My Introduction to the Air Transport IT Summit 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2014 Air Transport IT Summit, jointly hosted by SITA and Airline Business.

This year the theme for our IT Summit is: ‘More Ground To Break’. In choosing this theme we wanted to capture the exciting things that airlines and airports are achieving with IT and communications. But we also wanted to look ahead to consider how to build on those achievements, and focus on the potential for technology to deliver even more value to the air transport industry.

In preparing for this Summit, our research with previous delegates and customers told us that you wanted to hear about how IT can drive industry transformation, and how IT supports the industry’s change agenda. What trends and technologies will help us evolve the passenger experience – while anticipating the demands of air travel of tomorrow?

One major factor shaping air travel is the increasing expectations of tech-savvy passengers. Nine out of ten of the world’s airline passengers say technology helps them when traveling… according to SITA’s Passenger IT Trends Survey. Over three quarters of them carry a smart phone when they travel…compared to just 28% in 2010.

Yet usage of mobile services, such as: check-in and booking – is still below 5%. With passengers at the edge of really ‘going mobile’… this is an excellent example of an opportunity to break more ground.

We must also plan for growth. By 2017, we can expect: 4 billion passengers, a growth rate of 5.6% a year… and 5.5 million more tonnes of freight – a growth rate of 3.6%… that brings the total to 37 million freight tonnes.

From an airport perspective, ACI figures show that passenger numbers will ‘more than double’ to 6 billion by 2031.

With that order of growth, along with higher passenger expectations, our industry will need to break new ground – in order to work in much smarter ways. This means we must harness the full potential of technology. We know the industry recognizes the value that technology can bring to its customers and operations.

Three-quarters of airlines expect to invest more heavily in new IT projects this year – according to our 2014 Airline IT Trends Survey. This is corroborated by our latest Airport I.T. Trends Survey – which records a rise in airports’ total I.T. spend to $6bn in 2013… versus $4.3bn in 2010.

So if I may be so bold as to propose the drivers of the industry’s IT, they are:

  • Improving airport operations;
  • Enhancing the passenger experience throughout their journey; and
  • Improving manpower efficiency and effectiveness, and
  • Services for connected aircraft

Common to all of these are quality data and business intelligence. Better intelligence is the heartbeat of a smarter air transport industry. 100% of airlines and 90% of airports are investing to provide business intelligence across their operations – according to our IT Trends Surveys.

Within the 24/7 ‘connected everywhere’ air transport environment… ground-breaking change will come from the power of this intelligence combined with advances in:

  • Social media…
  • Mobile…
  • Analytics, and
  • The Cloud.

This combination lies at the root of services to passengers:

  • from managing flight disruptions
  • real-time flight and bag status information
  • to searching for fares.

We have, I suggest, only just begun to scratch the surface of the potential in: merchandising… tailored advertising… personalized customer interactions… and more.  This is across multiple touchpoints and channels, on the ground, and now of course, in the air.

As we move towards real-time analysis and use of data, as well as predictive and prescriptive analytics, there is great potential for airlines and airports to evolve increasingly smarter operations.

To truly harness this potential, we must work together to exploit the data and intelligence that will truly break new ground for our passengers and operations.

Closing of the SITA/Airline Business IT Summit 2012

This is my summing up of the Closing of the IT Summit

Key themes that came up were the ones I had highlighted at the start

Cloud

Big Data

Social Media

Mobility

I also picked two other key themes that had emerged during the Summit, one a business theme:

How the whole air transport eco-system and community has to join up for customers at the same time as airlines and airports compete intensely with each other

and a techy theme:

How web services will enable the joining up of the industry.

There seemed to me to be remarkable convergence during the day on these six themes.

Joining it all up using technology is of course where SITA comes in.

We need to pull it all together to make it easy to fly.

Opening of the SITA/Airline Business IT Summit

Here is my Opening of IT Summit 2012

I have highlighted 4 Mega IT Trends as the prime movers in shaping tomorrow’s airline industry:

The IT Cloud

Big Data

Social Media

Mobility

SITA Air Transport Industry Summit 2012

This is the 13th year that SITA has run – in partnership with Airline Business – the Air Transport IT Summit

We feel that it is now established as the top IT event in the air transport industry’s calendar,  it is the recognized platform for CEO’s, CIO’s and other industry leaders to address their peers across the air transport industry, as well as the wider community. 

Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO, IATA, Khalid A. Almolhem, Director General, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Alex Cruz, CEO, Vueling are among the prominent list of speakers who will address a range of topical industry issues to an audience of senior level delegates from all over the world.  For a full list of speakers and the  topics they will discuss visit www.sitasummit.aero

I very much hope to see you there.

SITA/Airline Business IT Summit – Closing Speech June 2011

Here is the video link to the summing-up of what was a great IT Summit in June.

I think it marked a landmark in Airline IT – but more of that later…

There were some great contributions from airline and airport CEOs and CIOs.  Here are some of statements I tried to pick up on in the Closing:

* Spend more on your IT

* Don’t talk about social networking: do it

* Do more IT for less

* Fresh thinking is needed for mobile and social networking

* The difference is that the Cloud is now easily accessible cheaply and securely

* Emphasis on customers will make the difference

* Get IT out of the ‘techy corner’ and get it listened to

* Technology without business process is asking for trouble

* Need to integrate airports with the end-to-end customer experience

* IT is the driving force for Business Model change

* Every CIO/IT Director has Mobile, Cloud, Internet of Things, CRM and Social Networking on their agenda these days

My personal conclusion was two-fold:

First, that IT matters – really matters – even more than before, because it is leveraging social and economic change much more than ever before.  The role of the CIO or IT Director is to make sense of all this change and of all these possibilities.

