FTE Airline Transformation Power List EMEA 2023 unveiled

FTE Airline Transformation Power List EMEA 2023 unveiled
Future Travel Experience is excited to unveil the FTE Airline Transformation Power List EMEA 2023. Here we shine a light on those who are pioneering new approaches that have the potential to improve travel for passengers and make the industry safer, more efficient and commercially successful. The EMEA edition champions the most transformative change enablers within the airline and airport industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for their outstanding efforts to lead how their organisation has embraced innovation. In recognition of their leadership and achievements, each member of the Power List will receive a complimentary “Golden Ticket” to the co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing, taking place in Dublin on 23-25 May 2023. Three of the nominees will be “Highly Commended” and three will also be awarded with an “Outstanding Achievement” trophy during an official awards ceremony at the show on 24 May, which will provide the perfect opportunity for us to announce and honour our nominees and winners, among industry friends and colleagues.

After extensive research into each candidate, we believe the following 10 executives have been at the forefront of innovation, driving transformational change for their organisations and the wider industry.

Thomas Rückert, Chief Information Officer, Lufthansa Group

Thomas Rückert became Chief Information Officer of Lufthansa Group in January 2021, with a comprehensive remit that includes implementing the group’s IT strategy, IT security and IT infrastructure, and coordinating its digitalisation projects. He has enabled the design of “customer-centric airlines” through innovative, fast and flexible information management.
Lufthansa Group has sharpened its focus on the customer by digitalising touchpoints throughout the journey. The aim is to offer tailor-made customer information and self-service elements through digitalisation and to make the travel experience even more comfortable through increasing personalisation of products and services along the whole travel chain. For example, participating passengers from Lufthansa Group airlines – Austrian, SWISS and Lufthansa – can use the Star Alliance Biometrics platform at airports including Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Vienna. This is just one example of the emphasis placed on creating a seamless digital travel experience.
In addition, a new Lufthansa app was launched in February 2023, with new features and a modern IT architecture. Described as a “digital travel companion”, the new app is designed to proactively support passengers from booking to arrival at their destination. Importantly, the launch means Lufthansa Group airlines – Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa and SWISS – are using a joint app solution for the first time.
Furthermore, Lufthansa Group is intensively working on enhancing and digitalising its customer services with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies.
The FTE Power List recognises Thomas Rückert as a key figure in Lufthansa’s digital transformation, as the group continues to safeguard its leading market position and economic success by becoming an agile and flexible organisation.

Charlotte Svensson, EVP & CIO, SAS

As EVP & CIO, Charlotte Svensson is leading SAS’ continued digital transformation as it strives to respond to future needs and become a truly ‘digital-first’ airline. Her focus is on “creating business value through constant improvement of customer value and creating zero friction for both internal and external IT users”.
The airline launched its ‘SAS FORWARD’ transformation plan a year ago to secure its long-term competitiveness. This includes leveraging the SAS brand, achieving unit cost competitiveness, rightsizing the fleet (including refocusing long-haul), and building a sustainable future. Importantly, a key element of the plan is for SAS to undergo a digital transformation, delivering substantial improvement in customers’ experiences and delivering financial benefits both on the cost side and also in the form of ancillary revenues such as new inflight services.
The transformation plan is also designed to position SAS as a leader in sustainable aviation. SAS will invest in modern fuel-efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels, emerging technologies, and sustainable products and services with incentivised customer behaviour change.
Svensson has successfully transformed SAS into an agile, value stream-oriented organisation, fully operational in the cloud. This has enabled the airline’s focus on vital business development, putting the needs of the business at the forefront, while at the same time driving an ambitious plan for cost decrease, by using frontrunner technology such as AI, Machine Learning, robotics and persistently challenging high-cost solutions.

