Today’s technology opens up possibilities for industries of all kinds, including airlines. Artificial intelligence, biometrics, and other innovations make flying safer and more convenient for passengers, while airlines benefit from streamlined processes and greater efficiency. As the pace of technology innovation continues to increase, what does the future of airline travel look like?
Here are three airlines giving us a preview of what the future holds.
Low-cost carrier Ryanair announced the launch of its own Ryanair Labs initiative back in 2014. The “Always Getting Better” program, though based on the goal of improving the customer experience, is rooted in digital innovation. The personalization of e-mails, for example, has taken the place of traditionally canned messages to drive ancillary and product revenue by giving passengers the right offer at the right time.
The introduction of Ryanair’s mobile app has drastically reduced the booking time for passengers. What was previously a more than five-minute process was reduced to 97 seconds, thanks to the app’s notification framework and the ability for passengers to store their card information. Another focus of Ryanair is in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) solutions, including streaming services and Wi-Fi. It’s important to note that Ryanair, despite the desire to provide customers with the best flying experience as possible, keeps cost at a top consideration.
Speaking of airline innovation labs, Scandinavian Airlines announced last year the launch of its latest innovation lab, SAS Lab, dedicated to developing technologies that will drive the future of airline travel. Some of the lab’s projects include:
Electronic Bag Tags (EBT) - The bane of every traveler is the need to check-in at the airline kiosk, print out their bag tag, then hand it over to the attendant for processing. SAS Lab is developing an electronic tag that passengers could permanently attach to their luggage. Using a smartphone device, passengers could then update their tag with their flight information, which would then display on the tags small screen. From there, passengers could simply drop off their luggage without spending time at any kiosk.
Boarding with Microchips - SAS is also investigating how wearable technology can replace paper boarding passes. The goal would be to eliminate the need to carry paper tickets or scan electronic codes from devices by having passenger wear a device (SAS tested with rings) that would contain passenger information. One consultant even used a microchip inserted under his skin to board an SAS flight.
Palm Scanning - While microchips are a possibility, SAS Lab is more interested in pursuing palm vein image scanning. This would allow passengers to board flights with the simple swipe of their palm. SAS Lab is currently working with Silicon Valley companies to make this a reality.
Lufthansa and the Need to Boost Revenue
German airline Lufthansa is serious about digitizing its operations, having the goal of taking everything online as soon as possible. Though the airline saw a 6.7 revenue drop last year, its problems are not uncommon in the airline industry. With the need to find new revenue sources, airlines are looking for things that passengers are willing to spend on.
Lufthansa took this challenge head-on by inviting around one hundred of their HON Circle members (the airline’s highest frequent flyer tier), to ask them about their ideas about the airline’s future. The hope is that the members’ insights and preferences will be reflected in the rest of the airlines’ passenger base.
The Future is Now
Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs declared the airline’s ambition was to be “the Amazon of air travel.” Amazon, much like Apple and Google, is associated with innovation and setting the curve for others in its industry to follow. Thinking about the future is vital in playing this role. For some airlines, the future is already here. It’s up to the competition to follow suit or risk falling farther behind.