Wearable Technology to Help Airlines Improve Customer Service

By Mike Ilsley, CIO and Executive Manager IT & Contact Centre, Comair

Mike Ilsley, CIO and Executive Manager IT & Contact Centre, Comair

Challenges and expectations in 2014

From my point of view, the biggest challenge for the industry is offering customers choice and flexibility. The new generation passenger is demanding ever faster,  easier processes, almost to the level of having the ability to swipe a card and “catch the bus” as opposed to the traditional long winded processes. This is in direct conflict with the airline needs where the airline needs the information early to ensure that load factors are high to maintain good revenue numbers. The booking curve is being pushed ever closer to departure time and the demand for flexibility in terms of choice of which departure the customer is booked on, is increasing. Part of the answer is solutions aimed at improving the levels of passenger self-service throughout the customer/airline interaction process and these are largely technology driven.

"A solution that can effectively consolidate complex information from the disparate systems across multiple sites, would get my attention".

Solutions to make job easier

In a diverse business such as Comair, where two different airline brands are operated on disparate systems, in multiple locations, along with several travel brands  and the SLOW Lounges, one of the most difficult things to do is consolidate meaningful information. A solution that can effectively consolidate complex information  from the disparate systems across multiple sites, would get my attention. Strangely, when it comes to what keeps me awake at night, this is more the traditional  things, like staff retention, data protection, information security and data recovery. We have made significant investments in all of these areas, but one can never rest  and say “it is done!”

Wearable technology- A new trend in Aerospace

The industry is so rigidly controlled and legislated that I do not expect any changes to the basic customer interaction process, and if they do occur, they will probably not be immediate or extreme. The big data, cloud and mobility aspects are already on our radar, with key projects already focussed in these areas. However, the advent of wearable technology such as smart glass and smart watches can certainly make a huge difference in the ability of the airlines to provide improved services  to customers. For example, equipping all the “meet and greet” staff with this technology on which the information of the specific customer they are meeting can be  displayed, means they can be better equipped to deal with the customer, faster.

The role of CIOs today

In Comair, the role of IT has been very important for many years and is seen as a partner to the business, sitting on the Executive. The CIO role is fairly new to Comair,  and the role is becoming more and more involved in the legislative information issues facing the business.

My word for a CIO

The most important thing is to have full support of your CEO and peers. Then, accept that you cannot do everything in a day, and prioritise what you need to do.