Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Tue October 18 2016

New IATA Chief Addresses Coming Airport And Airspace Issues

Airlines & Airports International Air Transport Association (IATA) Rich Thomaselli October 18, 2016

New IATA Chief Addresses Coming Airport And Airspace Issues

PHOTO: IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre De Juniac. (Courtesy International Air Transport Association)

Alexandre De Juniac has been on the job as the new Director General and CEO at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for barely a month-and-a-half – 48 days to be exact.

He's already facing a problem that’s going to develop over the next two decades: what to do with the projected 7.2 billion air trips travelers will take in 2035, nearly double the 3.8 billion trips to be taken this year?

Speaking Monday at the World Passenger Symposium in Dubai, De Juniac laid out a comprehensive plan that relies heavily on cooperation to stay ahead of the airport and airspace overload that many believe economists and experts believe will happen in less than 20 years.

“Partnerships are vital to meeting passenger demands with safe, secure, efficient and sustainable connectivity,” De Juniac said. “The pace of change is accelerating. Keeping up is a major challenge for an industry whose first priority always must be safety. Safety is not measured by speed. And our excellent record on safety is the result of a mindset focused on global standards and years of experience. Passenger needs, however, evolve much more quickly. And it is real race to meet their expectations.”

De Juniac, the former CEO of Air France-KLM, made reference to past initiatives accomplished by IATA through its Simplifying the Business program (or StB as it is known), in the hopes the group can duplicate the success.

Those programs include:

* Smart Security, a joint initiative with Airports Council International (ACI) to make airport security checkpoints more efficient and less intrusive.

* The New Distribution Capability (NDC), which will change how consumers shop for air travel by enabling travel agents to have access to products and services currently available only on airline websites

* ONE Order will build on the capabilities of NDC to enable airlines to replace the multiple rigid and paper-based booking and ticketing records by combining the contents into a single and flexible order record.

* Real-Time Interaction aims to provide customers with trusted, accurate real-time information from all travel service providers throughout their journey.

* One Identity is a visionary concept that would allow an air traveler to assert their identity just once, eliminating repetitive ID checks at security, border control and the gate.

“Of course, selling tickets and processing travelers more efficiently does not necessarily mean that we know our customers and are responding to their needs,” he said. “It was not long ago that the relationship with the customer started when she or he showed up at the airport to check-in. And our understanding of their expectations was limited.”

De Juniac said a transactional relationship that starts with a reservation and ends when the passenger collects their luggage at the end of the flight is simply not enough. Instead, the industry must aim for long-term relationships with its customers, from governments and from the airlines themselves to turn commodity travel providers into bespoke travel partners.

So how does an industry that supports 63 million jobs and some $2.7 trillion dollars in economic impact worldwide get there?

Through a combination of marketing expertise, advanced communication technology and the analysis of big data.

“To be clear, I am not speaking of network development. That is a science in itself. Rather, I am talking about the development of the customer experience—before booking, at the airport, in the plane and long-after they have reached their destination,” De Juniac said. “This is one of the lessons that network carriers are learning from the low-cost sector. The “pay-for-what-you-want” model has some resemblance to the personalized travel experience that network carriers are beginning to deliver. Both are about providing a product that maximizes value for customers.”

De Juniac said the enhancing NDC will play a transformational role in evolving the customer experience and enable airlines to offer passengers better value with options to personalize the journey around their needs.

The next challenge is to free passengers from the multitude of identifiers associated with any one booking—the Global Distribution System (GDS) reservation number, ticket number and airline reservation number.

“My dream journey through the airport would offer security processes that are both effective and convenient, constant communication that guides me through the journey and makes me aware of any irregularities or changes, and a more efficient way of identifying myself to the airline, security staff and border management,” he said.