With airlines on the brink of a transformative digital era, aviation businesses will be required to adjust or lose out to their competitors. Dr Hichem Maya, Head of Industries, SAP MENA, tells Intelligent CIO how the company is helping the sector get up to speed with digital transformation.
What is driving the Middle East’s aviation digital transformation?
The Middle East’s aviation sector is highly competitive, with airlines and airports jockeying for position to enhance the number of flights and passengers, support diversified economic growth and transform passenger experiences. Digital transformation is key for aviation players to gain a competitive edge across passengers, operations and assets.
Middle East mega-events are a major catalyst for the aviation sector’s growth. Expo 2020 Dubai, for example, is set to host millions of visitors. Aviation players will play a major role in enhancing the end-to-end passenger experience, from before passengers board their flights, to landing in the country and integrating and personalising related activities such as hotels, transportation and tourist offers.
What are leading examples of the Middle East’s aviation transformation?
SAP is co-innovating with numerous airlines and airport operators to transform their operations, the passenger and guest experience and their physical assets from airplanes to airports.
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has selected SAP as a strategic technology partner to deploy a range of key software solutions to deliver the latest best-in-class technology to the Etihad Aviation Group.
Etihad Airways is using the SAP HANA in-memory platform for real-time business applications, SAP Ariba for procurement and business-to-business collaboration, and SAP SuccessFactors for talent management for its 26,000 employees, and real-time visibility on the status of job applications, hiring managers and recruiters.
Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA) is working with SAP as a digital transformation partner, consolidating its core business on the SAP HANA in-memory platform to support its expansion, and transform its passenger services and experiences using business intelligence, analytics and mobility. With a simplified, integrated, and flexible digital platform, executives can now make more effective and immediate decisions.
What’s next for the Middle East aviation players?
Industry 4.0 technologies are set to transform the airline and airport experience, especially with artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and the Internet of Things. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can personalise and better monetise passenger experiences – providing location-based concession offerings, enhancing terminal flow, and guiding passengers to their gates to prevent late arrivals. Big Data and IoT can predict maintenance and support intelligent buildings, which can optimise asset utilisation and costs. Blockchain can also reduce non-commercial dwell time, for example, reducing the number of passenger identity checks.
Across the Middle East, we’re seeing strong aviation demand for solutions running on the SAP HANA platform, the SAP S/4HANA real-time business suite, and the SAP Leonardo digital innovation system.