Star Alliance is beginning to implement a digital services platform (DSP) that will allow passengers to do things such as track their bags and complete seat assignments when they buy an interline ticket that goes across alliance airlines. But when the process will be completed is not clear.

 

“Our members and the airline industry generally are all in very different states of their own digital strategy and that in itself presents a challenge for integrating these digital experiences across the alliance,” Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh conceded during a media briefing at the IATA AGM in Sydney June 4. “I would be hesitant to give you a specific date at which every airline [in Star will be fully modernized digitally and integration across the alliance will be complete], but it is the direction we want to go.”

 

Star has rolled out the early stages of the DSP; it demonstrated a functionality during the media briefing that would allow a customer booking connecting flights through one member to make a seat selection on another member’s flight. “We need to understand how we can leverage technology, particularly digital technology, to help the customer experience,” Goh said.

 

But functionalities available so far are not necessarily available for customers of all member airlines. A near-term goal is for all members to allow customers of other Star airlines to redeem frequent flyer rewards digitally in a seamless way by the end of this year.

 

Another challenge that is not yet resolved is how to offer seat assignments that require a fee.

Star is aiming for an “online platform where customers have control of their own experience in redeeming their miles,” Goh explained. “You don’t have to pick up the phone to call a call center. The customer controls when and how [they redeem loyalty rewards]. By end of this year, we are looking for all of our members to have fully implemented [the DSP] in terms of the loyalty aspect.”

 

Star has shifted its focus to digital integration because the alliance’s 28 member airlines have concluded additional growth is no longer necessary and improving the customer experience across the alliance is the way in which Star can distinguish itself going forward.

 

“We’re very focused on making the customer’s journey better,” Goh said, adding that beyond the alliance’s current size, there are “probably marginal returns from adding more growth. Our members feel comfortable that we have enough size for a global network. There aren’t too many airlines that you would seek to integrate that would add significant value compared to what we already have. We shouldn’t just be seeking membership for the sake of it.”

Aaron Karp/Aviation Daily, aaron.karp@informa.com