“I think there is so much more we could be doing in the digital transformation across travel,” explains Greg Land, IBM Global Industry Leader. Watch the video to hear his thoughts around how companies can shape a more frictionless experience for travelers.
When airlines optimize their processes, travelers feel a positive effect.
Explore the examples of empowering the airline employee with technology and data to deliver beneficial results.
Singapore Airlines was eager to digitize the pre-flight briefing, saving their pilots time and, at times, up to 50 pounds worth of manuals. Now, all of that information can be efficiently accessed through an employee’s tablet.
Jason Birnbaum, VP of operations technology at United Airlines, is seeking to heighten passenger experience. Flight attendants use mobile devices to perform retail transactions and resolve customer care issues in the moment. Additionally, gate agents are changing seat assignments and checking bags with the goal of greater ease.
Leveraging mobile apps, Finnair’s supervisors and aircraft mechanics have up-to-date visibility into line maintenance activities. Watch the video to learn more.
Written by Michael Todd Cohen
From a steady stream of rainy days in January to an unyielding 16.5 hours of daylight in July—Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands can be particularly tough on the ground crew working the “apron” (also known as a tarmac).
“These days, turnaround has to be quick, and it has to be safe,” said Manfred Van den Heuvel, a turnaround coordinator with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
Despite any inclement weather, Van den Heuvel and his colleagues are responsible for coordinating the turnaround of KLM aircrafts arriving and departing Schiphol—the airport with the most connections in Europe. In 2017, 108 airlines flew from Schiphol to 322 destinations.
To make the turnaround as efficient as possible, catering, cleaning, fueling, and unloading and loading of passengers and cargo all have to be accounted for—within an average of 45 minutes. Until recently, according to Van den Heuvel, this orchestration was a tangle of antiquated systems.
“Before, the issue was that we had one tablet and five programs to make one flight happen,” Van den Heuvel said. “On occasion, the [Wi-Fi] connection was lost and you couldn’t use it for five minutes and the whole program shut off.”
Limited access to essential data can cause both safety concerns and delays that frustrate passengers. With stiff competition from budget carriers, legacy airlines like KLM can’t afford to disappoint rising customer expectations.
How did the oldest airline in the world go about reinventing itself in a market of quick-turn competition?
“We thought, OK, we need to give [coordinators] a mobile tool,” said Ilse De Valk, product owner at KLM. “We need to give them the right information at the right place.”
Despite some internal debate and healthy skepticism, De Valk got on a plane to Cupertino, California, along with a group of ground officers.
There, they embarked on a three-day IBM Enterprise Design Thinking workshop— along with partner Apple. Enterprise Design Thinking focuses on business outcomes and “restless reinvention,” a form of rapid prototyping. What happened next would fundamentally change the operations of the airline.
“The first day it was about writing down the process: what are the different things the ramp officers need to do in the ramp?” said De Valk. “The second day we were diving into more details based on that wireframe.”
Appron (a combination of“apron” and “app”) was born.
The new app combined the data from all the disparate departments into a single experience that can notify the turnaround coordinators of any changes due to flight or passenger delays.
“What we built there in the three days is still the base of the product we currently have, and I think that’s amazing, that you can just achieve that in three days,” said De Valk.
The tool also gives a view of all relevant data to coordinate tasks like flight information and team member contacts—including the captain and gate crew. It even gives an overview of the layout of the incoming aircraft, so they can plan exactly where to load the incoming baggage most efficiently.
Today on the apron, the new app has a high adoption rate and coordinators like Van den Heuvel are experiencing a marked difference.
“[It’s] much quicker, much more insight. [With] one look you can see everything, all the information at one time,” he said. “And 10 months later it’s improving so much. Everybody uses it, they are happy with it. It’s only one system.”
If a passenger fails to make their flight, Van den Heuvel is notified what cargo container the passenger’s baggage is in and can stop it from loading onto the plane, rather than having to unload it from the hold later and search for the bag, causing delays.
Mark Bovenkerk, Business Development for KLM, said Appron is “directly impacting customer experience because the flights are more on-time. We are preventing delays.”
Part of the success, he said, was the inclusion of the employees who would eventually use and improve the app from the start.
