Airlines, tech companies and big data


“Technology is moving at a faster pace than we can use it,” Bahrain’s Transport and Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed said at the summit. “Airline operators will be forced to invest in technology.”

In that spirit, Boeing has assembled 800 analytics experts to create a new division focused on using data for customer solutions. Called Boeing AnalytX, the unit launched last year and is already doing business with the likes of Korean Air, Delta Air Lines and Turkish Airlines.

Goh Choon Phong, CEO of Singapore Airlines, told CNBC that his company wasn’t worried about its big data abilities.

“Airlines have their own advantage when it comes to data and interactions with customers,” Phong said on the summit’s sidelines. “I don’t think you can find any other business where you have customers, in some sense, with you for the duration of a whole flight,” he continued. That’s an opportunity for airlines to get to know passengers even better, he added.

The carrier is currently hiring for several big data-related jobs, according to its website, as it embarks on a multi-year plan to upgrade operations. “If we can understand our customers better, surely we can use that data to serve them better,” Phong said.

The executive also shrugged off the possibility of future competition from tech firms. Singapore, the carrier’s home market, is so open that “anybody can set up an airline,” he said, suggesting that general competition wasn’t a new concern.

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