“We’re seeing a lot of pressure in today’s market as passenger expectations continue to grow and this is making airlines think differently about the passenger experience, which must become personal, highly engaging and seamless across their travel journey”, says Rob Ranieri, VP, Travel & Transportation Industries at IBM.

Aegean, the Greek airline company and Star Alliance member, is using IBM’s public cloud and artificial intelligence programs to “transform its internal business processes” as it seeks to improve its customer experience.

This agreement builds on a previous multi-year agreement for the implementation of core applications and the delivery of IBM Cloud Hosting Services to help accelerate the airline’s digital transformation strategy.

“We feel confident that IBM is the strategic provider that will support our determination and willingness to innovate and achieve excellence at both an organizational and business process level,” said Aegean Chief Information Officer Aristeidis Kamvysis. “By utilizing IBM’s most innovative technologies, such as cloud and AI, proven industry expertise and strong corporate culture, we will continue to provide even greater value for our customers, personnel and shareholders.”

IBM’s tech will cover both Aegean, and its subsidiary, Olympic Air.

The deal is similar to IBM’s AI-powered marketing efforts on behalf of Malaysia Airlines earlier this year. In a test of IBM’s offerings, Malaysia Airlines’ fliers who received an AI-generated email marketing program’s targeted recommended fares made 34 percent more bookings than customers in a control group who were not presented with the promotions.

The real-time booking recommendation effort also drove 54 percent more bookings in business class. Ultimately, the IBM/Malaysia Airlines test drove 44 percent greater revenue compared to the control group.

But beyond the numbers, the real value of IBM’s AI program was the “freeing up” of manual revenue management processes at Malaysia Airlines.

In The Clouds

In essence, IBM worked with Malaysia Airlines to help build a more convenient and personalized experience – specifically with IBM’s AI-based Personalized Pricing and Offers solution – for customers who are shopping for airfares and ancillary services such as seat upgrades, lounge access and extra checked bags, noted Rob Ranieri, VP, Travel & Transportation Industries at IBM, in an email exchange with Kambr Media

“First, it’s important to point out that as airlines continue to drive their digital transformation and modernize their services, more of their mission-critical business applications and workloads are shifting to the cloud so they can build, deploy and scale AI solutions,” said Ranieri. “Aegean Airlines is utilizing IBM public cloud to transform its internal business process and enhance its customer experience. By utilizing the cloud, the airline has more capability, flexibility and scalability to drive innovation and modernize applications across the organization, including integrating AI to gain better business insights and improving operations. The airline will infuse IBM Watson into its decisions support systems to improve operational efficiencies and support pricing strategy.”
In terms of the work between Aegean and Olympic,  Ranieri described a “unified strategy” in terms of goals and strategic initiatives: increased flight frequencies and connections as well as improved accessibility to Greece’s islands, including some of the more remote while investing in the international presence and supporting the Greek tourism both in Athens and regional airports. IBM’s collaboration with the Aegean Group shares the same goals and meets the same needs across the organization. 
AI For Airlines: More Than A Buzzword

As airlines seek to enhance their current tech and embrace automation and the analytics associated with Big Data, it’s worth looking more closely at what’s actionable and necessary for carriers. We put the question to Ranieri: Just how essential is AI for airlines’ customer experience? Is it pretty much necessary across the board –if so, why? Or can digital transformation mean the adoption of singular tools as simple as an updated mobile app?

“While any technology can be a lever for change, it’s not just about the technology – it is how the technology is applied,” he said. “Right now, we’re seeing an explosion of data in the industry and airlines need to figure out how to leverage all this data to drive better business outcomes. More importantly, today’s highly connected consumers expect that airlines will use data and technology to benefit them and create a more personalized travel experience, whether through a mobile app, targeted advertising, social media or loyalty programs. Airlines now recognize they can use data and technology to drive personalization, and they can differentiate themselves by applying AI to sift through these vast amounts of data to solve problems, personalize customer experiences and improve products. “

IBM is seeing a great deal of pressure in today’s market, as passenger expectations continue to grow and this is making airlines think differently about the passenger experience, which must become personal, highly engaging and seamless across their travel journey. And while customer experience is a priority for airlines, so is the employee experience.

“It’s critical employees have access to the right data when they need it most,” Ranieri said. “Equipping the frontline staff with tools that tap into AI for better insights to help passengers, will lead to improved customer service and ultimately help airlines drive not only more engagement among employees but also lead to a better passenger experience.”