Travel’s digital revolution will continue despite the challenges and risks posed by the kind of data breach suffered by British Airways last week, another major airline boss has claimed.
Emirates president Sir Tim Clark told delegates at the Aviation Festival in London such an attack, which saw customer payment details pertaining to nearly 400,000 BA transactions stolen over a two-week period, were “not peculiar” to the airline industry, adding “BA had had a dose of bad luck”.
He said he was satisfied with Emirates’ safeguards: “We have people that are very well qualified; I’m not saying they came from the dark web, but there are people out there that will take you down whatever others are doing. If you don’t spend time and money on that, you are going to be hugely exposed.”
Clark said the airline industry was busy emulating what other digital retailers had done. “This is a business that picked up the ball and started running with it very fast and was not ashamed to look at Amazon and online retailers to see how they do it,” he said. “I don’t believe any of the great and good in the airline community are not doing it.
Linda Jojo, United Airlines’ chief digital officer, said app development was allowing more direct customer contact than ever.
“It was not that long ago mobile apps were designed for day of travel, but there are more and more customers that want to do every thing on the mobile app and that is the way it will go,” she said.
But Campbell Wilson, Singapore Airlines’ senior vice-president sales and marketing, said there were still limits to the amount of data carriers could harvest. “There are so many that book through intermediaries; you can’t harvest that,” he said.
“Eighty per cent of our customers fly us once a year. Most we don’t know about. People expect a level of personalisation that we are simply not capable of providing at this juncture.”