I’m in Changi airport, seriously considering finding one of its famous ‘snooze lounges’.
It’s a great place to be before a long flight home – and especially after two busy days at Aviation Festival Asia.
Looking around, it’s impossible not to be impressed. The attention to passenger comfort and a general sense of calm is quite apparent. From the wide open walking spaces to the inclusion of indoor gardens and seats designed for comfort, not containment.
This is, after all, the airport that’s won 500 ‘world’s best’ awards since it was built. It has slick, speedy baggage reclaim, free 24-hour cinemas and eight massage salons. It’s entirely fitting that such a great airport welcomed thousands of delegates to Singapore for the largest gathering of aviation professionals in Asia.
This was my third year in a row at the Festival. These events are always a good opportunity to catch-up with clients and contacts, but I’ve always felt this one is a little different.
As one of the first of the year, it always seems to offer a particularly good indicator of the emerging trends, attitudes and themes ahead.
This year’s event focused an optimistic set of digital, e-commerce, CX and marketing professionals on the simple idea of future success. Having walked the exhibition floor for two days, here’s what stood out for me.
Personalization still tops the agenda
There’s no doubt that personalization continues to dominate the executive agenda for airlines. Signs are however that the focus is broadening, looking beyond revenue and conversion tactics in isolation to bring a wider, more strategic focus to business as a whole.
Empower frontline staff
The need to empower frontline staff with real-time data to better anticipate and serve the needs of customers was a recurring theme. Doing it right makes sure customer-facing staff can be proactive in addressing issues in relevant ways that deliver the most value to customers.
What this means in practice: essentially, 100 different outcomes for 100 unique travellers (from the low-value, infrequent traveller to the top-tier loyalty scheme member with five million Instagram followers) who may have been disrupted by the same issue. Getting close to the holy grail of genuinely 1:1, omni-channel personalization throughout the customer journey is fast becoming table-stakes in the industry.
Flyadeal sees room for more innovation
CEO Con Korfiatis of Flyadeal, the Middle East’s newest airline, spoke in detail about how technology had yet to be fully exploited in best serving the needs of customers. In his view, there’s still plenty of room for technology innovation to deliver more relevant and meaningful customer interactions.
Finnair highlights importance of digital
Katri Harra-Salonen, Chief Digital Officer at Finnair, spoke about the huge opportunity in the industry for digital professionals. She highlighted the importance of the role in bringing inspiration from other sectors – especially telecommunications and retail – to shape the ongoing development of the airline space. Katri also struck a chord with thoughts shared by many others in Singapore when she talked about the opportunity to improve not only the customer experience but also the employee experience. How can technology improve workforce productivity?
APEX looking to leverage AI
Apex CEO Joe Leader said we are entering the age of AI where connected aircraft is just the beginning. Airlines can gain an edge by using the technology to truly understand their customer and recognise and respond to them at every step of the journey. He also suggested that airlines need to think a couple of steps ahead if they want to maximise ancillary revenue.
VietJet embracing FMCG approach
Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh, VP at VietJet, likened the consumer focus in her airline to that of an FMCG organisation. It seems to be working: innovations such as a daily fare sale between the hours of 12:00 and 14:00 have proved particularly popular with younger customers. Nguyen felt that the middle ground between low-cost carriers (LCCs) and full-service carriers was closing, based on improvements in LCC customer experience and huge pricing pressure on full-service carriers.
In the meantime though – I’m off for a snooze. Thank you, Singapore.