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AirAsia leverages digital distribution platform for revolutionising customer experience 

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In the past few years, low-cost carriers have become the preferred choice for passengers. The travellers now expect a completely personalised experience, right from the booking stage till after they have completed their journey. Taking this mega trend forward, AirAsia has pivoted from an airline into a digital lifestyle company, anchored on travel. With changing dynamics in the travel industry, the airline has become more than an airline and has built a broad and deep ecosystem in several segments. Sajid Sayed, CIO, AirAsia India shares how AirAsia is collaborating with a digital distribution platform, expanding beyond air transport, and digitalising  operations and processes to become more efficient

Can you share the role of technology in aviation?

Technology, for years, has been re-shaping businesses and pushing them to re-invent their strategies. Not only has it turned out to be the biggest facilitator of global transformation, but has also been the enabler to catalyse change and make businesses more transparent and customer-centric. I remember once, an MD of an airline mentioning to me that we are an IT company that happens to fly planes. I am sure he said that in jest, but there definitely was a message in his statement. AirAsia has pivoted from an airline into a digital lifestyle company, anchored on travel. With changing dynamics in the travel industry, we have become more than an airline and have built a broad and deep ecosystem in several segments.

When you look at the core processes of aviation business, every single process runs on an IT solution. Passenger bookings and check-in, aircraft airworthiness and maintenance, crew legality and rosters, flight planning and tracking, on-board sales, baggage tracking, customer feedback, all of these processes that constitute an airline business are managed using IT solutions.

When you extend this to airports, there again you see airlines and airports working in collaboration towards enhancing customer experience using technology. Common User Self   Service kiosks, self-bag drop facilities, e-gates, biometric recognition systems, are classic   examples of how technology is helping the aviation industry in providing hassle free and seamless travel experience to the customers.

How has IT changed the dynamics of flying – for customers as well as the airline?

Technology has proved to be more important than ever during the current pandemic situation.  With the need for physical distancing and touch-less transactions, increased number of   customer interactions are being aided by IT solutions. Airlines can leverage data for personalised experiences to elevate the entire travel experience of guests, both on ground and inflight by enabling contactless payment solutions and in-flight payment PoS integration with airline systems.

We have 98 percent of our customers using web check-in facilities for generating their boarding passes, self-check-in kiosks at airports are being made available for printing bag tags, and self-bag drop facilities that are available for our customers at Bengaluru airport are now being tested at other airports like Mumbai and Hyderabad. DigiYatara, the biometric recognition system at Bengaluru airport allows seamless movement of our customers right from the terminal entrance to the aircraft door. All of these experiences are supported by IT systems and solutions.

Additionally, airlines also need to focus on reskilling their employees to stay abreast of the new normal in flying and gear up to manage upcoming challenges. AirAsia India has leveraged technology for conducting in-house training, tracking performance management and holding employee engagement sessions to motivate employees.

AirAsia was the first airline in India to attain DGCA approval to conduct Regulatory Training for Pilots through “Distance Learning Training Program”. The purpose of the specialised training is to refresh and keep the pilots stimulated and improve their skills with effective training programs on technical systems, procedures, special operations, aircraft performance, safety management system, crew resource management and safety procedures. Earlier, these flight crew trainings were conducted by contact classroom sessions. Distance learning has the benefit of ensuring social distancing, meeting regulatory requirements and cost savings.

How is AirAsia India picking the pace and what all is the airline doing to stay ahead and relevant?

The tech maturity of AirAsia as an organisation is at an all-time high. AirAsia has built an all-in-one digital travel and lifestyle ecosystem. We keep looking for opportunities where we can use technology to enhance customer experience, improve our revenues, reduce cost, and simplify overall business processes.  A simple example of how we are keen to adopt newer and related tools is making our advanced chatbot AVA available on WhatsApp in English, Hindi and many other languages. This has helped our customers communicate with us easily and effectively. We have developed a one of its kind mobile app for our operations team that helps monitor all the activities in operating a flight on time. It provides real-time status of each of these activities to the Integrated Operations Control Center who are in a position to coordinate with respective stakeholders and ensure timely completion of all activities, leading to on-time flight  performance. In our quest for expanding our revenue sources, we are collaborating with a unique digital distribution platform that has the potential of revolutionising customer experience completely.

We have been participating as preferred partners in initiatives undertaken by airports and other authorities. We participated in the pilot phase of self-bag drop at Hyderabad Airport and now  await the airport’s plans to roll it out in production. We will have this facility available to our   customers flying out of Mumbai soon. This is in addition to this facility being available to our   customers at Bengaluru Airport.

We are participating in the DigiYatra initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Civil Aviation.   Once implemented, Digi Yatra will allow digital processing of passengers at the airport based  on facial recognition systems at various checkpoints at the airport like, terminal entry, entry into security check and aircraft boarding. As a matter of fact, we are one of the first airlines to have already implemented this solution at Bengaluru Airport.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


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