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  • Chidozie Uzoezie

World Aviation Festival 2023: Talks and Final Takeaways

The afternoon concluded the World Aviation Festival 2023. It consisted of talks from airlines and airports on sustainable innovation and using people and talent to carry the industry forward.

Afternoon highlights

• Announcements: Retail inMotion launch new Crew Portal.

• Sustainability and Innovation: TUI deliver fireside chat, Oman Airports invest $50m in AI and innovation.

• Airline Loyalty Programmes and Digitisation

• Battle of the Airline Apps takes place with United Airlines taking the win.


Retail inMotion has launched a new crew portal designed to offer airline crew comprehensive training, better engagement and a seamless means of communication.

eSim announced a successful Festival with over 23 airlines expressing interest in their ancillary product.

Sustainability and Innovation

In the afternoon, Isabelle Droll, CIO of TUI discussed the vital role technology and people play in supporting sustainability. Isabelle revealed TUI utilise AI in route planning for their aircraft and cruise ships to have as minimal impact on the environment as possible. She believes that more energy consumption to reach the sustainability goals is better than more fuel consumption.

Moving away from technology, Isabelle highlighted the importance of people and initiatives. She stressed the power of complete ESG initiatives instead of only focusing on reducing carbon emissions. Engaging with the younger generation and motivating them further is vital to working collaboratively to better the environment. In TUI’s experience, the younger generation are more willing to engage with these initiatives and leave a greener footprint on the planet.

In the airport hall, there was a keynote panel addressing how airport hubs can leverage digital transformation to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Aimen Al Hosni CEO at Oman Airports noted that investment is key and not just in technology. They have introduced four new airports which has resulted in high levels of innovation, and they’ve subsequently invested $50m in innovation and AI. Their latest system is facial recognition for departures without having to show passports.

Challenges that arise can be that passengers want a seamless journey, but they are hesitant to give their data. Aimen comments that better education is needed to help them understand that this is a benefit to their experience.

Mohamed Al Binfalah, CEO at Bahrain Airport Company added to the innovation conversation saying that they’ve created a concept that brings multiple stakeholders into the mix. They have their own innovation labs and Mohamed wants to tap into this.

Julie Shainock, Global Leader – Travel and Transportation Industry at Microsoft discussed its position as one of these stakeholders through their work with airports. She concurred that key is a seamless journey, and that automation is the way forward. However, Julie acknowledged that culturally the interpretation of this varies. North America is wanting efficiency and ‘grab and go’ technology whereas the Middle East is more service led. Consequently, in the airport you must understand the individual passenger and deliver a service for each. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Myron Keeh, President and CEO at Edmonton International Airport, adds that it’s not only who you are but the circumstance in which you’re travelling, whether it’s a family trip or a business trip. Julie added that as you move down the personalisation route, context will be achieved. However, data is the key element of this. Aimen said that introducing AI will support this and those that have implemented it have seen increased revenue.

Turning to technology more widely, Mohamed said that the industry needs to redefine its role and use it more effectively to respond to pressures which arise. Aimen added that technology moves so fast the industry must keep up to deliver experiences passengers expect. He acknowledges that airports have a lot of data but they’re not using it enough – Oman Airport is currently only using around 40%.

In their final comments, the panel collectively felt that to achieve a better passenger experience you need everyone in the airport hub to embrace this aim. Julie said this goes beyond an individual airport level and instead should include the eco-system of airports.

In a fireside chat with Aaron Beeson, Director of Innovation at ANA Aeroportas de Portugal, Aaron concurred that identifying key criteria when deciding what technology to invest in is paramount. He explained that the product must be results driven and be a solution that will work towards a problem within the industry. At its current state, the technology around today places the industry at a 1–5-year timeline to research and test the technology, Aaron believes.

Airline Loyalty Programmes and Digitisation

Pedro Flores Ribeiro, TAP Air Portugal, Carolina Garibay, Air Canada and Bahadir Durak, Pegasus Airline convened to discuss the changing face of loyalty programmes.

