Flying the digital skies
Malaysia Airlines moves a step ahead in digital aviation, writes Balqis Lim
The iSpace is intended to promote an agile and modern workspace.
DIGITAL technology is changing how companies operate in the business industry not only in the country but also the rest of the world, and it will continue to do so at an even greater speed. In embracing the digital revolution, Malaysia Airlines recently launched its first in-house Innovation Lab, dubbed the iSpace, as it enters the third phase of its transformation towards becoming a digital airline.
The 770sq m facility, located at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, has a capacity to house 100 people.
It is intended to promote an agile and modern workspace, equipped with the airline’s second physical Solution Cafe for helpdesk support, reading corner, gaming, recreational and scrum-free area as well as meeting rooms.
Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer Peter Bellew says the airline’s information technology transformation began last March and is expected to be completed by June next year.
“The successful implementation of IT is key to our success especially in improving the airline’s customer experience and overall operational efficiency.
“We have almost completed 70 per cent of the overall planned IT transformation,” says Bellew, at the official launch of the digital facility by Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau.
The iSpace was created in collaboration with technology partners and academia such as Tata Consultancy Services, IBM Bluemix, Amadeus, Telekom Malaysia and University Malaya.
Malaysia Airlines aims to not only offer more services to customers but also make more revenue from other ancillary services rather than just from tickets.
As Malaysia has got a big pool of talents, Malaysia Airlines chief information officer Tan Kok Meng says it welcomes everyone whether companies, start-ups, or individuals to come and pitch their ideas at the lab.
“We know that it is usually hard for these young developers or newcomers to enter big companies like Malaysia Airlines.
“Thus we are opening our door to them, giving them a chance to pitch ideas to our digital innovation council members who will hear them out.”
Tan says if the ideas are good, Malaysia Airlines will accept them, even provide funding to start the project.
He adds that the selected group will be given three months to develop their ideas, whether it’s a mobile app or gadgets, and it will be rolled out to the market for testing before commercialising it.
All the apps that are being incubated at the moment are meant for the airline, but they may be expanding the system to other industries.
“Maybe at a later stage we will expand the system to other industries such as the airport, banks and telco companies to add value to the ecosystem. All this to ensure a seamless journey for passengers.”
As of now, five groups have been invited to develop their innovations at the lab.
These “hacker teams” were winners chosen at the inaugural MABHackathon event in February. They had to develop mobile app solutions and presented their prototypes to a panel of judges from the airline’s subsidiaries and experts.
“These teams are free to use the iSpace to hold meetings, discussion or just relax. This lab is like their work-play-rest area.”
Tan says the teams are in the midst of developing solutions that are beneficial to customers including retail, car rental and hotel which will be an added function in the airline’s main app. Some of the prototypes are expected to roll out by year-end.
With an agile and modern working environment, Bellew says iSpace will be able to attract and nurture both internal and external talent through innovation.
He also hopes these innovative solutions will enable efficiencies at critical touch points such as the tracking of special handling passengers, an interactive social media app that offer passengers personalised destination content, as well as an upgrade bidding app which can be used on mobile devices.
This is aimed to provide travellers a leaner, more agile experience — from booking tickets to pre-purchasing excess baggage, meals, managing loyalty points and bundled offers to suit their individual needs.
The last phase will be growing the platform for continuous innovation and differentiation to shape a new digital airline.