New Technological systems have become more critical for the aviation industry. Sajid Sayed, CIO, AirAsia India, discusses this in this interaction.
DQ - What is the role of new techs in aviation?
Sajid Sayed - India is one of the fastest-growing aviation markets in the world. The ICT have always been a key driving force behind the evolution of the air travel industry over the years. Many people who do not belong to the aviation industry don’t seem to understand what the role or use of IT would be in an airline. A layman’s understanding of aviation is mostly about staff at the airport checking-in guests for the flight, pilots flying planes and cabin crew serving them onboard. Every single aspect of an airline runs on technology. Right from planning the destinations we should fly to, pricing its products and services, allowing guests to pick a seat of their choice, check-in and boarding the plane, keeping guests informed about their flight status, managing baggage, making aircraft and crew available for the flight, facilitating onboard sales, generating a flight plan, tracking the aircraft in its entire journey, providing weather updates to managing aircraft maintenance and crew qualification! Technology has a role to play in every single step in the airline business.
Technology plays a crucial role in improving customer experience, ensuring steady revenue streams, finding opportunities to reduce cost, optimising the organisation's assets, improving business processes and conforming to regulatory requirements. The modern consumer is extremely tech-savvy; and has access to information which makes them more sophisticated and aware, requiring specialised services to cater to these demands. Moreover, assisting customers with real-time support mechanisms is what helps garnering trust, forming the foundation for a business that delivers value.
DQ - How will it change the dynamics of flying - for customers and well as for the airline?
Sajid Sayed- In the past few months, the world has been severely impacted by pandemic. This, however, has opened ways to explore new opportunities to introduce dynamic business continuity plans, embracing digital transformation. While technology has been fundamental for the industry, in the current scenario, it has become crucial like never before, redefining the new normal in flying. Safe flying is the most important aspect of air travel today, and adoption of technological systems is what will lead to this change.
Technology will bring in ease of travel experience for guests. For example, today, with the help of Facial Recognition System, AirAsia India guests travelling from Bengaluru can walk across right from the terminal entrance to the aircraft without document checks at multiple touch points at the BLR Airport. Even basic solutions like enabling usage of cards for purchase of food, beverages and merchandise on-board make it convenient for guests.
With the change in rules and regulations laid by the authorities, airlines have been receiving and managing thousands of queries pouring every minute with diverse complexities. It is imperative to have a technological backup to assist customer relationship teams in addressing their queries and ensure a seamless process being followed within their systems. AirAsia’s Virtual Allstar (AVA), was recently made available on popular messaging application WhatsApp in English and Hindi among other languages. AVA already handles millions of cases annually across other platforms such as Facebook, airasia.com and the AirAsia mobile app. Currently more than 80 percent of customer requests like new bookings, flights status, travel advisories & booking changes etc. can successfully be managed by AVA and the rest are transferred to a Live Agent who then assists guests personally.
For airlines, it’s about facilitating safe and smooth operations, expanding revenue generation sources, and looking at opportunities where cost can be optimised. For example, we have recently launched a turnaround management app for our Operations teams that keeps a tab on every single activity that goes into ensuring on-time flight departure. We have witnessed that the adoption of technological solutions is helping functions such as Flight Operations, Crew Management, Engineering, Guest Services and Security personnel that contribute towards a flight departing on time. Similarly, we are looking at expanding our distribution horizon from traditional distribution channels to modern, integrated channels.
Additionally, in order to stay relevant and optimise available resources to the maximum efficiency, AirAsia India has leveraged technology for conducting in-house training, tracking performance management, holding employee engagement sessions etc. In doing this, we have embarked on our digital journey to becoming more than just an airline that allows people to fly.
DQ - What are the challenges in 2020?
Sajid Sayed - Well, 2020 is a challenge in itself! It has been a year of unexpected realities until now. The pandemic has helped businesses fast track adoption of technology streamline processes in a short span of time.
Low demand is the biggest challenge for almost all businesses, more so for the travel and hospitality industry. Instilling confidence in the passengers that air travel is safe is one challenge that we have tried to combat. We have introduced a slew of measures, deploying highest levels of safety measures in collaboration with airports, regulators and the government in the adoption of technology to make air travel safe, secure, hassle-free and contactless.