“Let the end users design the tool they need to make their work better,” Bovenkerk said. “And we did. Those users are still our ambassadors. Those users own the tool. As a group, it’s their tool.”
This article originally appeared in Issue 4 of Industrious magazine.
5 minute read
Written by: Steve Bogie, Lise LeFaive, and Captain Jason Brown & Keith Dugas
When we ask our customers, “What makes Air Canada a great airline?” we hear that we’re reliable, consistent and trustworthy. We also hear that we have a great fleet and a wonderful staff, and that we really know our business. And because we really know our business, customers trust us.
We love the fact that our customers appreciate the value they get when they travel with Air Canada. We want to design and deliver a great travel experience every time, so we’re always looking at ways that technology can help us improve flight reliability and safety and provide the most personalized travel experience available in the industry for our loyal customers.
Those of us at Air Canada are quite excited about working alongside Apple and IBM to develop an electronic cabin logbook that provides real-time data communication and updates between flight and ground crews. We’re among the first airlines in the world to go on this electronic logbook journey. The logbook process has always been on paper since its inception in the 1960s. We’re about to transform that process by digitizing it on iPads, which is a major culture change for our crews and for the industry.
Until now, when we’ve had a maintenance issue on an in-flight plane, we’ve recorded it into the paper logbook during the flight, and then pulled it out and handed it over to the ground crew when we land. There’s no advanced notification, so there’s no way for the maintenance crew to prepare to fix a problem.
Now, with real-time communication of defects – for example, a broken seatback tray table – our inflight crew can notify ground staff, who can have a part or replacement waiting when the plane lands. The table can be fixed before the next passenger boards. With paper logs, there was no notice, so no way to have the part waiting. Gate turnaround times are short, so minor problems like this might not have been fixed, allowing the defect to remain and have an impact on each subsequent passenger until the end of the plane’s daily service. To those passengers, a broken tray table is a big thing, and leaves a very bad impression of their experience, and the airline.
Having the real-time communication also allows us to predict the downtime required to fix larger issues, so we can more accurately estimate the expected return to service of the aircraft. We’re working toward using predictive analytics and machine learning to help prevent future defects and to proactively address potential issues before they become in-flight problems.
We’d love to use AI to capture all the knowledge and expertise from every technician that has turned a wrench at Air Canada, from every pilot that’s flown one of our aircraft or any flight attendant who has serviced our customers. We could take all that knowledge and funnel it into one repository. Imagine the 80-plus years of the airline and the hundreds of thousands of service-hours from all our employees tied into one little smart box. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?
Air Canada is also working closely with IBM to improve flight safety by sharing data from The Weather Company, an IBM Business, in real time with our planes. We’re using another product from The Weather Company called the Turbulence Auto-PIREP system. It’s the epitome of safety transformation for the industry because these analytical tools predict turbulence well ahead of time so that we can avoid it. It also provides real-time monitoring and alerts for severe weather, so we can optimize flight routes to keep passengers safe and comfortable.
We’re also using new technology to enhance the customer loyalty experience on our Passenger Plus App. The app lets our service directors onboard the aircraft know who’s flying – what their trends are, what they need and their in-flight preferences – so that we can be proactive in our customer engagement. We’re also better able to target their experience with direct sales because we understand what they enjoy and what they like. We want happy passengers, so we’re engaging with them in new and better ways all the time.
We’re using data, we’re using analytics, we’re using connectivity and mobility to distribute the right information to the right people at the right time. Now our customers have the information they need to make decisions, and our employees have the information that they require to support a better customer experience and our primary goals of passenger safety and fleet reliability.
We love seeing passengers’ reactions when they receive an exceptional experience, whether booking a flight, at the airport or onboard our aircraft. And we love seeing them come back again and again. We also enjoy watching our employees’ eyes light up when they see how all the new technology helps make their jobs easier and makes them more efficient and better at their all-important job of providing a safe, reliable and enjoyable flying experience for our customers.
Given all that we are doing to upgrade the overall flight experience, it was really no surprise when Air Canada was awarded the Best Airline in North America in the 2018 Skytrax World Airline Awards. What made it even more satisfying was knowing that the award was based on our passengers’ votes.
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