During his opening speech at the IATA Ops conference in Copenhagen this week, SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson said that for his airline a strong digital platform is far more than superficial marketing trim.

“For us, it’s not just about putting some lipstick on a pig and trying to portray a nice portal to the customer,” he said. “You need to have efficient tools. You need to have an efficient web offering. You need to have an app. You need to connect to your customers on these mobile platforms, but the key for us is also how do you automate and digitize the inside of SAS.”

Gustafson explained that a focus on digital efficiencies has been integral to the airline’s turn-around and competitive strategy, by finding new ways to use technology more intelligently.

“We do acknowledge we do have a number of things left to complete, I think we made some significant in-roads in this particular space,” he said.

Gustafson also presented some interesting statistics on the uptake of automated services by SAS customers, including some variations on the adoption rate within the Scandic countries which make up the group.

  • Nearly 60% of all SAS passengers checked-in before arriving at the airports.
  • More than 50% of all SAS customers use self-service bag drop facilities at the airport.
  • Except in Oslo, where more than 70% of SAS customers use self-service bag drops at the terminal.

“Again, because they don’t have to stand in line. We’re saving them time,” Gustafson said. “This is an important thing. We will continue to drive this as we move into the new age and trying to find ways to compete in a very competitive market.”

Gustafson believes the transition to digital and automatization of travel is an important trend for airlines to adopt, as the world moves away from manual and analogue processes.

“Every single industry on this globe will be affected and impacted by digitalization and automation, and aviation is definitely part of that change. There’s no excuse. They need to do their own efforts in this particular space,” Gustafson said.

Photo Credit: SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson. Peter Knutson / SAS