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AI, Data, loyalty and Customer Centricity: Digital transformation at the boarding gate

By adapting the offer to the target, we have reached response rates in the campaigns of around 15%

Adolfo Gordo – CRM Iberia

If I ask you which industry has been a leader in innovation and transformation for decades … In what sector would you think? Surely it does not surprise you if I tell you that avant-garde technology crosses the skies. Airplanes are a clear example of that leadership in innovation of which I speak but … Does this innovation also reach the processes that occur before, during and after the flight? What happens with all those data that are generated when operating each flight? Are they used to improve the relationship with the customer? And in the loyalty strategies? The aviation industry – and with it, that of travel – does it apply innovation paradigmatically also in relation to processes, or has it not gotten off the plane?

If we analyze the sector we find that, in most cases, the data generated when operating flights are either collected and handled in an analogical way or managed through different channels, without a unified criterion. Translated: there is an enormous amount of data in the sector that, in the best of cases, is hardly managed and handled in decision-making. The unstoppable Digital Transformation in which all the industries are immersed worldwide – and to which the tourism sector is no stranger, as it could not be otherwise – is the solution to this basic problem.

In the travel industry, the technology already allows to automate, manage, store and process the data of each flight, digitizing both the documentation and the workflows in a single platform.

Well, you will say: the technology already allows to unify the data and analyze them in search of that Right Data that facilitates the making of strategic decisions in the travel industry. But, you will ask: Is it really being applied? In the current competitive environment where it has become more important than ever for companies to find the key by which the customer chooses a company recurrently, whatever the service it provides, instead of trying something new … Do they really use the Digital Transformation to get to know the client better, improve the relationship and engagement and make strategic decisions based on the analysis of the Data?

In Spain, the answer is yes and has its own name: Iberia. Since its foundation in June 1927 and its first flight in December of that same year, Iberia is characterized by being a pioneer in innovation and now also in Digital Transformation applied to flight processes and the relationship with the customer. A piece of information to illustrate:

Currently, thanks to the use of SAS technology, Iberia has two decision-making tools for its loyalty strategy: who are its most profitable customers and the 100,000 over which 20% of its total revenues are concentrated. Thanks to data analytics, the airline knows the behavior of its best customers from the point of view of profitability and, what is more important: you can predict it to design your strategies.

The improvement of the relationship with the customer and, especially, the loyalty of the most profitable customers is the goal of Iberia since 2004, the year in which the first actions based on SAS technology were launched. The challenge was to know in detail two issues: on the one hand, customer satisfaction with the company and, on the other, how income generation is distributed among the customer segments. That is to say: obtain a global and unique vision of all its clients, to determine the value of each one in terms of profitability. The key word in the process is SEGMENT.

Iberia is part of a precondition: to maintain engagement with those more profitable customers – those considered “true customers” – the airline has a formidable loyalty tool: the Iberia Plus card. Thanks to data analysis carried out in recent years, Iberia has implemented a loyalty strategy based on the digital transformation of the company’s relationship with the customer, a transformation that is actually a change in the culture of the airline. According to those responsible, the idea is that digitalization spreads the whole relationship with the customer, long before they choose Iberia to fly and until long after they have collected the suitcase from the tape and left the airport behind.

The change in the business culture of Iberia through the Digital Transformation involves integrally managing the customer’s trip, simplifying processes and exploring new businesses and innovative ecosystems such as the Hangar 51 program of collaboration with startups.

From the company they also explain that the current is the perfect moment for this transformation, for two fundamental reasons: because the market is undergoing a transformation with the appearance of new digital players in industries formed by traditional business fabric – actors that challenge the established, who have come to stay and who they are forced to join the transformation – and because the advancement of technology and innovation is rapid, constant and unstoppable, and it encourages this transformation in order to achieve the best possible relationship with the client. Both external and internal.

Right Data, differentiation & Customer Centric in Iberia

If you had a perfect portrait of your client (and, above all, your most profitable client) … What would you do with him? In Iberia, look for differentiation through the Customer Centric: one of the objectives of your loyalty strategy is that the information regarding the relationship of each client with the company is available instantly at all points the contact with him, with special attention to information centers, points of sale and check-in counters.