Keenan Hamza, Vice President Technology Futures & Innovation, The Emirates Group

Emirates’ commitment to a world-class onboard experience includes a firm focus on the importance of inflight entertainment and connectivity. The airline is investing $350 million in next-generation inflight entertainment solutions for its incoming fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft, which are scheduled for delivery in 2024 and will offer a personalised passenger experience. Emirates is similarly working with its partners to further enhance connectivity on its new Airbus A350s.
It is also investing in digital transformation, cutting-edge technologies and biometrics to enhance the passenger experience on the ground. At its recent innovation event, ForsaTEK, Emirates announced plans to introduce multi-lingual robots to accelerate the check-in process at Dubai International Airport.
In collaboration with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFA), Emirates is now offering international travellers the opportunity to speed up their airport experience by consenting to the use of biometric data. This year, passengers will be able to click to consent to biometric data use on the Emirates app, at Emirates self-check-in kiosks, or in-person at Emirates check-in desks. This will allow them to take advantage of a touchless and swift experience at multiple points in Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3, including check-in, lounges, boarding and immigration, which are all equipped to use biometric innovations. Emirates is also exploring NFTs and experiences in the metaverse for its customers and employees, with plans to build signature brand experiences in the metaverse, alongside both collectible and utility-based NFTs.
As Vice President Technology Futures & Innovation, Keenan Hamza is instrumental in shaping Emirates Group’s technology and innovation approach, while also supporting the global aviation business through his involvement with the aviation and travel incubator, Intelak, established by Emirates Group, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), Accenture and Microsoft to support early and late-stage startups with the education, mentorship, tools and resources needed to address business challenges.

The co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing, taking place at the RDS in Dublin on 23-25 May 2023, will be a mega-event where the worlds of digital, commercial and CX will collide. One registration provides access to both events, where attendees will hear inspirational presentations from a number of the leading airlines listed here including Lufthansa, Emirates, airBaltic, Air France-KLM and PLAY Airlines, plus many more speakers from inside and outside the industry. Find out more and register to attend >>

John Gibbs, Chief Information Officer, International Airlines Group (IAG)

International Airlines Group (IAG) is striving to harness the very latest ideas in digital and IT to power the global success of its airlines – Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, LEVEL, and Vueling.
One area in which IAG and its airlines British Airways and Iberia are innovating is baggage transformation, through their membership of the FTE Baggage Innovation Working Group.
IAG’s efforts to find new and better ways to innovate include a relentless focus on improving the performance and stability of its core systems, as well as its cyber security maturity. It has created a thriving technology community, with its ‘Hangar 51’ programme leading the way in identifying innovative solutions to business challenges, supported by a robust technology strategy to transform the business. Hangar 51 funds, supports and scales emerging technologies in the travel and aviation space, partnering the IAG brands with world-class experts, startups and innovation partners.
IAG is also making increasing use of product-centric delivery teams, using agile methods to implement new capabilities quickly and maximise business outcomes.
British Airways is among the IAG airlines accelerating the implementation of smart technologies. Last November, it launched a six-month smart technology trial, utilising biometrics, for international flights. Participating passengers can travel through the airport ‘smartly’ without having to show their passport. It follows the introduction of automated biometric technology on British Airways’ domestic flights. As Chief Information Officer, John Gibbs is nominated for his role in leading all of IAG’s IT and digital activity, building on years of technology innovation to create a more competitive and effective organisation.

Isabelle Droll, Chief Information Officer, TUI Airline

Digital transformation is a top priority for TUI Group, which is striving to enable a fast and efficient implementation of its ambitious digitalisation strategy. As Chief Information Officer, Isabelle Droll leads TUI Airline’s digitalisation strategy, focusing on new technologies and digital trends, defining the IT roadmap and delivering successful, technology-enabled change projects.
Among TUI’s most recent innovations, it has collaborated with Mobi to implement Machine Learning in a cutting-edge digital operations platform designed to increase efficiency and help reduce CO2 emissions in line with sustainability objectives. This continues TUI’s investment in digital platform capabilities and is part of a major upgrade to its operations system, increasing efficiency, enhancing service and supporting sustainable development.
Integrating new technologies, such as Machine Learning, is helping TUI ensure it delivers the best customer experience through having a faster, more stable and more accurate platform, while also enabling a personalised customer experience.
Sustainability is also a key strategic priority for TUI, which sees technology making a decisive contribution to the successful achievement of sustainable transformation. Energy savings by moving data centres to the cloud and planning routes with the lowest possible emissions thanks to Artificial Intelligence are just two examples of how TUI is using technological solutions for more sustainability today.
Droll is nominated for her role in leading TUI Airline’s digital-first approach to further enhancing the passenger experience and technology-focused efforts to increase sustainability.

