A fantastic thing about the Consultant Development Community (CDC) is that whilst there are plenty of different opportunities to get involved in, you can also spend a great deal of time specialising in areas that interest you. An area that I have been lucky enough to be involved with for much of my time in the graduate programme is the aviation industry.

When one thinks of the aviation industry it is not always associated with positive connotations. Often misunderstood technology, poor customer relations or even just freak weather can play havoc with the way an airport or airline is perceived by the customer. For these reasons, Customer Experience is now high on the agenda for all those in this industry.

Only in the last 10 years or so has innovative technology advanced into the way we travel in the air. The industry is seeing the introduction of technology solutions such as biometric boarding, and NFC (near field communication technology) and iBeacons, which help to personalise advertising a throughout airports around the world. And it’s not just the ‘practical’ tech we are seeing on display either. For example many airports are simply using technology to showcase their ‘digital footprint’ – one such airport has created a life size tree out of plasma screens and LED lighting!

One of the reasons why many believe there is such a place for innovative technology within aviation is because the way in which we travel in the air has largely stayed the same since the dawn of commercial flights. For example take one large metal plane, board passengers on upper decks with first class at the front, and load baggage on lower decks. Very little changes in this model of transportation.

Yet it appears that airlines and airports are beginning to shake up this model. There are now new luxury private cabins offered within one airline which even comes with its own private butler! Completely re-designed economy seats now give the feel of a ‘living room in the sky’. There is even such forward thinking as a windowless plane with a virtual reality within – giving the passenger complete control of their environment. There is no doubt that technology is progressing fast.

It seems therefore we are witnessing a race. A race in which airlines and airports around the world are up against the oncoming wave of technology innovation. Their only objective being to stay ahead of the crest of this wave. Those that do will reap the rewards in both customer loyalty and market dominance.

As a graduate in the Consultant Development Community (CDC) working in this industry I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to, and work on, some of these exciting technology advancements. Working to implement these in such a fast paced industry is a continuing challenge and one that I look forward to each day.

Fred Smith