Re-Imagining Effective Work

Digital Transformation at Air New Zealand


One of my favourite examples of digital transformation is Air New Zealand. It’s a favourite because I get to fly Air New Zealand regularly to locations around the world, and so experience first-hand (some of) the innovations they have introduced. Those innovations include:

– check-in machines in the check-in area. Passengers with simple travel requirements can use the machine to identify themselves, confirm the trip itinerary, choose seating, and print luggage tags. Having to wait in line – as the only option – to check in is no longer required.

– the Air New Zealand mobile app, for checking upcoming flights, reviewing AirPoints account balance details, ordering coffee in the lounge, booking a new flight, checking in, and using the app as your boarding pass. And if you have an Apple Watch, there are specific notifications such as boarding calls, coffee orders, and boarding passes.

– being reminded through the mobile app on entering an Air New Zealand lounge that you can order coffee through the app, and when it is available, being notified by the app again that it is ready to pick up. That notification happens almost instantaneously when entering a lounge, and it makes me smile every time I enter. I know there are very specific sensor technologies to make it work in the background, but it presents itself as magic.

– the Airband for children travelling alone on a domestic or international Air New Zealand flight. The chip in the band is read by sensors at various points of the journey, and up to five nominated contacts are notified by text where the band (and by implication the child) is.

– while not landed yet, there are more innovations coming (good).

Among other benefits, these innovations improve the customer experience and introduce operational efficiencies. I’m getting ready for a trip to Europe in September, and I’m going to spend more money to fly with Air New Zealand than its competitors because I want the Air New Zealand experience. And there are many operational efficiencies – fewer queues at check-in, options for personalised service for new or premium customers, and lounges that just work.

For all of the above innovations, I imagine someone looking at what was currently happening, closing their eyes, and trying to imagine how the current processes, structures, and ways of doing things could be different – based on new technologies that are now available but weren’t available when the current approach was designed. It wasn’t about optimising check-in times by better queuing. It was a re-imagining of how to process passengers through the check-in area. It wasn’t about having a clearer sign-in and sign-out process for children travelling alone; it was how to drive a level of comfort for parents or guardians that their child was going to the right destination. It wasn’t about better email or text notifications; it was about how to create an engaging and informative way of engaging with customers through their phone of choice.

A spark of inspiration led to the innovations now on offer. But there was a lot of hard work after the spark to get it delivered. A lot had to change …