Abe Dev, Vice President Digital & Innovation, Riyadh Air

The rise of Saudi Arabia’s air transport sector is among our industry’s biggest stories right now. The new airlines and airports taking shape there will redefine excellence and disruptive approaches, none more so than Riyadh Air, which was established in March 2023 with the vision to be at “the cutting edge of digital aviation”.
Riyadh Air has announced a significant order of up to 72 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with the first deliveries scheduled for early 2025. The agreement is part of Saudi Arabia’s wider strategic plan to transform the country into a global aviation hub, with Riyadh Air to connect customers with over 100 destinations worldwide by 2030. The airline plans to equip the aircraft with state-of-the-art, innovative cabin interiors and experiences, including next generation digital inflight entertainment systems and connectivity solutions.
Riyadh Air will be a digitally-led full-service airline with a commitment to sustainability, reflecting Saudi Arabia’s transformative projects under ‘Vision 2030’, which aims to attract 100 million visitors annually.
As Vice President Digital & Innovation, Abe Dev is leading Riyadh Air’s efforts to be at the cutting-edge of technology, enabling digital innovation at every passenger touchpoint, and being “a true disruptor in terms of guest experience”. He joined Riyadh Air in May 2022, bringing a wealth of experience from previous roles including Head of Technology at Qantas Regional Airlines, and most recently Director of Technology at Etihad Airways.

Martin Mitev, Innovation Lead, airBaltic

Innovation is at the heart of airBaltic and is very much a key strategic priority, alongside a long-term commitment to sustainability and a human-centric approach.
As Innovation Lead, Martin Mitev leads airBaltic’s ideaHub, which was launched in December 2021. Designed to empower visionary ideas and transform them into reality, the ideaHub is a unique way to capture and advance internal developments. Every employee of airBaltic now has the opportunity to share ideas by submitting a proposal on how to enhance the development of the airline in line with the company’s core values – “We deliver, We care, We grow” – and long-term commitment to sustainability.
Among the key innovations promoted via the ideaHub, airBaltic recently announced a company-wide initiative to explore and generate ideas for the wide variety of practical use-cases for SpaceX’s Starlink inflight connectivity. The airline is partnering with Starlink to gradually equip its whole fleet of Airbus A220-300 aircraft with free-of-charge, high-speed, and unlimited internet connectivity.
The airline is also embracing NFTs, recently enhancing the airBaltic Club loyalty programme with the opportunity to acquire top-tier VIP status by owning 25 NFT collectable ‘Planies’ in what is described as “the first NFT-based airline loyalty programme in the world”.
Meanwhile, airBaltic is embracing technology in its efforts to ensure a seamless, secure booking experience, and has recently introduced Apple Pay and Google Pay as payment options.
The FTE Airline Transformation Power List recognises Martin Mitev for leading a strong culture of innovation at what is undoubtedly one of the EMEA region’s most forward-thinking airlines.

