Air Canada’s plans to develop its own frequent flyer program are one of several digitization initiatives the airline is pursuing to meet the varying needs of its 45 million passengers a year, CEO Calin Rovinescu says. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Air Canada making digitization push

MONTREAL — Air Canada’s plans to develop its own frequent flyer program are one of several digitization initiatives the airline is pursuing to meet the varying needs of its 45 million passengers a year, CEO Calin Rovinescu says.

Weeks after Air Canada announced it was ditching Aeroplan, Rovinescu said the decision was part of the company’s broader strategy to become more digital in its operations. That includes looking at working with artificial intelligence specialists to recognize patterns in customer data and employing augmented reality to change how employees learn and collaborate.

Using data analytics on information collected from frequent flyers will help the airline better understand their shopping patterns, improve service and build loyalty, Rovinescu said. Air Canada plans to launch its own loyalty rewards plan in 2020.

“By bringing it in house, it will enable us to be much, much closer to our customers in terms of the offers that can be made and having the ability to in some respects deal directly with our key frequent flyers,” he said in an interview.

Michael Kamel, who advises airlines on business strategy and innovation for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said carriers are feeling pressure to act from tech-savvy passengers and competitors that operate with lower costs.

Airlines around the world are using different technologies in an effort to improve passenger service, such as texting flight changes to cellphones. Still, the industry has been slow to adapt.

“We are in that pre-evaporation phase where we’re just seeing the bubbles,” Kamel said.

The transportation sector as a whole is becoming increasingly focused on technology with the advent of automation. Last week, Canadian National Railway announced it plans to spend $500 million over five years, partly in response to the threat posed by driverless trucks.

Air Canada’s (TSX:AC) focus on its next wave of growth comes after a series of restructuring efforts since 2009 that have helped turn around the financial position of the country’s largest carrier.

It has signed long-term labour agreements, spent billions of dollars adding new aircraft, expanded its international network, launched a low-cost travel airline and restored its pension plan to a surplus.

“This is a totally different company than it was in 2009 in almost every single respect,” said Rovinescu, whose company was selected Tuesday as the best North American airline according to a survey conducted by Skytrax of nearly 20 million passengers around the world.

Globally, the Montreal-based airline is ranked 29th, behind mostly Asian and Middle Eastern airlines, which are perennial leaders. Porter Airlines was 55th, WestJet 58th, Air Transat 70th and Air Canada Rouge 99th.

Just Posted

Huge RV resort proposed for Buffalo Lake

Some residents feel 800-lot RV resort too big for area

Updated: Red Deer gets WHL Bantam Draft and Awards Banquet

WHL will holds its draft and awards ceremony in Red Deer for next three years

Land wanted for Central Alberta Foodgrains project

23rd year for Lacombe area charity

Stolen vehicle found thanks to tip from motorist

Charges laid against Red Deer man and Leduc County woman

City prepares for legal marijuana

Legalized recreational marijuana expected to have impact on many city policies

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Greyhound cleared to end routes in northern B.C., Vancouver Island

Company says nine routes have dropped 30% in ridership in last five years

Evangelist Billy Graham, who reached millions, dies at 99

MONTREAT, N.C. — The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life… Continue reading

Amid a flood of plastic, big companies see opportunity

LONDON — Public awareness of the problem of plastic waste is swelling… Continue reading

Ambulance’s slow response time angers family

Woman suffers stroke, waits nearly an hour for ambulance

Over-burdened refugee tribunal ditches legislated timelines for hearings

OTTAWA — The Immigration and Refugee Board is giving up on following… Continue reading

Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off profile: Troy Gillard

** Sheraton Celebrity Dance Off takes place on April 14 at the Sheraton Red Deer

New mobile paramedic program starts in Red Deer

Paramedics provide on-site care to those with chronic conditions

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month