Digital transformation in the aviation industry

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more people were flying than ever before. Each year, passenger numbers through major and regional UK airports increased, with more routes and better choice for all types of aviation – including consumer holidays abroad, ‘staycations’, and regional business commuting. As a result, the need for aviation organisations to offer the best experience both internally and to customers was top of the agenda for IT departments. Whilst the coronavirus crisis hit the aviation industry hard, it has demonstrated remarkable resilience and will eventually return to growth. For airlines and airports that weren’t already investing in digital transformation, now might be the opportune moment to make a sensible investment to reap long-term, sustainable efficiencies, whilst improving IT service delivery right across the organisation, and to customers. Many are already doing it. According to IT Pro Portal, digital transformation is a major priority for airlines, with more than 90% of leaders saying they are looking to digital initiatives to improve customer experience, airline performance, and to stay competitive. And airlines around the world are backing up these claims by making tremendous investments; 68% of airline leaders agree that upgrading their IT infrastructure and software is a major priority. However, despite a clear appetite for change, digital transformation initiatives are still in the early stages in the airline community, with only 8% reporting three years or more of actively working on these innovation-driven projects. For those not in the airline industry, this may feel like slow progress, but the fact is that the industry has long been plagued with legacy technology and IT infrastructure that has handcuffed many airlines from innovating their pricing and distribution strategies. Those that are doing it are using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to set themselves apart from competitors and create an unrivalled passenger experience. For example, AirAsia has addressed the issue of passengers continuously having to present travel documents by introducing facial recognition for check-in. Introduced as part of the airline’s digital transformation strategy, its new biometric technology, ‘FACES’, removes the need for travel documents, making the passenger journey seamless and stress-free, and improving the airline’s punctuality. Elsewhere, Lufthansa is using virtual reality (VR) headsets at check-in whilst offering upgrades from economy to premium economy. It’s hard to imagine the benefit, which is why more often than not passengers refuse to part with a few extra pounds for the pleasure. However, using the VR headsets, passengers no longer need to imagine the benefits – they can see them for themselves, experiencing the cabin, extra leg room, and enhanced comfort all from the check-in desk. As a result, Lufthansa has seen a dramatic increase in the number of passengers paying for the upgrade. These are very specific examples of how a digital transformation strategy really can – and is – revolutionising the aviation industry. One of the biggest opportunities for airlines and airports – who tend to hold huge amounts of customer data – is to grow the value of this data and turn it into sustainable, commercial growth. Another opportunity is connectivity and interoperability, whilst ensuring security is fit for purpose. The question of cyber security for airlines is critical. Together, SCC and HPE are driving transformation through innovation the in the aviation sector. If you’d like to hear how, and what SCC and HPE can help you achieve, please email [email protected]
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