January 16, 2015

eGate’s Top 5 List of Innovative Moves Airlines Should Make in 2015

The New Year is a time when many technology analysts, influencers, and leaders share their ideas and predictions for how the e-world will evolve in the next 365 days. eGate provides its top 5 list of technology improvements airlines need to make to truly innovate in 2015.

The New Year is a time when many technology analysts, influencers, and leaders share their ideas and predictions for how the e-world will evolve in the next 365 days. Forbes recently released an article titled, “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015” and it covers everything from pervasive computing to advanced analytics to risk-based security. In the past, these types of strategic technology trends had little impact on airlines that disconnected from the digital world as soon as they taxied from the gate. But, today’s passengers are no longer accepting to be disconnected during their flight and the demand for onboard connectivity will only continue to rise. With that connectivity comes and incredible opportunity for airlines to take advantage of advances that were previously 30,000 feet out of their grasp.

And, what are the advantages of being an innovator? Delta just recently appeared on Inc. magazine’s list of the great comeback stories for 2014. Delta secured that coveted spot on the list because they got it; gas prices and competition will always be tough, that’s a constant in the airline business. But, when they looked beyond the pressures of the minutia of their day to day, they saw the big picture; innovation will always put you in the lead. However, the innovation you deliver onboard will be driven by the innovation you adopt in the back office. Here’s eGate’s top 5 list of things airlines need to do to innovate truly:

  1. Increased Connectivity, Good. Increased Data Exposure, Bad.
    As more airlines adopt in-flight Wi-Fi and explore new opportunities like NFC for onboard sales and services, the challenge will be to protect the credit card and personal information they collect during each flight. Data security for airlines is far more complicated than a typical business. Every day of the year an airline is responsible for managing thousands of mobile POS devices, which are connecting to the corporate network from points worldwide. According to IATA, an average of eight million people fly every day. In comparison, Wal-Mart, the No. 1 ranked U.S. retailer serves ~14 million customers a day, according to Statistics Brain. Collectively, the airline industry can transact in the air almost as much as the largest U.S. retailer on the ground.

    Not only is onboard data security a new frontier for airlines, but they are also dealing with more transactions and a much more complex set of variables that across state and country lines. Investing in technology in the back office will help reduce potential human-based errors and better connect onboard sales in real-time with the corporate network. This focus on back office systems will diminish lag time between connecting onboard sales and credit card data and better enable fraud detection. Working with the right security consultants and making smart security software decisions will also be key to an airline’s success.

  2. Onboard Self-Serve Picks Up Pace 
    Sitting there waiting for your first cup of coffee, a snack or a glass of wine while the crew prepares for flight service can sometimes feel like an eternity. The trend toward offering in-flight self-service options has the capability of improving the passenger experience exponentially. And, this type of service venue will bring an endless number of opportunities for an airline to showcase new food and beverage options outside the confinements of a typical service trolley.

    However, a poorly stocked self-service option could cause a negative passenger experience vs. the positive one you hoped to create. Conversely, overstocking brings legacy weight, fuel burn, and wastage issues. Gaining a true and near-real-time understanding of passenger demand will enable airlines to stock self-service options effectively. Using a combination of business intelligence and analytics, preorder and pre-selection as well as onboard service management technology solutions will provide the logic needed to connect an airline’s supply chain intelligently to actual consumption. Trying to accomplish this level of supply and demand with legacy and manual processes will prove impossible in the new consumer era of instant gratification.

  3. Customer Relationship Management Is More Than A Loyalty Program
    According to research firm Return Path, 41 percent of consumers buy more from retailers who send personalized emails based on past buying behaviors. Airlines are not exempt from this new consumer evolution. Your passenger today wants you to know what they want and when they want it without being asked. The new consumer expectation is that you should just know. Similar to how Pandora knows what songs you want to hear based on past selections and how online retailers provide suggested items based on past purchases, passengers today want you to know that they like the window seat, they only drink red wine and that they always order the beef meal. The good news is that technology exists today to enable airlines to learn passenger behavior and help you deliver what they want, when they want, without even having to ask.

  4. Irregular Operation or Opportunity?
    Irregular operations happen on varying levels for airlines every day of every year. Although technology adoption decisions for airlines are often driven by frontline improvements for better customer experience, revenue drivers, etc., there is a significant business opportunity for airlines that streamline and automate their back office operations.

    For example, an airline managing a major change in flight times due to the weather condition could update all meals for any impacted flight before the onsite catering teams prepared the service. On the operational side, this would represent incredible savings in wasted food items. Additionally, they could easily add a complimentary item to improve the passenger experience. Remember how much positive publicity Frontier received when the pilot bought pizza for all of his passengers when their flight was delayed? Imagine being able to empower your catering and onboard teams to deliver a similar experience? Airlines can gain incredible control over their operations and passenger relations, ultimately driving positive change even in adverse situations by merging the real-world onboard-life with the backend services powering it.

  5. Better Connected Operations and a More Informed Team Will Improve Service, Delivery, and Experience
    Today’s consumer not only wants more selection, they want it now. In our hyper-connected world that demand doesn’t change when a consumer becomes your passenger. Putting your cabin and crew in the air without out the tools and technology to connect back to the home network puts them and the services you deliver at a severe disadvantage. And, as the lines between in-flight services and passenger experience blur, it will become increasingly critical for airlines to better understand how improved food and beverage storage, inventory, selection, loading, stowage and supply influence the passenger experience. Airlines will be able to respond more efficiently and effectively to changing passenger needs and market dynamics by converging supply chains, technology, distribution channels, back office processes and vendor community interactions.