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The increasingly competitive airline industry has in recent years experienced significant changes brought about by technology and innovations. Etihad has not been spared by the rush towards innovation to increase competitive advantage and gain market share. The company has adopted innovative strategies that have given it a competitive edge over the rivals. Innovation comes with costs with the airline industry planning to invest more than $11 billion in the next few years to ensure that the companies stay close to their customers (Hogan 2013). This study examines Etihad Airline innovations that have seen the company emerge among the fastest growing companies facilitated by innovation.
Dubai is among the global locations that are on the forefront in the effort to offer the citizens a technological platform that enables the individuals to communicate and conduct businesses on the internet. The government has ensured that telecommunication infrastructure is available. The advancement of technology in Dubai has enable airline companies including Emirates and Etihad to offer its customers unmatched experiences. Etihad Airlines has been among the most successful airlines on the innovation front.
The year 2013 saw Etihad make the most innovative moves in increasing its growth and global presence. The company avoids traditional airline model and heritage alliances adapted by many of its competitors. The president and chief executive of the company, James Hogan in an address in Sydney announced a novel business model for the company. He described the company as one that is inimitable. He revealed a unique strategy of developing scale via organic growth.
The innovation includes code-sharing collaborations with other airlines and increasing alternative equity investments in like-minded airlines. There exists evidence in the airline industry that the traditional airline model is no longer viable approach to doing business in the 21st century. Hogan asserts that heritage airline coalitions in the industry environment require radical departure from traditional mode and drastic variation is compulsory for companies that wish to remain relevant. A viable future for the aviation industry depends on a gallant vision and concerted effort to break from tradition and prior practices (Travel & Tour, 2013).
For airlines to reach global markets, it is beyond any single company to effectively handle the challenge in isolation. Partnerships are hence inevitable. Among the innovative moves made by the CEO, Hogan announced that the company would have more than 40 code-partners and 6 equity partners. This offers the company an opportunity to be accessed by 95 million customers. Additionally, the move will enable the company to offer the customers access to 410 destinations globally. The partnerships with other airlines enable the customers the access to the services of more than five hundred contemporary aircrafts. The move ensures that the company can invest in other strategic innovations since it does not use substantial amount of financial resources to achieve its objectives.
One of the major innovations employed by the company is the ‘take-a-chance mentality’. The approach by the company illustrates the risk-take attitude as opposed to risk averse. It has significantly invested in technology. The company is on the forefront of developing communication infrastructures with its customers globally. In 2013, the company invested in technological online mapping tool. The company partnered with professional network LinkedIn. The gist of the innovation is the enabling environment that makes communication with customers easier. The company can communicate easily with its customers. The innovation made it easy for existing customers to message new contact, or even arrange for a meeting. The innovation makes the company customers productive individuals even when they are travelling to different global locations.
In a news release, the management of Etihad airways announced that the new tool offered professionals on the LinkedIn the capability to search for their networks using geographical location. Once the names of the contact are entered in the database, the tool gives a feedback displaying the contacts on a map making it easier for business customers to get in touch with global partners across technology networks of contacts as they traverse the world. According to press release by Etihad public relations’ officer, the company’s customers upon registration with the portal can enjoy a variety of services and offering.
The customer once registered only need to enter the search parameters founded on topographical location, the trades of interest and different degrees of connections. The feedback of the search activity is a personalized map of the contacts. The technology then sends a message to the searcher straight from the contact list. This way, the company’s global clientele are easily connected. The company portal on the LinkedIn website enables Etihad to connect points and individuals across the world.
The innovation taps into LinkedIn global clients of more than two hundred million. The tool supports Etihad’s core objective to increase its customer base and development as an extension of the vision. According to the company’s chief commercial officer, the LinkedIn tool is predominantly valuable for new customers traversing the international market for business purposes. Such clients often have issues they require to attend to despite being on travel. By utilizing the innovative tool, such customers immediately view new contacts in the area they are in as well as second-level contacts. The information can be obtained even before the actual travel.
This innovative tool supports more operational networking and increased prospect for the creation of acquaintances across regional, international and global boundaries. The innovativeness of the company is still being pursued by the research and development department of the company. The company is reviewing other ways that will enable the global clientele gain more from the travel experiences. For its travelling customers in different global locations, the globe is continuously becoming smaller.
For any successful business entity, maintaining a sound system of contacts is essential. The contacts offer the client a rich variety of individuals to contact in case of any business hiccup. This innovative initiative by Etihad through LinkedIn APIs facilitates the company customers to ably connect with other networks while on business trips. This enables the users of the innovation experience simplified technological experience that make it easier to have business done. Consequently, the users of this technology advancement remain productive despite being far away in foreign counties for business (Bennette 2014).
The development of LinkedIn innovation and its success has encouraged the committed research and development team develop further technology that will make the experience with the company give value for money. This is an innovative solution that allows company clients to transform their guest miles to cash. The technology referred to as PointsPay is the airline industry’s foremost loyalty program that has seen Etihad’s business leap in bounds in terms of profitability and popularity.
The innovative technology offers the customers loyalty e-commerce and e-payment solutions. The client gets an exclusive and real-time e-transaction. Developed by Loylgic, the technology enables the company’s guest members to change their miles into cash. The technology involves unlimited freedom for the customer to spend in-store or on the internet in more than 30 million outlets globally. This initiative was launched in 2012 following the need for the company to globalize to take advantage of the emerging business opportunities. The initiative did not disappoint the company. The initiative demonstrated to be an incredible accomplishment. There are more than twenty thousand registered end users. The customers redeem over a hundred million miles at over five thousand online and in-store around the globe.
