In recent years, airlines have been looking at digital systems to improve operations across the board. However, the global health crisis has pushed companies to speed up this process. At the World Aviation Festival yesterday, Air Canada SVP and CIO Catherine Luelo spoke about how her carrier is putting modern technology at the forefront of its recovery.
Air Canada recognizes the value of keeping up to date with technology in the current climate. Photo: Getty Images
Pressure creates diamonds
It is evident that the pandemic has been a catalyst for innovation. Usually, it can take many months or even years for businesses to implement a new technological process. From research to construction, it can be a time-consuming process with several factors involved. However, during the pandemic, organizations have had to reprioritize.
Air Canada is familiar with this practice. For instance, it had an idea that it wanted to introduce contactless bag tagging. Subsequently, it had the systems built and deployed within 21 days. Air Canada had recently been migrating to a new passenger service system (PSS) called Altéa Suite. So, a lot of work preparing for this move has helped it manage in the current conditions.
Air Canada views digital assets as part of the airline’s wider fleet. Photo: Getty Images
However, it’s not only physical systems that Air Canada values the importance of in the current era. The carrier is also doing great work with AI and data. Amid all the uncertainties, these tools can go a long way in the industry.
“So for me, it’s less about creating your digital agenda. It’s creating your data AI agenda. We’ve had that. I think that our ability to apply some of these things and move faster is different than it was before. The reality is, it’s an industry with no money right now. Every industry is hurting. And you can, absolutely, take a look at it as what it is. It’s depressing, and it’s not a great time to be in our industry,” Luelo said during the discussion at the World Aviation Festival.
“But with the technology team at Air Canada, we talk about, “Out of great crisis comes great innovation.” When you have no money to spend, sometimes you have the most innovative ideas because you look at the tools that you have at your disposal, and you’re maybe a little bit different in terms of how you think about it. But bottom line for us, self-service will continue to be very important and something that we’re going to continue to invest in. Data analytics is going to be part of how we dig out of this.”
Time to regroup
There is still a lack of passenger activity across the globe amid all the travel restrictions in place. However, airlines could be using this time to address issues that couldn’t be looked at before. By taking action in these areas, operators would come back stronger following the worst of the pandemic.
Luelo says that one is the opportunity for process transformation. For instance, issues with baggage have been with airlines have for a long time. Now is the chance to fix these problems. Much like how Air Canada wants to get its aircraft utilized, it thinks of its IT assets in the same way. The company ultimately wants to make sure it is fully optimizing these assets. Even with its new PSS, it wants to make sure it’s making the most out of the investment.
Collaboration is key
Luelo highlights that the Canadian aviation industry is coming together during this crucial period. She calls the collaboration a “beautiful cooperation” that has come about during this challenging situation. Airports across the country and even competitions such as WestJet are communicating well with Air Canada.
The airline feels that this factor is great because there are certain things that they are always going to want to compete on, but there are certain things that they need to pull together as an industry and provide consistency. Altogether, trialing things, sharing information, and then coming up with a made-in-Canada solution for Canadian travelers to increase comfort is crucial during this time.
Canadian carriers aren’t combining well amid the tough situation. Photo: Getty Images
Partnerships will have the industry resolve critical issues that are keeping operations on the ground. So, Luelo spends a good part of her day working on what’s the right solution for Canada. She emphasizes that from technology perspective, innovations such as contact tracing and testing technology are all part of the narrative.
Above all, the focus on utilizing modern technology will enable Air Canada to manage the crisis better and help it return with confidence. Features such as modern IT systems, AI, and data analysis will help the airline predict traveler demand and also make the customer journey as smooth as it can be in the post-COVID-19 reality.
What are your thoughts about Air Canada putting digital technology at the forefront during the road to recovery? How do you see the situation panning out over the next few months? Let us know what you think of the initiatives in the comment section.