Climbing to new heights

The team at Etihad Airways shed light on their Technology 20/20 Flight Plan and how it is transforming the airline’s IT infrastructure and service capabilities

Tags: Etihad AirwaysUnited Arab Emirates
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Climbing to new heights (L-R) Khawla Ali Albadi, head of Business Strategy Development, Technology & Innovation, and Kashif R. Rana, vice-president of Corporate Systems and ERP.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  September 13, 2016

While the aviation industry has a rich history of driving the advancement of technology, it is a more recent affair that IT trends, such as Internet-of-Things (IoT), Big Data and analytics, are being explored by global airlines.

According to findings recently released by SITA in its Airline IT Trends 2016 Survey, which included responses taken from senior IT executives in 200 major passenger carriers, the industry has displayed increased interest towards IoT. The survey found that 68% of airlines would be investing in IoT programmes within the next three years, up from 57% as recorded last year. Roughly 46% of airlines believe that connected aircraft will provide a better passenger experience, while the current numbers show that 37% of airlines operate connected aircraft. This figure is predicted to reach two thirds by 2019.

More than half of the airlines also reported that they would be investing towards destination services and duty-free apps, while 70% are expected to offer multi-media file streaming on passenger devices by 2019. Initiatives centred on cyber security, software development, incident response, along with intelligence and analytics, are expected to see universal adoption within the next three years.

One such airline undertaking a momentous revision of its respective IT infrastructure is Etihad Airways, the UAE’s second-largest airline and national flag carrier.

Announced in the fourth quarter of 2015, the Etihad Airways Technology 20/20 Flight Plan is comprised of 20 investment programmes aimed at enhancing the overall guest experience, by expanding its services capabilities through the adoption of technology. Part of the strategy will also focus on five enabling capabilities in five key areas. This includes a foundational layer focused on developing talent, as well as investments around governance, enterprise architecture and improving communications across the group.

There is also a large focus on improving infrastructure and security, the adoption of corporate systems with SAP and Microsoft in the cloud, and improvements to the core airline with the introduction of revenue management capabilities and the reservation platform Sabre. The final area of development will see Etihad Airways create a digital guest experience with an expanded online presence, enhanced mobile applications and loyalty programmes.

Following the announcement of the Etihad Technology 20/20 Flight Plan, the airline has worked diligently with a number of strategic partners to oversee implementation of systems across various aspects of the group’s operations. This includes bringing Accenture on board to serve as principal and overall systems integrator, and PA Consulting to oversee communications, change management and training. Grant Thornton has been tapped to manage programme and business value creation quality assurance and control.

The airline has also closely collaborated with SAP, introducing a number of the German software developer’s systems and modules into its IT infrastructure. Etihad Airways’ Procurement and Supply Management (P&SM) department for example, introduced SAP Ariba to help automate and streamline source-to-contract processes.

“Full visibility and control across end-to-end processes, combined with self-service capability for the Etihad Airways suppliers,” comments Kashif R. Rana, vice-president of Corporate Systems and ERP, Etihad Airways, on the system’s key features.

“Self-registration, tendering and on-line bidding, cross visibility on Order-to-Invoice-to-Payment and full, detailed overall Etihad Airways spend visibility,” he adds.

SAP Ariba features a self-service portal that suppliers will be able to access and participate in online bidding for available opportunities within the group. It also features a virtual tender board complete with contract approval procedures that aid in streamlining procurement decisions.

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