Air New Zealand’s Chief Digital Officer Will Leave In May

The seventh senior executive in just 12 months is leaving Air New Zealand. On Monday morning, Air New Zealand announced its Chief Digital Officer, Jennifer Sepull, was leaving the airline. Ms Sepull began working at Air New Zealand in May 2019. She resigns after less than two years in the role.

Air New Zealand’s Jennifer Sepull is leaving the airline. Photo: Airbus

Jennifer Sepull resigns after less than two years at Air New Zealand

The formerly United States-based executive is leaving of her own accord, citing family reasons. However, Ms Sepull is in good company. She joins Cam Wallace, Nick Judd, Mike Tod, John Whittaker, and Joe McCollum, all senior executives who have recently left the airline. Later this year, Chief financial officer Jeff McDowall is also due to depart.

“On behalf of the Executive and the Board, I would like to thank Jennifer for her contribution to the airline over the past two years,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran on Monday.

“Under Jennifer’s leadership, Air New Zealand’s cybersecurity and core technology has become stronger, simplified, and more resilient. Jennifer and her team have also started the journey to build our future digital architecture.”

Air New Zealand’s Chief Information Officer, Jennifer Sepull. Photo: Air New Zealand

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Ms Sepull leaves Air New Zealand as the digital transformation begins

Ms Sepull exits the business when Air New Zealand is one year into a five-year recovery strategy. In an interview published just last week in technology and IT magazine, CIO, Ms Sepull spoke of the challenges facing the airline and her team.

On her radar were “legacy platforms” built in a “monolithic way.” The Chief Digital Officer describes the original platform built to handle reservations, inventory, and departure control systems as been added to over the years. One of Jennifer Sepull’s aims was to harness all the new data the added capacities provided while also simplifying the platform. And that’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.

While that kind of back-office IT makeover is key to making Air New Zealand a better, more efficient airline, it isn’t something that catches the public’s eye.

The push to go digital will catch the public’s eye. Like many other airlines, Air New Zealand wants to wean passengers off expensive, labor-intensive call centers and service desks. The airline wants to migrate passengers onto their phones and the airline’s app.

“The goal is digital self-service,” Ms Sepull told CIO. Air New Zealand is still recovering from reputation damage incurred last year when their call center was flooded with calls after the travel downturn and lockdowns commenced. The systems were overloaded, and there were a lot of disgruntled Air New Zealand passengers. It’s not something the airline’s executive team wants to see happen again.

Under Ms Sepull’s watch, Air New Zealand will begin trialing a digital travel pass in April. Photo: IATA

Air New Zealand to trial digital health passport in April

Also under the Chief Digital Officer’s watch and in the public eye is the development of digital travel and health apps. Under Ms Sepull’s management, Air New Zealand is trialing IATA’s digital travel pass on flights between Auckland and Sydney next month.

“Air New Zealand is demonstrating its industry leadership being among the first airlines in the world to offer its passengers a digital travel pass,” said IATA’s Nick Careen in February.

Key to the rollout of this app is Jennifer Sepull and her team. “This will give customers peace of mind,” she says the app. “Reassuring customers that travel is, in fact safe, is one of our priorities.”

If the app’s rollout is successful, it means Ms Sepull’s tenure at the airline will end on a high note. The Chief Digital Officer leaves Air New Zealand this week. However, she will provide ongoing transitional support while the airline begins its search for her successor.