The Chief Executives of the Star Alliance member airlines gave the go-ahead for new technology investment and wide-ranging enhancements to operational processes to meet the evolving demands of today’s travelers.
“Serving our customers with high standards, consistently, on a global scale has always been at the centre of our Alliance strategy”, said Air Canada Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu, who chairs the Alliance’s Chief Executive Board. “With today’s decisions, we are clearing the way to better align our industry’s complex back-end systems with the rapidly changing demands of our customers. Global trends such as personalisation and digitalisation of products and services must trigger a mind-set shift in our industry and we aim to be at the forefront of that evolution.
“Passengers want to have up-to-date travel information as well as attractive, customised product offerings at their fingertips, no matter where they are in the world. We must have modern, efficient and cost-effective systems and processes to satisfy these demands”, Rovinescu added.
As a direct result of today’s decisions, Star Alliance will invest in multi-million dollar technology projects, which will include a new Alliance IT hub for baggage. This new IT hub is scheduled to go into operation by the end of 2016 and is the latest in a series of similar “plug and play” applications which are supporting the member airlines behind the scenes. The existing IT hubs have already successfully improved the exchange of frequent flyer data and through check-in of passengers and baggage, as well as the provision of enhanced services to premium customers.
Baggage processes are currently complicated by the fact that the relevant information resides in many different systems. In addition to those operating at the individual Star Alliance member airlines, each airport is running its own baggage system, thus making it highly complex to retrieve the current status of bags, to locate bags within the systems and to take effective remedial action if bags are mishandled.
“While mishandling a bag is a relatively rare case in our Alliance, despite the fact that we carry almost 1.7 million passengers every day, when things do go wrong it is highly annoying to any customer affected,” said Mark Schwab, CEO of Star Alliance. “We believe modern technology can be of tremendous assistance in significantly reducing the number of baggage issues and providing faster and more accurate information for our customer service agents. As ever, our ultimate goal is to provide the best possible service to our travellers.”
At the same time, the Chief Executives endorsed the development of standardised processes for off-airport / self-service check-in, for fast bag drop technology at airports, for baggage self-tagging and for automated travel document validation. Once implemented, these standards will not only provide smoother service to the Alliance’s customers but also reduce infrastructure requirements and handling costs at all of the 1,300 airports the Alliance is serving today.
“This initiative represents another industry first and is created in full support of the IATA Fast Travel mandate”, Schwab said. ”As we represent around one quarter of the world’s scheduled airline services, we believe we can contribute to the reduction of operating complexities. Our member airlines have benefited significantly from standardisation in other areas and are determined to drive this process forward now, together with airports and system providers.”
As the largest and longest serving airline alliance, Star Alliance has been at the forefront of introducing new operating standards from the outset. In many cases these have quickly evolved into standards for the whole aviation industry, for example, in the case of safety auditing or 2D barcode implementation.