Fly­ing the dig­i­tal skies

Malaysia Air­lines moves a step ahead in dig­i­tal avi­a­tion, writes Balqis Lim

New Straits Times - - Bots -

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.

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