Lufthansa and United debut new digital services platform that will further align the Star Alliance membership

Two of the founding members of the Star Alliance, Lufthansa and United Airlines, hope the use of a new digital services platform (DSP) will help to enhance customer experiences as the global grouping takes its first steps to enhance its digital and mobile services. Working in conjunction with global professional services company Accenture, the platform is part of the Alliance’s strategy to further improve the customer journey.

The DSP will gather data provided by an individual member airline or third-party source and make it available to all members, enabling them to build it into their own customer-facing digital applications. The longer-term aim is to allow customers to use any member airline’s website or mobile application to obtain all the information they need for travel on several Star Alliance member airlines.

“Most frequent travellers have a ‘home airline’ in our network and would prefer to control their entire travel experience through a single app or website,” says Jeffrey Goh, CEO, Star Alliance. “We are therefore working to create central capabilities that can be shared for use by our individual members.”

STAR ALLIANCE MEMBERS: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Avianca Brasil, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP Air Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI and United.   

Once a service offer is available from the DSP, member airlines can decide individually if and when they make it available to customers. For instance, a seat selection feature launched at the start of this month now allows a United Airlines customer to select a seat on Singapore Airlines flights booked via united.com or the United App. As a result, the customer travelling on fare types that include complimentary advance seat selection can choose a specific seat at time of reservation for the entire journey on United Airlines and Singapore Airlines, rather than only at time of check-in. This feature will be made available across the Alliance progressively as members start to use the DSP technology.

Lufthansa is using the platform to provide baggage tracking information for its customers on journeys that include flights on other Star Alliance airlines. The data is provided by the Star Alliance Baggage Hub which went into operation at the end of 2016. It collects relevant baggage information from a wide-range of sources and makes it available to all member carriers included in a passenger’s itinerary.

CHART – The Star Alliance network currently offers more than 18,400 daily flights to 1,300 airports in 191 countries; membership system capacity rose 2.8% in 2017 and was up 4.9% year over year in the first month of 2018 Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 12-Feb-2018)

In addition to helping develop and implement DSP, Accenture is supporting Star Alliance with on-going work to identify customer pain points and expectations. As part of DSP development, Accenture incorporated design thinking methodology that draws upon logic, imagination, intuition and systemic reasoning to explore possibilities of what could be and create desired outcomes benefitting the end user. Accenture leveraged its Liquid Studio – which is part of a global network of studios that focus on rapid application development approaches and applying disruptive technologies – at its Future Camp in Kronberg, Germany.

Critical to the development of DSP services is to ideate, prototype and develop DSP features from a customer perspective. The aim is to identify these more frequent issues or areas for improvement that may arise when customers are travelling on one or more airline, as well as in the event of service disruptions.

CHART – Istanbul (IST) is currently the largest point across the Star Alliance global network, just ahead of Frankfurt (FRA)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 12-Feb-2018)

“A seamless travel experience for airline customers depends on an airline’s ability to participate in a broader travel ecosystem spanning the whole spectrum of the aviation, travel and tourism industry,” says Robert Zippel, who leads technology consulting within Accenture’s Travel industry practice. “Airlines need to embrace collaboration with their alliance member carriers and associated ecosystems to orchestrate a greater understanding of a traveller’s fast-changing requirements.”

The DSP is an integral part of a wider Star Alliance strategy to place the customer at the centre of its activities, especially since today’s travellers are ‘always connected’, thanks to their mobile devices. Hence they expect services and information updates at their fingertips and to be able to take control of their own journey. By offering real-time data exchange and standardised applications to improve a customer’s travel experience for multiple carrier journeys and beyond, the DSP delivers enhanced benefits of living within an alliance ecosystem, at a time their future continues to be debated.

CHART – The Toronto (YYZ) – New York (LGA) route is currently the busiest international market for Star Alliance movements across its global network, just ahead of Frankfurt (FRA) – Vienna (VIE) and Stockholm (ARN) – Oslo (OSL)Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 12-Feb-2018)

Star Alliance says it will continue to work with the member airlines to roll out further services and enhancements, focused on “enabling customers to receive an improved digital experience on their interline journeys”. In the airport environment, this means increasingly offering self-service technologies wherever possible, while in loyalty, improvements have already been implemented using IT Hub technologies to deliver speedier crediting of mileage after a flight, as well as enabling customers to claim all missing mileage from Star Alliance member airline flights online, via the customer’s respective Frequent Flyer Programme (FFP).

By the end of 2018, Star Alliance hopes member carrier FFP websites will allow customers to also check flight availability and book redemption seats online for flights operated by all 28 Star Alliance member airlines.