Air New Zealand has revealed it is on a mission to automate as many of its processes as possible to gain a competitive edge for its long-term future.
In an ambitious but necessary plan to drastically reduce costs, boost efficiency and enable greater customisation for clients, the Kiwi airline is investing heavily in the digital future of its operations. This includes the use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning algorithms, process mining, chatbots and other robots.
“During the pandemic, automation played a huge role in ensuring we were able to respond quickly and efficiently to the ever-changing requirements from both operational and regulatory standpoints,” Michelle Hannan-Brown, senior manager RPA CoE, Air New Zealand told TTG Asia.
“Prior to that, airlines around the world had already been integrating process automation to drive higher operation efficiencies in airports and flights (in areas such as) digital custom clearance, biometric touchpoints, and self-service kiosks. This has carried on post-pandemic, as passengers are not just seeking convenience, but are increasingly expecting airlines to offer touchless digital experiences to ensure pristine hygiene and safety standards.”
The airline’s use of SS&C Blue Prism’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for example, eases manual and repetitive tasks such as handling passenger re-accommodations, reviewing passenger requests and ensuring the accuracy of data across platforms.
“This can eliminate some of the customers’ pain points associated with air travel, as well as alleviate our ground staff’s processes when it comes to juggling multiple tasks within a day. It’s particularly useful when routine activities are impacted by spikes in demand,” Hannan-Brown explained.
She also added that the airline has already seen positive impacts from the adoption of this technology, including increased engagement from employees and improved customer satisfaction. On the back end, automation has also enabled them to maximise their cargo business to improve their bottom line.
Air New Zealand’s decision to focus on digital enhancements and automation began after “intensive research” in the first six months of 2019 of its business landscape and operations.
While declining to disclose the size of its investment, the airline believes automation technology will be a key differentiator in the marketplace and has paired its RPA team with its Data & AI area, enabling collaboration between data scientists, data engineers and reporting specialists.
“We are just at the beginning of this journey. When you start to pair AI with RPA, a whole world of endless, exciting possibilities unfolds. What excites me the most about where we are at (is that it’s) no longer just the RPA team who are telling the stories of the impacts we have had, but our stakeholders are now too.”