Shaking it up in Prague: highlights from the Airline Executive Summit

Rob Sinclair Barnes

Strategic Marketing Director, Airlines, Amadeus

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I think a good event is like a good cocktail: you need the right ingredients, the right tools to shake it up, and of course, the right company to drink it with. This year’s Airline Executive Summit, celebrated in Prague, was the ideal combination of these elements.


With 19 airline speakers on stage, and 9 external speakers, sharing practical insights, successes and challenges from across their businesses, the ingredients were up to scratch. When shaken together with 93 airlines and over 300 executives, top event technology and a varied format, you’ve got the perfect mix.

The customer was at the heart of most presentations. In today’s fast-changing world, travel companies are well aware of the need to be customer-centric, but the challenge lies in truly making that happen.

Both Adobe and Facebook discussed the need to get the touchpoints right, and the importance of meeting customers where they are. Customer expectations are clearly changing, and fast. Facebook’s Head of Travel for the Nordics, Kjetin Bergtun said that with the multitude of touchpoints available, it’s key to interact with travelers where they are, to create the “personalized, convenient, and fast interactions” that travelers are looking for.

This theme links with the research paper Amadeus launched at the event, in conjunction with Skift. The paper looks at the power of customized offers, and how airlines can use these to benefit both their bottom line and customer satisfaction.

Another key topic discussed at the conference was how to enable this change. The industry agrees on the need for it – but putting it into action is not as easy.

The Head of qantas.com & Direct Channels, Nandor Locher, said that it’s about the “how”, not the “what”. He mentioned that sometimes we pay lip service to innovation, but full collaboration across different teams is harder to achieve. This point was reflected by several other speakers, who mentioned that barriers need to be broken down so that digital doesn’t exist solely in pockets within the airline. Other speakers also pointed out that culture can be just as important as technology in order to drive change.

At Amadeus, we are changing the way we work with our airline customers in order to drive innovation. Christophe Bousquet, SVP, Airlines R&D, presented the Amadeus Airline Platform, which will create an open, connected and agile environment, with third parties invited to develop on the platform in order to deliver what airlines need. Following that, Fabrizio Calcabrini, VP Airline Solutions, discussed the new structure of the Amadeus airline portfolio, centered around the Order and the Offer, reflecting changing industry dynamics.

John Lonergan, Head of Digital, Airlines, Amadeus, took attendees through our new Digital Tribe approach: using open solutions, new digital skills, and new ways of working in order to speed up and deliver for customers. John also announced Amadeus’ new partnership with Adobe on stage, together with Julie Hoffmann, Head of Industry Strategy and Marketing – Travel at Adobe, which will leverage the best of both of our capabilities to deliver improved experiences to airlines.

The strength of Amadeus’ partnership approach was also reflected throughout the event by presentations from Finnair and SAS on some of the benefits the airlines are seeing through the Accenture Amadeus Alliance. Finnair’s presentation showed the capabilities of Innovation as a Service, where airlines can go from ideation, to a design sprint, to developing a prototype in a week at the Innovation center in Dublin; while SAS discussed how a new solution was built in 12 weeks to improve merchandizing revenues.

Julia Sattel, SVP, Airlines, wrapped up the conference by highlighting our commitment to our airline customers – to employ the right technology, people and partnerships to drive change and innovate together in a fast-moving marketplace.


Airline IT