Challenges facing airlines today and the role of technology in keeping them up to speed
Much like any other industry, technological advances are impacting the aviation industry. It’s unquestionable that operational efficiencies can be achieved and service improved by implementing the right technology. It’s being done in all other sectors, from agriculture to healthcare to government.
However, the requirements in the aviation sector arevery specific and require fit-for-purpose technology
solutions. The fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence, the cloud and other innovations are making their effects felt and changing how things are done. People – including airline employees and customers – routinely expect mobile and digital technologies to be used to make their jobs and lives easier.
In a highly competitive sector such as aviation, it can provide a key differentiator that sets an airline apart from its competition. Amanda Mocellin, CEO at Nacelle Aviation says, “The aviation industry is digitally transforming. Today’s airline has to be run as a business. It has to evolve to stay abreast of technological developments, such as predictive maintenance for the aircraft or the ability to better calculate fuel consumption. It also has to provide customers with the experience that they have come to expect from any service provider. And technology is a key enabler.”
A primary challenge facing the industry is that existing aviation grade technology solutions are out of
reach or inaccessible for many players. This is particularly the case in Africa and other developing
countries that have smaller airports. Not only are licenses expensive and costly to maintain, current
solutions for this sector are overly complex and poorly supported locally. In addition, providers often
leave the integration and assembly of complex and traditionally disconnected services that have been
acquired over the years, to the customer to manage. This can result in cobbled-together solutions that
are never truly integrated.
All of the above, as well as the responsibility for staying abreast of industry trends and meeting customer demands, usually end up on the plate of the in-house IT department, who face the additional
challenges of dwindling resources and increasingly stringent regulatory and governance requirements.
Amanda says, “Nowadays, airlines have no option but to be incredibly flexible in their approach, with
many contingencies and alternative strategies firmly in place. This is only possible through the use of
Technology implemented at airlines ranges from allowing passengers to self-service to implementing
cloud computing, big data, analytics, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT) to ensure a seamless
experience for everyone associated with the airline.
The aviation industry is a highly competitive one and the greatest threat is complacency, hoping that
your competitors will not catch up, which is not really an effective strategy, says Amanda. “The greatest
opportunity for the aviation industry is to offer outstanding experiences for clients and employees alike,
in an imaginative but efficient way. This can be achieved by providing increased access to fully supported, high performance technology solutions that are financially viable, integrated, rapidly deployable, customisable, and continually updated and maintained.”
What makes for a good solution that meets all of the aviation industry’s requirements? First and
foremost, technology integration is key, you need to have all of your solutions hosted on a single
platform so that they can share data. You need a platform that can integrate your legacy solutions and
that will be able to accommodate additional solutions as your requirements evolve in the future.
Then you want to choose a solution that allows you to select the products that you need and scale up or down, as your needs change. All of which is enabled by the cloud, reducing your infrastructure costs and enabling the airline to deploy new solutions seamlessly.
A modular plug-and-play approach allows for agile set-up and implementation, while the ability to
customise the solution means you get a platform that suits your unique needs. It’s also important to ensure that you have access to proper support as well as training materials and techniques on a platform that’s continually maintained and automatically updated.
The nature of the airline industry is such that any new technology has to work properly from the start,
there’s no time for employees to get up to speed and passengers can’t be inconvenienced while the
glitches are ironed out.
“When we get this right, our customers are empowered to compete in the market with ever more
innovative and cost-effective ways of attracting and maintaining a customer base. They’ll be able to
process more passengers and their baggage in a more streamlined fashion, while also ensuring
operational efficiencies for the business itself,” says Amanda.
However, he cautions, the onus is on the airline to keep an eye on the ever evolving landscape that it’s
operating in and ensure that its technology stays abreast of innovations in the field.