Pierre-Olivier Bandet, EVP Information Systems, Air France-KLM

Pierre-Olivier Bandet was appointed Executive Vice President – Information Systems, Air France-KLM, in January 2023. He was previously CEO of HOP! since 2019 and also a member of the Air France Executive Committee since 2014.
As Air France-KLM accelerates its transformation, it continues to invest and innovate in high-performance information systems. Data, Artificial Intelligence and cyber risk prevention are all areas in which the Air France-KLM Group is further developing its expertise, and Bandet is playing a key role in strengthening the group’s leadership in its IT activities. Both Air France and KLM are also innovating in the area of baggage transformation, through their membership of the FTE Baggage Innovation Working Group. For some years Air France and KLM have combined their digital development resources and expertise to create a joint digital ecosystem for the Air France and KLM brands. Based on agile methods of working, a continuous effort is directed at providing customers with a state-of-the-art digital experience. The foundation of this ecosystem is a joint API framework, covering the entire journey.
Air France-KLM continues to invest in further empowering staff through the use of digital tools, with the aim of enabling them to surpass customers’ expectations. The group wants to ensure an unrivalled end-to-end customer experience, which exceeds expectations at all touchpoints. It is also targeting improving the customer experience through personalised and digitalised offers and best-in-class operational performance.
To support the group’s ambition to become the sustainability leader in the aviation industry, the Digital teams have also developed a number of tools to promote the offsetting of CO2 emissions, as well as tools to increase investment capabilities in Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

Joel Goldberg, Chief Digital Officer, Wizz Air

Wizz Air remains laser-focused on creating a seamless digital customer experience, which is core to the business model of the ultra-low-cost-carrier. Central to this is an exceptional digital customer journey, with digital experience key to making travel as frictionless, safe, and easy as possible in a cost-effective manner. Wizz Air targets digitalisation of all key touchpoints and its distribution is nearly fully digital today.
The airline’s digital team under the leadership of Joel Goldberg, Chief Digital Officer (CDO), has delivered in the areas of mobile-first experience and customer self-service and automation. Customer service has been digitalised via the introduction of a chatbot platform, increasing traffic quarter-on-quarter, and the airline is nearing an automation rate of 95%. The chatbot is a real gamechanger in Wizz Air’s customer experience solutions, with the airline reporting that automating and digitalising its processes is key in delivering ever-higher customer satisfaction. Wizz Air is dedicated to broadening the expertise of the chatbot and supporting passengers with an expanding array of self-service options.
The airline has focused on making its app easier and faster to use in order to continue to enhance mobile-first customer engagement.
As part of its digital roadmap, Wizz Air aims to build a better understanding of its customers, so it can offer more personalised products and services. In addition, the airline continues to improve its innovation process by adopting new infrastructure and architectures. This enables the company to not only stay a leader on cost efficiency but enables better scalability and responsiveness to customers’ needs.
As a member of the Executive Leadership Team, responsible for the airline’s initiatives that deepen customer engagement, drive new revenue, digitise operational processes, enable greater employee collaboration, and enhance crew experience, we believe Joel Goldberg is a worthy nominee in the FTE Airline Transformation Power List.

Georg Haraldsson, Chief Information Officer, PLAY Airlines

New Icelandic low-cost airline PLAY launched operations in June 2021, operating between Iceland and Europe, before starting its full hub-and-spoke network in April 2022. A digital focus is central to the airline’s business model, with progressive, customer-centric solutions designed to both enhance the passenger experience and increase ancillary revenue.
In December 2022, PLAY selected MOST to provide it with onboard retailing and payment solutions, including software, hardware and payment gateway services deployed across the entire A320 family fleet. As a launch customer for three of MOST’s products, PLAY is paving the way for a future of frictionless inflight payment technology. The cutting-edge digital retail platform and payment gateway technology will mean that PLAY passengers can look forward to a more convenient and streamlined travel experience.
The airline’s Internet Booking Engine (IBE) provides a solid platform for its digital future. Customer-centricity and transparency are at the core of the project, emphasising a simple and accessible user end experience and a smooth customer journey. PLAY’s digital team works closely with several different departments throughout the airline to ensure that the IBE serves all aspects of its complex operations. The digital team is planning further development and the implementation of new features such as flight bundles, stopover flights and local payment options. The airline is also utilising digital tools such as its chatbot Playfin and a new disruption management tool to enhance the passenger experience.
As Chief Information Officer at PLAY, Georg Haraldsson is recognised for leading the company’s progressive digital development and information technology.

During the upcoming co-located FTE EMEA/FTE Ancillary & Retailing, PLAY Airlines’ Georg Haraldsson will take part in a session focused on ‘Navigating the tech landscape and airlines’ journey to becoming fully-fledged digital retailers’. Find out more and register to attend >>



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