The panel agreed that loyalty is an ongoing process with generational expectations changing. Whilst acknowledging there is always room for improvement, Caroline was noticeably the most confident in her airline’s offering due to a complete digital transformation during the pandemic.

Pedro admitted that TAP Air Portugal has a long way to go with its loyalty programme. Key to improvement will be using the Cloud to bring together all forms of customer information – complaints, loyalty and feedback to create a holistic customer picture.

Bahadir shared several recent improvements that have increased the use of their loyalty programme. Chief among them was the introduction of gamification. Customers can win miles by identifying objects in an image. He exclusively revealed that further games are in the pipeline.

Partnerships were a hot topic. It’s not realistic post-pandemic for many users to move up the ranks of loyalty programmes through flying alone. The panel was united in the need to be touching customers at every point of their daily lives – to reward and remind them.

Battle of the Airline Apps

The much anticipated battle of the airline apps competition was hosted by Oisin Lunny from Galaxy of OM with a panel of judges from the aviation industry. The judges were Henry Harteveldt from Atmosphere Research Group, Ann Cederhall from LeapShift, Seth Miller from PaxEx.Aero, Chris Gale from Emirates and Ben Mutzabaugh from The Points Guy. They evaluated the apps based on the speaker presentations, judges’ question responses and the app competencies.

All the apps had common features such as easy access to booking trips and check-ins, live notifications and updates on booked flights, manage booking features, and live chat bots (AI) for customer queries. The contestants and their app highlights were:

Murat Sahin from Turkish Airlines said their app focused on the user experience, such as real-time flight status updates, easy changes and rebooking in case of flight cancellation, and a travel companion feature with maps and other information for the destination.

Chris Gale from Emirates said their app offered a 360-cabin view where users can preview their seats before booking, meal pre-order for business and first-class passengers, seat syncing with phone for entertainment, chauffer service to airport, baggage tracker, and booking tours and attractions in the app.

Christian Spann from Lufthansa Group said their app acted as a ‘trip assistant’ where users can leave feedback in the app and get multiple options in case of flight cancellation.

Bertille Bourrel from Air France said their app was best for finding the best deal in app, personalising flight options and tracking baggage.

Grant Milstead from United Airlines said their app featured a tailored ‘trip planner’ that offered walking instructions and timings for the airport, especially useful for customers who have connecting flights.

Christophe Guittard from Qatar Airways said their app offered duty free purchasing in the app and digital reality options to view the cabin before booking a seat.

The winner of the competition was United Airlines, who received a sponsorship package for next year’s festival and a World Aviation Festival trophy.

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Comments (22)

Sep 21, 2022

We just booked our QATAR 🇶🇦 HÔTEL yesterday for 2 différent short stars of 2 nights and 3 nights for the Final… . Not exactly cheap but ok price for 4.5 Stars luxury and in Doha Center City! Thanks and Good Luck everyone! Vamos MEXICO!


Sep 30, 2022

Wow! Stunning! Hilton seems to be taking Africa by storm. Just a couple of years back, they opened the first ever in Eswatini.


Oct 24, 2022

Wonderful event and topics discussed, hopefully we see the manifestations in our African airline businesses in the nearest future. Kudos to you all.


Nov 10, 2022

Hi, I'm Lucy. Please how do I embark on my travel/ tour business. I am newbie and help..


Nov 18, 2022

Prices in the Sol Torremolinos Don Pablo are the same than two weeks ago.


Dec 04, 2022

Good location astounding but the staffs are rude and they make me wait so long for the service. They charge me more than what is on the website and did not refund me the manager is not helping with the issue


Dec 15, 2022

WoW. Amazing Review. 👍


Jan 07

I spent the holidays here, I don't know why but during the holidays their reception smells like a piss Id rather not spend my special occasions here