The BoardConnect app being showcased at the Microsoft booth at the Singapore Airshow 2014.
Airlines are increasingly investing in technology to remain competitive and meet the needs of today's customers, said Alvaro Celis, vice president of Microsoft Asia Pacific.
According to Microsoft, the middle class group in Asia is forecasted to reach 1.75 billion by 2020 and this group is expected to contribute to the growing demand for air travel. Supporting this prediction, governments in Asia are aggressively investing in aviation infrastructure, said Celis. China, for instance, is upgrading its 101 existing airports and plans to build 82 new airports by 2015, according to Forbes. Singapore is also building its fourth airport terminal in anticipation of handling 82 million travellers annually by 2017, added Celis.
There are three ways in which technology can help airlines improve their business, said Matt Muta, global lead for Retail & Logistics at Microsoft Corporation.
Firstly, technology is able to help enhance operational efficiency. Delta Air Lines, for example, is now equipping its pilots with electronic flight bags using Microsoft Surface 2 tablet, said Muta. The tablet provides real-time access to crucial tools and updated flight resources such as key charts, reference documents and checklists. According to the airline, the move will help reduce its paper usage by 7.5 million sheets annually. Besides that, the absence of the traditional 38-pound pilot flight bags is expected to reduce fuel usage by an estimated 1.2 million gallons annually, which translates to a 26 million pound reduction in carbon emissions. Technology can thus help airlines reduce operational costs as well as be environmentally friendly, said Muta.
Secondly, airlines can leverage technology to boost productivity. In 2012, Tiger Airways deployed a cloud productivity solution based on Microsoft Office 365, encompassing cloud-based professional email, secure file sharing, video conferencing and instant messaging. The deployment not only enables employees to collaborate but to also work from any device — be it desktops, laptops or smartphones — at any time.
Lastly, technology can be used to improve customer satisfaction. For example, Lufthansa Systems recently rolled out the BoardConnect app that enables passengers to wirelessly log on to an airline's in-flight entertainment portal from any Windows 8 device. "This makes it easy for airlines to give passengers a superior in-flight entertainment experience that allows them to watch a wide range of movies, look at flight information and shop, all from their seat [and via their personal devices instead of the in-flight screen]," said Norbert Müller, senior vice president of BoardConnect at Lufthansa Systems.
Given the expected growth of customers and the increasing pressure on fuel costs in future, it may not be long till investment in technology becomes a necessity to the aviation industry.
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