SkyTeam has embarked on a new phase in its development focused on technology and providing its passengers with a seamless digital experience. The alliance has stopped new member recruitment activities and has no plans to follow oneworld or Star in introducing a new lighter category of membership.
A new strategy for SkyTeam has emerged under Kristin Colvile, who took over as the alliance’s CEO in Jun-2018. Ms Colvile has introduced a new structure which she believes will help SkyTeam meet its digital objectives.
“We have introduced a model where our business and commercial leaders are more involved in the alliance, which I think will be a key benefit as we focus on driving customer experience through creating a digital network,” she told CAPA TV during an interview on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Seoul, South Korea.
The revamped structure includes a new executive board which is being led by China Eastern CMO Dong Bo. The idea of the new board is to bring together leaders from member airlines that are engaged with SkyTeam’s new technology focused strategy and improving the end-to-end customer experience. “It will be an exciting journey as we really drive the implementation of seamless customer experience,” Ms Colvile said.
SkyTeam continues to maintain a separate CEO board, which oversees the alliance’s overall global strategy. Korean Air’s new CEO, Walter Cho, took over as chairperson at the beginning of Jun-2019, replacing Michael Wisburn. The chair will now rotate between airline CEOs every two years, representing a change in structure as Mr Wisburn and his predecessor (Leo van Wijk) were employed by SkyTeam and were not concurrently airline CEOs.
Ms Colvile said SkyTeam is not actively recruiting new member as “the focus is very much on creating this digital network seamlessly, bringing our members together to create this seamless effortless customer experience.”
The alliance has not added a new member in over five years. Ms Covile said SkyTeam is watching the development of new light membership initiatives – oneworld connect and the Star Alliance Connecting Partner – but this is “not something we are looking at doing ourselves”.
The emphasis on technology and digitalisation is not entirely new. Several years ago, SkyTeam invested in building a proprietary technology platform known as the digital spine. Ms Colvile said this platform is now playing a key role in connecting the airlines digitally: “It enables us to translate the messaging capability of all of our 19 members regardless of what messaging language they use to connect it all together, translate it and develop a seamless end to end customer experience digitally.”
The alliance is now working on making its digital technology platform open so passengers can enjoy a more seamless experience when flying with codeshare partners or affiliates of members. SkyTeam is also working to create a digital network that enables a passenger to use the app of their preferred member when flying with any member.
Ms Colvile sees a shift in alliances with a new phase focusing on seamless connectivity. She pointed out the global alliances were initially focused on creating a global network and later morphed into marketing networks, which led to the creation of products such as Sky Priority and reciprocal lounge access. SkyTeam continues to improve its products outside the digital space. For example, it plans to open a SkyTeam branded lounge in Istanbul in Aug-2019 and in Santiago in Nov-2019.
HEAR MORE… SkyTeam CEO Kristin Colvile talks about her first year leading SkyTeam, the recent appointment of Korean Air CEO Walter Cho as chairperson, the introduction of an executive board and its focus on technology in an exclusive CAPA TV interview recorded at the IATA AGM in Seoul, South Korea in early Jun-2019.