The PointsPay initiative is an actual game-changer. It enables the company to reward amid offering of actual value to the loyal Etihad company clientele. It provides ultimate flexibility that enables the customers to convert the Etihad guest miles into money to spend in other missions anywhere in the world at any time. There has been immense feedback from existing and prospective Etihad customers from the time the tool was developed.
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The application is comparatively easier to use. To convert the guest miles into cash, guest members merely use their smartphone. Alternatively, the client requires visiting the company’s website and organizing for the transfer of the cash converted from the guest mile points. The cash is then loaded straight to the PointsPay Visa card prior to utilizing the card in-store or online. If the client opts to shop online, he/she does not require a physical visa card. The PointsPay system generates a Virtual PointsPay card that is easy to utilize on the internet.
The innovative technology has a wide range of advantages for Etihad customers. The system application is utterly safe to use in-store or online. It incorporates huge security features such as programmed data encryption and authentication. The variety of personal identification number and statements are other features of PointsPay. Whenever the points are redeemed into cash, reports are sent to the holder of the account.
As mentioned earlier, Etihad Airline is an innovative organization that ensures that the industry is developed alongside emerging technologies and customer needs. In view of this, the company has developed yet another innovative package aimed at ensuring customer satisfaction. In addition to PointsPay application, the company has developed the Etihad Business Connect. This is a reward program designed for small and medium businesses. For any enterprise with two to fifty business travellers to any global location, the enterprise stands the chance to take advantage of an entire arena of advantages.
The initiative is designed to reward loyal customers irrespective of their position within the client organization. As the global leader in the airline industry, the company covers loyal customer innovations to the client company and its employees. They reward the employees and the company for their continued use of Etihad travel services. Fundamentally, Etihad keeps its business simple while ensuring increased convenience for its clients. The innovative tool, Business Connect, allows customers to enroll at their discretion. After enrolment, the customer has the prerogative to allocate an administrator at his own company or the travel agent.
The person assigned the administrator role manages the account on the internet. During flights, the administrator may access the account to maintain all the schedules in a single file. The innovation allows the user twenty-four hour access to manage the itineraries as may be appropriate or requested by the traveller. The application is easy to use with user-friendly attributes. The more the holder of the account uses Etihad travel services, the more miles are accumulated in the account. The miles earned on every flight have an Etihad prefix. The accounts operated by the company’s codeshare partners also benefit from the miles. Similar to PointsPay, the miles can be redeemed by the operator and converted to the reward of choice. This innovation has seen corporate executives enroll to reap the benefits of the initiative.
Besides working diligently to get the fundamentals of passenger experience right, such as timely departure schedules, friendly crew and comfortable seats, Etihad strives to surpass the parameters traditionally set in the airline industry. Majority of the main themes in the industry today have a digital and technological component. Etihad is on the forefront in responding to the increasing volume of passengers using smartphones and tablets. The company has been fixing the seats in all its passenger planes with power ports and integrating inflight Wi-Fi portals. Instead of the traditional seatback IFE systems, Etihad is striving to ensure that tech-savvy customers can use their gadgets inflight. The company encourages the innovative BYOD (Bring your own device) trend. The strategy involves the provision of digital content for the passengers including newspapers and magazines inflight.
Etihad is among the first airlines in the Gulf region to fix wireless entertainment applications inflight. In the determination to present the passengers an increased array of updates and entertainment, the company has departed from providing the traditional cluster of newsprint and publications. Passengers can now surf the content of their choice on the internet through the Wi-Fi fixed in passenger planes. The innovation has saved the company distribution costs. The crew does not need to physically distribute hardcopy newspaper and magazines to every traveller. The innovation ensures that the company contributes to environmental conservation by adopting green technology. The ability of travellers to get the newspaper of choice from the internet particularly newspapers available in the customers destination is a great invention by the company. Inherently, the travellers can adequately prepare after reading through the events taking place in their destination (Kollau, 2013).
In recent years, Etihad has been pilot-testing an initiative aimed at improving customer experience before, during and after flights. The company is gradually moving beyond digital publications. It is offering its customers with the choice of downloading television series and movies pre-flight on some routes. Customers travelling from Abu Dhabi stand the opportunity to download games, movies and television series and other digital content to their gadgets via the Wi-Fi fixed at the budget terminal. The company plans to avail the same digital services to customers in all the routes it operates. Such a move will further see the company developing a huge customer base and an augmented market share.
Etihad Airways avoids traditional airline model and heritage alliances adapted by many of its competitors. Instead, it develops unique innovative technologies that often disrupt the airline industry. The innovations have seen the company provide diverse services to its customers. The evident success of the company is attributed to its ability to stay ahead of competition through innovative unique technologies.
Bennette, C. (2014). Tihad airways launches linkedin mapping tool. Web.
Hogan, J. (2013). Airlines adapt to mobile world. Asian Aviation, 1(1), 36-37. Web.
Kollau, R. (2013). Best airline product and service innovations of 2013. Web.
Travel & Tour. (2013). Innovation was the key to success for Etihad Airways. Web.