Ignore digital at your peril, airlines told

Airlines will get left behind if they fail to innovate.

If airlines treat digital technology as an afterthought they will get left behind in a fast-changing marketplace, delegates at World Routes 2017 have been told.

At the ‘How digital will reshape aviation by 2020’ discussion, Hugh Aitken, senior director of strategic partnerships, Skyscanner, said digital should be something that drives value.

“It's much more about a philosophy and a way of thinking within the business,” he said.

“We are looking east for inspiration, in particular at China, Korea and Japan. In Europe, a lot of our digital is about getting a good site, but that's the basics. The emergence of new channels is growing rapidly. The technology is moving along and we have to look how millennials are using it."

Aitken added that the industry is hampered with old technology, meaning there’s a legacy challenge that is difficult to address.

Marie Norman, head of products and concepts at Aviation Business, said that airlines and airports must work together more to share information.

She pointed to a hackathon held earlier this year, when seven airports asked developers, designers, and enthusiasts to hack new and innovative solutions that establish interconnectivity between airports and progress towards a seamless passenger journey.

“This is only one way,” Norman said, “but we need to be more open.”

Azim Barodawala, chief executive of US technology business Volantio, highlighted Singaporean low-cost long-haul airline Scoot as a carrier that is adapting well to changing digital demands from passengers.

“The reason I admire Scoot is they do so much with so little,” he said. “If you talk with the people involved it’s a group of three or four people. Not only are they small and nimble, they make decisions fast and try unproven things.

“Airlines who don’t have a willingness to try something unproven are going to get left in the dust. Make it work, make it right and make it scale. Scoot has done a good job of that.”

Hugh Aitken agreed that airlines which are not adapting and innovating will not be successful in five years’ time.

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