Interview: Austrian Airlines’ Interim VP of Product Management on the customer-centric approach to digitisation

Phu Nguyen Event, Event News Leave a Comment

“The best technology doesn’t help if customers won’t use it or don’t want to use it. Digitalisation is a must-have for airlines now, but it should always be customer-centric.”

– Ali Farhat, Interim Vice President of Product Management, Austrian Airlines –

Following the successful Aviation Festival Asia 2018, we’re launching an eBook featuring some of the industry’s most forward-thinking digital innovators to talk about their digital innovation journey and where they think we are headed. Download our ebook here for full interviews. Below is an excerpt of our chat with Ali. 


As one of the key personnel responsible for products innovation at Austrian Airlines, how do you go about sourcing for ideas and inspiration for your next digital project?

Ali: Normally we receive offers from various suppliers promoting their solutions. Of course, not every offer is suitable for us at the airline but there are lots of potential cross-industry innovations that we can keep in mind through these emails and contacts. Market research, both within and cross-industry, while keeping our customers’ needs in mind, is also a huge part of the job. Lastly, you have to be creative, and you’ll need to be given some freedom in your decision-making process to be successful

Did any discovery stand out during your market research in recent months?

Ali: For us, virtual reality (VR) is a big thing. But the challenge with most VR solutions is that they were not created with customers’ needs in mind. For example, most 360o VR products require VR glasses and most people won’t use it because they do not have the necessary equipment. Internet on Board is another trend which we’ve picked up and we’ve introduced it to our Airbus fleet A319, A320, and A321 within Austrian Airlines, enabling us to introduce new offers to our customers which we couldn’t do before.

How has technology played a role in the conceptualisation, implementation and eventual adaptation of these projects at Austrian Airlines?

Ali: The most important thing is to stay close to customers. The best technology doesn’t help if customers won’t use it or don’t want to use it. Technology should adapt to the needs of the customers. Digitalisation is a must-have for airlines now, but it should always be customer-centric.

What about some of the failed projects? Were there any?

Ali:We believe in the “implement first, perfect later” approach. For example, we introduced price alerts previously in the booking path, but later realised that it was too late in the flight booking process to make it a useful tool. We learnt, and later integrated it as part of our newsletters and the performance was great.

How would you define “digital transformation” for the aviation business?

Ali: Digital transformation is not a nice-to-have, it is a must-have. Digitalisation is needed for all processes. Scalability and flexibility in face of business opportunities is now only possible with digital transformation. Although having said this…

Join us at Aviation Festival Asia 2019
Now entering its 15th year, Aviation Festival Asia 2019 (27 – 28 February, Singapore) is Asia’s largest airline leadership conference, gathering leaders from FSCs, LCCs and airports with a size of 150+ speakers, 1000+ delegates and total 2,000+ attendees. Want to join us? For sponsorship & exhibition enquiries, contact or to explore speaking opportunities at the event, contact

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