Secondly, that IT providers are central to airlines and airports in new ways.  Yes, of course, for Operations; yes, of course, for Selling and for Servicing; but now IT is central to the whole Customer Experience.  That is new and that is the landmark change.

SITA/Airline Business IT Summit – Opening Keynote June 2011

I blogged about the SITA/Airline Business IT Summit earlier on 25 June.

You can now see a video of the introduction which talks about the ways that IT is transforming the Air Transport Industry again.

I suggested at the start of the Summit that IT is now central not only to all the back-of-house processes that make airlines and airports function but also – with the Internet and Social Networking – has become the key differentiator front-of-house too, in terms of customer interactions.

Airlines and airports now have customers who expect ease-of-use and connectivity everywhere.

Four ‘Big C’ Megatrends will change the technology and the airline business:

* Convergence

* Communications

* Connectivity

* Cloud

I suggest that the winners will be those companies that use technology to anticipate and solve customer problems.  Speed and agility in adopting new technologies will be critical success factors for the future – and deciding when to adopt new technology will be a key skill for CEOs and CIOs alike.

Customer Interaction – the next frontier for Airline IT

The 11th SITA/Airline Business IT Summit held in June in Brussels was, I think, the best yet.

I had the hard task at the end of the Summit – after a string of fascinating and lively speeches and presentations – of summarising those contributions.  This is what I said then.

Our first speaker was Peter Hartman, CEO of KLM, who told us about his team of over 20 members who drive KLM’s social networking strategy.  They were responsible for the ground-breaking initiative at Schiphol where they delighted passengers waiting to Board with small presents, tailored to their destination and their interests (as inferred from their Facebook or other social presence).   As Peter said about social networking, “Do it, don’t talk!”

Peter predicted that in future people will choose the airline they fly on through the recommendations of their social media connections.  After all, most of us use Trip Adviser now to check out hotels in advance.

In response to questions, Peter returned to the basics of what CEOs expect from Airline CIOs – the technology needs to work reliably and to costs must keep going down!

Dr Munir Majid, Chairman of MAS, talked about the convergence of technology in a “flattening World”.  Dr Majid argued that innovation matters for survival – something he illustrated with Malaysian’s innovative use of Facebook for Group bookings.

Jan Albrecht, CEO of the Star Alliance, stressed the importance of doing more IT for less.  He saw it as essential that airline IT departments provided users with modern IT tools and technology that worked with app-like ease.   Fresh thinking was essential these days in the new social-networked world.  He mused on what Steve Jobs would do for airline technology.   He asked how we as an industry could catch up with our customers’ expectations.

Having had a challenging start from the CEOs on both social networking and getting the basics right, the audience of IT Directors and CIOs returned (after a nerve-steadying cup of coffee) to a technical session on Cloud Computing.

This was a double act from Vivek Badrinath and Francesco Violante, the CEOs of OBS and SITA.  They described what I believe is going to be a game-changer for the Air Transport Industry – the Industry’s own private Cloud.  OBS and SITA described how they would provide on-demand services from a network of six data-centres in five Continents to airlines and airports – consistently, securely and cost-effectively.  Francesco pointed to the possibility of savings from virtual CUTE and SSKs, and on-demand apps.

After lunch, we were privileged to hear two industry technology experts who attempted to shock the audience: Philip Wolf, CEO of PhoCusWright, looked at how mobility and connectivity were transforming today’s travel industry. Online booking was continuing to grow and there would be 2billion new travelers by 2030.  “What would the impact of a travel app from Google be?” he asked.  His challenge to the audience was to wake up to the impact of mobility and connectivity – these days, devices know where you are, who you like and what you want.

Then Nawal Taneja, Professor of Aviation at Ohio State University, warmed to this theme and urged airlines to provide genuinely personalized service.  What if Google or Apple could take over the retail distribution of airline services? Then, he warned, the airlines would become simply the ‘manufacturer’ of seats!

Chris Klingenberg, CIO of Lufthansa (and fellow SITA Board member), provided what he termed an antidote to all this very technology-based agenda.  He said airlines would not be so foolish as to give away their “crown jewels” in the form of the link to their customers.  They would remain masters of their own destiny.   He also advanced the refreshing notion that you should be proud of higher IT spend than your competitors since this showed you were innovating ahead of them.   He advocated bringing IT out of the “Techie Corner” and getting the Boardroom to understand how important it was.  Great points, I thought!

We then finished with two excellent contributions, the first from Antoine Rostworowski, of Aeroports de Montreal, who stressed the importance of integrating airports into the new visions for airline passengers.  Then Qiang Li, MD of Information Management at Air China, talked about the challenges of massive growth that they face.  He came up with a tremendous list of the IT initiatives he is leading, which would form a great ‘to do’ list for any airline CIO:

  • Cloud Computing
  • Mobile
  • Social Networking
  • Passenger Service Systems
  • Customer Relationship Management, and
  • In-flight Connectivity.

So then I had to try to summarise what all this adds up to!  I think the most important fact is that there was total agreement between CEOs and CIOs, analysts and suppliers, airlines and airports, that IT really matters in the modern world.

We have heard that before and it is really important.  But there is another new factor: we in IT are now central to the airlines’ and airports’ relationship with customers through game-changing technology – mobility is now ubiquitous and social networking adds a completely new dimension to customer relationships.

So, IT matters – and that’s now widely recognised.

And IT is central to airlines in operations, in selling, in servicing and, now, in customer interaction.

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