The need for innovation cuts across every aspect of aviation. It has become especially crucial following the brutal realities of the pandemic.

To recover quickly and to strengthen resilience, airlines must find new ways of doing business and embrace the digital transformation of the industry.

IATA has a portfolio of tools designed to support airlines’ drive for innovation. Accelerate@IATA, IATA Think Tank, Digital Innovation Strategic Partners, and the IT Leaders Community are among the many initiatives exploring transformative concepts. Already significant projects such as One ID have come out of this quest for innovation.

Partnerships with technology providers are providing a further boost and ensuring no stone is left unturned.

The forthcoming Innovation Day at IATA’s Geneva office on 31 May 2022 will bring all these streams into one place and under one event for the benefit of the industry.

“The ambition is to articulate a roadmap for innovation in the industry,” says Stephan Copart, IATA’s Head Digital Transformation. “We will look at the progress being made, the projects being explored, and reinforce the need for an agile mindset. And it will be the first of a series of Innovation Days, which will act as a constant iteration of industry progress.”

 

Innovation community

The Digital Transformation Advisory Council (DTAC) has already begun the process of creating an innovation community and the Innovation Day will build on this with airline “innovation champions” encouraged to share internal challenges.

“Sharing information and pain points is the best way forward,” says Copart. “It is about promoting innovation internally and externally and being able to reach the people in charge of the enablers that will drive transformation.”

“We all need to know, what’s next?” he adds. “If we can create rich content based on real experience, we can bring every airline with us on the transformation journey. And our start point is the Innovation Day.”

He insists, however, that this can never be technology for technology’s sake. “Innovation has to solve a problem,” he says. “You don’t come up with an idea or a technology and then look for somewhere to implement it.”

 

Different horizons

In that sense, innovation doesn’t necessarily mean cutting-edge technology. It is more about the innovative application of technology to solve a problem. So, it is likely that these ideas will carry a variety of timelines, ranging from the short to the long term.

Efforts are ongoing in the field of APIs, for example. Although this may not be considered innovative, interfacing legacy systems with open architecture-based software is still a huge area of airline work. Any improvements are therefore highly prized.

Another area of innovation with a short-term horizon is the look-to-book ratio. Increasing the number of people who purchase a ticket after viewing an airline offer is vital to the industry’s success. This has been discussed in the IATA Think Tank and potential solutions could be available within the year.

Further out, digital identification in distribution will revolutionize the value chain in that sphere and be a massive enabler for customer centricity. Various projects are also studying how to put customer data under the control of customers so they can identify themselves and their preferences as they wish.

“We can moderate between different horizons,” says Copart. “The key point is innovating to answer an outstanding airline question. Whether that is in the immediate future or many years ahead is not important. What is important is looking at this from a business point of view. And the Innovation Day will help us do that by bringing together all the elements that fall under the innovation banner.”

 

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