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Paper is disappearing from planes, and providing e-media to customers is just great. But airlines must make sure everything works fine…
I love the way some airlines are using digital across different touchpoints. Digital transformation means exactly this: using bits to disrupt product, process and… people. Flight on line search and booking, flight management (eg on line check-in, boarding pass, etc), social engagement not to mention the enormous activity in the background while digitizing staff, airports, maintenance and, in the end, the entire company.

This week I was flying on Monday 23rd from Torino in Italy to Munich in Germany. Flight was late in the morning and when I stepped in, the staff provided me a printed brochure to tell me the plane has a Wi-Fi based in-flight entertainment system. Cool, right? A small plane for low range providing in-flight entertainment which I can use by my smartphone or tablet or Pc. Since few weeks ago, the only amusement was getting a printed newspaper before boarding. Now music, videos, e-journals.

I’m not gonna talk here about the system itself (maybe I will test it a couple of more times before writing about it!), but about the experience with e-journals. Yep, because when I tried to download one of the 4 newspapers the system was offering me on Monday, the e-newspapers were out to date. News printed on Saturday 21st that I was supposed to read on Monday 23rd. Or even printed on the 20th, as you can see below.

I flew again on Thursday 26th, my plane left Torino around 9 am. Same situation: e-journals from 23rd or 24th, so a couple of days old. Oh yes, the Monday issue was not a single case (picture below taken on the 26th).

On one side, digital is great: imagine how many printed newspapers are substituted by their digital copies in planes, every single day. Tons of paper not wasted, an incredible result for the environment. Great customer experience too: you jump on the plane, connect WiFi, read newspapers. Easy and quick.

Savings coming from operations (hopefully no more trucks with papers to the airport, no more microbuses for distributing to different gates, no more time wasted collecting paper when passengers are out of the plane, no more garbage to be moved around) and from purchasing (hopefully to offer a digital copy has a lower cost right?).

On the other side, you need to make sure systems are perfectly running: you cannot deliver newspapers at 1 pm, if first flight is at 6 am. But I want to be positive: they will fix it, cloud allows a one click delivery, integration with media outlets is easy, probably some more alerts in operation will make everything smoother.

Last thing: social media listening. Too many companies are not yet present where their customers are, or are just there for promoting themselves. When I set up the first social media team at 3 Italia (an Hutchison Whampoa Company recentrly merged with Wind becoming first mobile operator in Italy) we spent 80% of our efforts in supporting customers (eg involving the right people from customer care) and only 20% in sales-based communication. And it simpy worked!

This is my tweet to the airline:

and this is the response, only 45 minutes after:

Well done “Bob”! Fast, charming and even if the problem could not be solved, as a customer I felt the right approach. Love digital <3