Air New Zealand outlines soaring technology ambitions built on AWS
- 01 June, 2017 10:09
Simona Turin lifted the covers on Air New Zealand's development efforts at the AWS Summit in Auckland.
Earlier this month, Air New Zealand revealed it was experimenting with augmented reality and Microsoft's HoloLens for inflight service.
Dimension Data has been working with the airline on software for the viewer that could support cabin crew by aggregating and displaying key customer information, such as preferred meals and onward travel, directly in front of them.
In February, the airline announced a customer service chatbot, called Oscar, to assist customers and offer a more personalised experience than searching a online Frequently Asked Questions.
The company had already hired Intuit and former Google executive Avi Golan as chief technology officer to lead CEO Christopher Luxon's drive to turn the airline into a leading technology company.
Yesterday at the AWS Summit in Auckland, Air New Zealand's general manager of digital strategy and enablement, Simona Turin, fleshed out some of the cloud technologies that are being deployed to support and enable those ambitions.
At the centre of the drive, she said in a keynote address, was the airline's ambitions to deliver the best customer experience.
Turin said Air New Zealand faces intensifying competition, with 11 new airlines coming into its markets in the last 18 months. In response the company mapped out what it called a seamless customer journey, that embraces the host of digitally native travel websites and services customers regularly use.
She described the effort as "re-imagining travel through inspiring digital experiences".
A lot of that innovation, Turin said, is built on AWS cloud services that deliver "the freedom to create".
Air New Zealand, she said, was putting digital at the forefront of the business and embracing it as part of the company's DNA in three areas - customer obsession, digital platforms and an experimental culture.
APIs, or application programming interfaces. which enable quick and relatively easy integration of external services are at the centre of the strategy.
Air New Zealand has already deployed multiple APIs to share its post booking capabilities, online seat booking functionality, hotel bookings via Expedia, passport scanning and a single view of a flight among others.
Customers can add another bag to their ticket through their mobile phones and share their trip through SMS or Facebook as well as accessing real-time flight information.
Turin said the company was targeting a 20-times increase in API usage in the next year.
Internally, Air New Zealand has given developers autonomy over the technology stack, she said, introduced "Fix-it Fridays" and the concept of technical debt paydown.
All of the airlines websites have also been migrated to AWS.
One result has been a large increase in mobile bookings, which have recently surpassed bookings from desktop computers.
Design and development on AWS is now highly iterative, using the platforms auto scalability and the ability to release new functionality at any time.
Meanwhile, Oscar is learning fast. Since launch his rate of successful conversation completion has increased from 25% to 62% and he can now offer help in 21 knowldege areas, up from just four.
The journey has been from a monolithic mainframe-based environment that was diffiult to manage and even more difficult to change, to a serverless cloud environment powered on API integratration and "everything as a service".
Payments start-up Pushpay has also delivered value to its customers from AWS.
In a separate keynote, VP of engineering Josh Robb explained how the company had addressed its customers' compliance headaches by using AWS Lambda to produce PDFs for clients to use in their US tax reporting.
The six week project reduced an estimated 40 hours work per client was reduced to around four hours.
52,000 such PDFs were produced in January and February, Robb said, all for a total payment to AWS of just 3 cents.