With a classification of Iberia Plus customers in a hundred differentiated profiles – obtained thanks to SAS analytics – the airline has developed differentiation and loyalty actions as specific and hyper-personalized campaigns for each target.

In addition, the company works on other actions that contribute to loyalty, such as improving the usability of its mobile application, with the aim of converting it “into something much more comprehensive, by including more information in real time, and more self-service, While we maintain additional ways to get assistance, such as the call center. ” For Iberia “the way we communicate and interact with our customers is key, with new concepts such as travel assistants or chatbots that will provide information and perform certain actions, such as obtaining boarding passes or information about Iberia Plus Avios points” Gabriel Perdiguero de la Torre (Director of Customers and Business Transformation).


Customer loyalty in Iberia extends from the external to the internal customer, since the company’s philosophy is that “digitalisation should facilitate the work of Iberia’s professionals, improve their experience as we do with our clients and measure the Net Promoter Score (NPS) of employees at the level of internal clients as we do for external clients. This is a transversal change and is one of the biggest challenges.”

Fidelity, Data and Digital Transformation

Speaking of loyalty, Data and Digital Transformation in travel, beyond our borders we also find interesting cases of study. Like the Skyhour program of the low-cost US airline JetBlue, which offers travelers the equivalent of a gift card through which they get $ 60 for each flight hour, redeemable at more than 350 companies through the reservation platform . If the selected flight costs less than the accumulated fund in flight hours, the client receives the refund of the difference in his bank account (although, yes, it is the booking platform that offers the promoted flight options and the traveler must choose between the proposed selection). JetBlue is working on extending the benefits of the card so that purchases at partner stores also become “return hours” in the Skyhour program. A way to unite tourism, travel and retail through Digital Transformation.

Lufthansa, meanwhile, is committed to the multiple purchases of flights through Flightpass, a kind of bonus that allows you to buy 10 one way tickets, without restrictions and for a flat rate. The service has announced its long-term implementation with operators – including Swiss and Eurowings – this year. Air Canada and British Airways, meanwhile, are already using similar offers.

In the spotlight, the profitability of these initiatives, which will mark their development and long-term growth.

AI, mainstream

Thales Group is a French high-tech solutions design company that has been developing Artificial Intelligence solutions applied to flights for years. For Thales, the key in the use of the AI ​​in the aviation sector is to keep the human factor at the center of strategic decision making, without delegating all the action in Artificial Intelligence.

One of the most interesting applications of the AI ​​in the day to day of commercial aviation is the monitoring of the behavior of the pilots during the flight simulation sessions, in order to improve safety and reduce as much as possible accidents related to human errors on the part of the pilots.

Through Artificial Intelligence, Thales records behavioral parameters such as the movement of the eyes and how much time the pilots spend doing tasks such as navigation. In addition to improving safety, the conclusions of the studies contribute to making the processes more intuitive and useful for pilots.

And what about the client? Can Artificial Intelligence also be used to personalize the cabin flight experience and improve the airline-client engagement? With its Inflyt 360 program, Thales aims to fully customize the in-flight customer experience, adjusting the advertising impacts it receives during it to fully orient them to meet the needs they really have (based on parameters such as their destinations, gender, frequency of flight or class in which he usually travels).

In 2020, Thales will launch a content provider tool for passengers, which aims to personalize the offer through a cabin experience in the Netflix style. The project is supported by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX). The Association has also created the Airline Advertising and Ancillary Revenue Commitee (ARC), aimed at personalization.

This Thursday we will discuss Digital Transformation, tourism and the future of the travel industry at the Tourism & Hospitality Forum that I modeled at DES2019 and we will do it with the main national and international experts. I will share with you the main conclusions in the hashtag #EvaLovesDES.

Check here the full Congress Agenda and here the full Agenda of the Tourism & Hospitality Forum

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This week you will find me at DES2019 (21, 22 y 23), in Madrid

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Research: SAS, Iberia Plus, Bloomberg, Runway, Thales Group & Lennart Dobravsky / Lufthansa

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Tourism & Hospitality Forum DES2019: Where the digital future is created