Interview: JAL Vice President of Products and Services Planning on providing personalised services

Phu Nguyen Event, Event News Leave a Comment

“Consumers today are more willing than before in sharing information and working with companies to co-produce more compelling offerings.”

– Akira Mitsumasu, Vice President of Products & Services Planning, Japan 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 Akira. 


How has the industry changed in the past 3 years?

Akira: About 3 – 4 years ago, many airlines were just beginning to talk about airlines behaving more like a retailer, and at that time, customers were still mostly treated as passive recipients of services. Nowadays, airlines have really started to innovate and provide a wider repertoire of offerings so that customers can cherry-pick relevant offerings and personalise their own value ecosystem.

Increasingly, airlines and industry associations, like IATA, have been working very hard in providing NDC (New Distribution Capability Program) as a common platform for airlines to merchandise their products and take control of their distribution strategy, so I think this is a major shift. In the past, airlines were competing on a very narrow range of similar offerings, such as seats, IFE (in-flight entertainment), in-flight meals and lounges. Now, airlines are and will continue to differentiate ourselves based on the kinds of capabilities we are building.

Irrational personalisation – this is a term I see in one of your recent talks. What does it mean?

Akira: We talk a lot about personalisation and data analytics. But what if, this mass amount of data you have about your customers are mostly based on irrational behaviours. And if we machine-learn these behaviours, aren’t we just prompting more irrational behaviours? Are we then encouraging people to make more mistakes with their purchase decisions and as a result reduce consumer welfare?

With machine learning or personalisation, there are two choices we can make. One is hedonistic, merely pushing consumers to respond more to impulsive desires, or we can choose to be responsible, using technology to help consumers achieve their rational aspirations. This is where the design of business rules comes in.

Consumers today are skeptical, and they do care about legitimacy, their welfare and the society at large. It boils down to a very simple question — how would the world be different without your company? This answer defines an organisation and what we bring to the community.

So what’s your answer to that for JAL?

Akira: Overall, JAL adds value to the industry because of our route network and the level of service that we provide.

It’s obvious that JAL takes pride in the service you provide to passengers. How do you achieve or even enhance the human touch as we move forward with digitalisation?

Akira: There are many touch-points during your travel. First, an organisation becomes more human if its positioning resonates with the values of the consumers. Another way is to…

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