Etihad: A Personal Passenger Experience Through Digitalization

More than ever, airlines are turning to digital solutions to adapt to the changing conditions in aviation. Etihad realized the need to keep ahead of technological transformations in the new era. Therefore, it formed a department to help the UAE-based company pioneer in this next chapter. All in all, Etihad wants to drive a culture change and build internal capabilities to support innovation. The passenger experience is at the heart of this mission.

Boeing 787 Etihad
Etihad is putting its faith in digital products to connect passengers to and from its home of Abu Dhabi. Photo: Etihad

Plenty to consider

Etihad’s Innovate Lab has had a busy period as the aviation market transforms with the new economic climate. The lab’s goal is to aid with the delivery of ideas with great potential. It also seeks to offer the best conditions to deliver “proof-of-concepts, prototypes, pilots and minimum viable products” across the company.

Several factors need to be taken care of in the industry. So, numerous fields are looked at by the lab. From streamlining pandemic-related processes to ramping up sustainability measures, the lab covers it all.

Digitization is often misunderstood, with many speculators feeling that the personable approach can be lost amid technological overhauls. However, Etihad Aviation Group Head of Innovation, Digital Technology and Innovation Kai Ling Ting highlights that these systems can actually help deliver a more tailored approach.

Etihad recently announced a partnership with China’s Tencent to boost the customer experience with cloud computing capabilities and social media platforms such as WeChat. Notably, Etihad has a mini-program on WeChat to help it interact with passengers without the requirement to download a standalone app.

WeChat has massive potential to be used as a business tool, with the instant messaging, social media, and mobile payment app having 1.25 billion monthly active users. Photo: Etihad

Taking it to the next level

Etihad recognizes the potential to personalize through digital processes. Subsequently, it’s looking to further connect its audience with its services and bases as a result.

“Within the lab itself and through our digital channels, we’ve started to look at how we can entice passengers to want to do a stopover in Abu Dhabi by showcasing what’s possible and what’s available in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi for them to explore,” Ting told Simple Flying.

“Abu Dhabi has something to offer for everyone. How do we surface the right information to the guests at the right point in time? So, that when you’re traveling, perhaps, from London to Singapore, and you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got two days. I’d like to stop in Abu Dhabi, and what can I see?’ – I’ll be able to tell you, based on your profile, if you love adventure and such.

“Therefore, I would show you something about the watersports that you could do in Abu Dhabi and then help you make that booking and have the complete experience in a seamless fashion. So, those are some of the things that we’re looking at. How to surface the right information at the right point in time to our passengers.”

Etihad Airport
The company emphasizes that it’s more than an airline – it’s an all-encompassing travel solution. Photo: Etihad

A helping hand

Altogether, through personalization and by understanding more about its guests, Etihad can usher travelers from the inspiration stage to move towards actually booking. The airline is also keen to keep supporting them, even when they are on the ground. The company wants to truly be the passenger’s companion throughout their trip, especially within the Abu Dhabi segments.

Eithad concludes that one of its core brand values is that it wants to be known as an airline that is caring, warm, and personable. Overall, it is keen to ensure that this factor is demonstrated throughout its digital touchpoints and interactions with passengers. The carrier is also determined to use this innovation to help enhance opportunities even further.

Etihad Apps
Etihad is looking to make the management of travel easier with its apps. Photo: Etihad

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Better together

Competition in the industry is more challenging than ever. While innovation will help airlines stand out from the rest, it can combine well with collaboration to help maintain an edge.

A key pillar of Etihad is the utilization of external partnerships. The firm has formed alliances with existing partners along with the wider ecosystem of other tech partners, including startups, to drive an innovation ecosystem for Abu Dhabi, for Etihad, and the global partners to align priorities.

For instance, Eithad proudly joined forces with easyJet to expand its network. The partnership with the British low-cost carrier allows passengers to purchases tickets from nearly 70 European destinations to Abu Dhabi and help them connect to Etihad flights from 10 different gateways to Europe. The operator is intent on end-to-end booking capabilities through its new New Distribution Capability (NDC) digital platform.

The airline will undoubtedly be sharing details of its upcoming innovations at the Dubai Airshow in November. The pandemic has catalyzed airline digitization amid an extra focus on safety.

Measures such as the implementation of biometric technology and contactless journeys have become a priority for stakeholders. Etihad has recognized this and has kept the momentum going in this sector. It has been working well with IATA and is proud of the progress that it has made on schemes such as the IATA Travel Pass.

IATA Travel Pass
The IATA Travel Pass allows passengers to consolidate post-pandemic requirements while providing essential travel information and helping travelers navigate conditions. Photo: Etihad

Overall, introductions such as the Travel Pass will combine well with broader initiatives to provide a seamless yet personable experience for Etihad’s customers. As more passengers hit the sky again t after the complications of the health crisis start to ease, the focus on digitization will prove to add value across the board.

Kai Ling Ting is one of the speakers at Dubai Airshow, an event due to take place from November 14 to 18 2021 – Register Now.

What are your thoughts about Etihad’s digital initiatives and how they will help offer a personable experience for passengers? What do you make of the airline’s efforts in this field? Let us know what you think of the overall operations in the comment section.