them being leveraged even more. It would be apt to say that with all these digital disruptions, the long-term vision of airports will be to bring efficiency, comfort, and luxury inside the terminals.
Changi Airport looks to bridge manpower gap with autonomous vehicles
During the pandemic, the aviation industry lost 2.3 million jobs globally. As the world returns to travel there have been staff shortages worldwide, impacting the service that the sector can offer.
In a recent press release, Changi Airport discussed their experience of manpower shortages which were particularly notable for roles in the airside which the airport believed “if left unaddressed [would] pose a huge constraint for the future of Terminal 5’s operations.”
Ultimately, the airport group envisions a future where:
“A combination of multi-skilled airside workers will be augmented by different types of autonomous vehicles to deliver seamless operations.”
Building towards this goal, Changi Airport Group signed a formal partnership agreement with Aurrigo International plc, a leading provider of airport transport technology, for the continued joint development and testing of the company’s autonomous vehicles.
Identifying the driving of baggage tractors as requiring the highest number of drivers in airside operations, the airport has been exploring the automation of these processes since February 2022.
The multi year partnership builds on existing trials of an autonomous individual baggage trailer, Auto-Dolly, as well as the Auto-Dolly Tug, capable of towing three additional trailers, driving the next phase of development.
As technology progresses, it can automate more processes, bridging the gaps that staff shortages present, and facilitating the redistribution of the work force to optimise overall operations.
On Tuesday, a panel of industry experts will discuss the role of digital transformation in ramping up airport operations in Asia’s post-pandemic recovery era. Get your ticket here.