Crises breed innovation

Elena Avila by Elena Avila | Aug 4, 2021

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday’s logic” is a famous quote attributed to Peter Drucker, whose work is often seen as laying the foundations for the modern corporation. The sentiment is certainly applicable to the environment in which we are all operating today and the need to think differently and creatively has never been stronger.

That’s why we are delighted to team up with ACI to launch the new Amadeus and ACI World technology innovation awards. Designed to celebrate airports that innovate and encourage business transformation for the long-term, whilst driving the industry forward, the awards shine a spotlight on the creative application of new technology. Or as Mr. Drucker may have worded it, those airports that operate with the ‘logic of tomorrow’.

With three broad categories, the awards are our industry’s opportunity to step back and recognize innovation.

  • Best innovation(s) in airport passenger related processes
  • Best innovation(s) in airport operations and installations management, and
  • Best airport innovation leader (individual).

The awards also reflect the fact that the pace of innovation has increased. At the beginning of 2020, technological innovation at the airport was still talked about as iterative but since the onset of the pandemic, this evolution has become a revolution.

When considering innovation at the airport it’s worth reflecting on how business at large has responded to the pandemic. According to a recent survey from McKinsey, the pandemic has accelerated the digitization of customer interactions by three years, with 58% of all customer interactions being digital in 2020 (compared to just 36% in 2019).

The pace of change has been mind-blowingly fast too. Respondents confirmed they had managed to implement homeworking programs 43 times faster than they had expected  Similarly, firms began deploying new ‘advanced technologies’ 25 times more quickly than they believed was feasible. When a crisis demands swift action, it seems humans can achieve much more than we thought possible?

When respondents were asked why their organizations didn’t implement these changes before the crisis, just over half said that they weren’t a top business priority. The crisis removed this barrier and airports are no exception. We’ve seen this shift first hand as airports look to innovation as a way to continuously improve how they operate. What may have been discreet innovation efforts, often undertaken in silos, have become part of everyday business practice as airports increasingly use technology to respond to the new challenges and continue improving the passenger experience. 

It’s my belief that airports are transitioning from the initial ‘sprint’ of innovation needed to respond to more of a ‘marathon’. We don’t know the precise challenges, the terrain or exactly where the finish line is but we know the future will require stamina, strategic persistence and a collaborative mindset.

It’s also clear that disruption will persist, and our industry can respond by applying technology that enables agility and flexibility. Today, many airports remain constrained by in-flexible on-site IT that is holding back innovation and preventing new ways of doing things. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on this situation whilst accelerating the move to cloud services that help to automate operations and drive new efficiencies.

The purpose of the Amadeus and ACI World technology innovation awards are to recognize airports that implement innovative strategies to align with new customer expectations or find new ways of doing airport operations while improving passenger satisfaction in the ‘new normal’.

Off airport services, biometrics, improved use of data are just a few of the changes that are becoming embedded at airports. By collaborating more closely together our industry can digitally transform more quickly and more successfully, and we hope the awards play a role in facilitating this progress across the industry.

Elena Avila

Elena Avila

Executive Vice President, Airport IT and Airline Operations, Amadeus
On July 1st, 2021 Elena Avila was appointed Head of the Airport IT and Airline Operations business unit (currently Airport and Airline Operations) at Amadeus. The unit is focused on bringing value to airlines and airports in the area of passenger experience and optimization of operations with innovative cloud-based solutions. Prior to this, Elena held a regional leadership role, managing all of Amadeus' airline business in the Americas region, including commercial, solutions, delivery and customer support for airlines in North, Central and South America. Elena joined Amadeus in 2010 and, since then, she has also held several central senior management roles, including Director of Investor Relations, Director of Commercial Finance and Global Head of Strategy for airlines, where she was responsible for defining and implementing Amadeus' strategy for its airlines business worldwide. Before joining Amadeus, Elena worked at Morgan Stanley in the investment banking division based in London and Madrid.
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