All flights lead to Rome: Supporting airline retailing at IATA’s AIR Symposium

By Julia Sattel

President, Airlines, Amadeus

The medieval proverb ‘All roads lead to Rome’ came to mind during the IATA AIR Symposium, held in Italy’s capital city. However, instead of roads, it was ‘all flight paths lead to Rome’ with players from across the travel industry on hand to talk all things related to airline retailing.

I had the opportunity to discuss the changes happening in this area and how we are driving innovation to support airline retailing, during a fireside chat hosted by BBC anchor Tanya Beckett.

I conveyed how vital it is for the industry to adapt to consumers’ growing expectations and the rapid evolution of technology. In today’s instant, digital world, this is all about creating memorable experiences. And airlines should be able to give travelers just that. 

Rapid growth in the travel industry represents new opportunities but also brings added complexity. The critical topic here is greater collaboration and I was encouraged to see the industry more eager than ever to do this. In this respect, we sponsored an Executive Summit at the conference with over 50 of the top travel industry leaders including airlines, Travel Management Companies (TMCs) and technology providers to address some of the key challenges and opportunities the industry faces today.

One of the key takeaways was that a shift from within was essential to continue delivering on the promise to our industry. In Amadeus, we have faced change head on and are embracing a more open, agile and flexible approach to become ‘One Amadeus for airlines’. We have listened to what our customers are saying and have re-focused our business to a single customer facing team serving airlines, with regional leaders. This includes our new digital tribe with over 300 people, led by John Lonergan with his insights from over 30 years of driving transformation.

Essentially the foundation to all our work is a relentless dedication to innovation. Over the past year we’ve advanced significantly on this, partnering with heavyweights like Adobe to enable airlines to deliver amazing digital experiences. Other partnerships, like the one we have with Optym, combine its mathematical brilliance with our industry knowledge to help airlines like easyJet and Southwest Airlines improve operations and efficiency in network and schedule planning. In the spirit of collaboration we have also improved aircraft boarding times by helping Lufthansa board an A380 plane in under 20 minutes at LAX airport using biometric facial-recognition technology.

We want to enable airlines to merchandise effectively. This is possible at every stage of the travel journey and there are emerging opportunities in several areas. This includes offer optimization and merchandisingin an airline’s own channels and through its travel agency partners. NDC is a key area to enable this, and we are one of the first providers with dual level 3 certification as both an aggregator and IT provider. Through our NDC-X program, we have partnered with several airlines and travel sellers in order to drive and industrialize this promising technology.

Ultimately, technology should be an enabler for airlines to sell better, and just as importantly, it should empower airlines to keep delivering the great customer experience their travelers expect.

I’d like to thank IATA for putting on another great event, as well as all of the airlines I had a chance to meet. I am leaving Rome with optimism that there’s great tailwinds for the industry when innovation and partnerships are at the center of everything we do.

Julia Sattel (President Airlines, Amadeus) and Tanya Beckett (Presenter, BBC News) at the IATA Air Symposium
Julia Sattel (President, Airlines, Amadeus) and Tanya Beckett (Presenter, BBC News) at the IATA Air Symposium