Wanted: Sparkling Idea for Personalized Travel Information

Aviation Managers provide sights into the current digital practice of their companies at the Aviation Symposium in Frankfurt, November 2017/Photos: jwm

Airline managers see significant changes as well as opportunities for their companies through digitization. It is undisputed: the expectations are high. Leading airlines have long invested considerable sums in digital initiatives, but the very individual passenger information for the journey from A to B is still coming.
At the Aviation Symposium in Frankfurt at the end of November, Heike Birlenbach, Senior Vice President Sales Hub Airlines of the Lufthansa Group, Joerg Tuensmeyer, Sales Director of British Airways for Europe, Africa and Latin America, as well as Dr. Ing. Pierre Dominique Prümm, responsible for flight operations and terminal management at Fraport, provided insights into the current digital practice of their companies.
The Lufthansa Group has proclaimed 2017 the ‘Year of Digitization’ and provided 500 million Euro by 2020. For Heike Birlenbach, the benefits of digitization mean that passengers can be addressed individually.

Simplicity and human touch
“Customers are looking for simplicity and the ‘human touch’ in the right places, they want to know what is actually in the purchased package, where the luggage is and see on their smartphone, on which conveyor belt the luggage arrives at the destination,” said Birlenbach. It is important to stay in contact with passengers during the journey and find out when they need information. Decisive is the exact analysis of existing customer data. Customers want to decide for themselves which data they provide and know what happens to the data. If they provided the data relevant to the journey, airlines of the Lufthansa Group could, for example, carry out the check-in process automatically for them. Lufthansa.com, Austrian.com and Swiss.com will soon be merged into a large marketplace. Working together with ‘Fliggy’, the travel platform of Alibaba, one of China’s largest online services, Google and Kayak helps placing offers where customers are. The employees who have to be taken on this digitization journey also played an important role. The design of the future workplaces and the development of competence are of great importance.

According to Joerg Tuensmeyer, at British Airways, the biennial cost reduction process meant that employees had to shoulder more and more and had less customer contact. Meanwhile, they have set up a Salesforce with the goal: “More customer contact with fewer employees.” At the same time, supporting systems have been developed. The new Salesforce is a great thing, but a change process that should not be underestimated. If one fails to convince the employees, the best digital process would be useless and a flop.

Airport management is an orchestration of different partners and interests. Fraport, Dr. Pierre Dominique Prümm said, has to have the processes of all partners in view and control. For Fraport, digitization means open systems that are transparent to every partner.The most important tool is the database AODB (Airport Operational Data Base) in which the data of every single suitcase, passenger and aircraft flow. 39 proprietary systems and 27 partner systems permanently fed or used data. There are two data centers, an ON airport and an OFF airport. To optimize the runway system and airside management, A-CDM is used to permanently simulate and optimize airport operations. Cockpit crews, for example, specify when off-blocks are possible, Fraport, when the runway system is free, ground handling, when the last suitcase will be loaded and the air traffic control, when the slot is free. Every A-CDM partner can constantly monitor the process. All this will happen in the future in connection with other major European airports. The control of passenger flows in the terminals is also digital. Digital measurements and dynamic signs that can be changed as needed support the system. Fraport meanwhile provides information for passengers on an APP from the data of operational processes.

The Fraport manager still believes that airports, airlines and other system partners are still too much in their own ‘silos’. Fraport itself, is a good example, he says. Although the digitalisation of their own processes is fully under control, the customer wants to be informed individually. He wants to know if there is a traffic jam on the way to the airport, if the S-Bahn is late, how much time has to be scheduled for the safety checks and how to get on at the destination. The passenger wanted the very specific information for his trip from A to B, but the industry would still have no solution. His concern is that someday someone else has the idea, Google or Alexa for example. jwm

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