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SIA focuses on digital transformation to reclaim world's No. 1 spot

CEO Goh Choon Phong, in a letter to staff, seeks to rally the troops to make SIA the 'undisputed market leader'

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Mr Goh wants to grow the airline's digital capabilities and create a digital mindset and 'digital first' culture.

Singapore 

SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) will focus significantly on the digital realm this year, under its overall transformation programme aimed at getting back to being the world's best airline, chief executive Goh Choon Phong said in a New Year message to staff.

In particular, it will set up an internal digital-innovation unit to boost its digital capabilities, and will soon announce tie-ups with partners in the areas of digital research and development (R&D) and open innovation.

This comes as it has been progressively scaling up its digital capabilities and capacity, in which it will invest several hundred million dollars in a multi-year programme.

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Intensifying competition from budget carriers and full-service airlines alike have put pressure on yields. The flag carrier was therefore prompted in May last year to launch a three-year transformation programme in a drive to go back to its glory days.

Mr Goh said in his letter to staff that the airline will "significantly enhance (its) digital capabilities" and create a digital mindset and "digital-first" culture among its employees.

He noted that the transformation programme has started paying off.

Striking a confident tone, he wrote: "The programme is well on track, with many initiatives already bearing fruit in terms of revenue generation and enhancement of operational efficiency.

"Additional new revenue generating opportunities are also being actively explored, with some close to fruition. We are confident that we will achieve all of our objectives under the programme, which will position the group even better for the future."

He added: "Through the programme ... we will return to being the undisputed market leader in customer experience and product quality. We will be the clear overall winner in key surveys, a leader in customer advocacy, and will continue to demonstrate operational excellence.

"We will strengthen and grow our network, and importantly, ensure we have a sustainable financial performance."

On the issue of staffing, Mr Goh touched on opportunities for growing the workforce while rewarding the high-performers.

The airline group is also investing in other areas such as new aircraft, with some S$50 billion worth of aircraft already on order for the parent airline and its subsidiaries, signalling a "clear growth phase", he said.

This year, it will be the launch customer for the Boeing 787-10 aircraft, with new cabin products for regional routes; it will also take delivery of the world's first A350-900 Ultra Long Range planes, which will enable the airline to restart its direct services to New York and Los Angeles.

Last year, it announced that it was investing US$850 million in new cabin products for 19 Airbus A380 jumbo jets in its bid to fend off competition from, for example, the Gulf carriers.

While he acknowledged that competitors continue to mount significant capacity in key markets, putting pressure on yields, "we are now well positioned to compete in this new environment and to cater to growth opportunities through the various vehicles that we can deploy to serve different markets."

In a separate statement on Thursday, SIA announced its collaboration with the LASALLE College of the Arts: its students will conceptualise and design a 3,200 sq ft Innovation Lab for SIA.

The lab is where studies will be done on ways to improve the air-travel experience for passengers by tapping emerging technologies. It will serve as a collaborative workspace for SIA staff to generate innovative ideas and to try out solutions to tackle challenges that the airline is grappling with.

Final-year students from LASALLE's School of Spatial & Product Design will come up with key design concepts, layout plans and an interior design proposal for the Innovation Lab, which is slated for launch around the middle of this year.

The winning team will be awarded S$4,000 and return Economy Class tickets to any SIA destination.

The airline also plans to work with external partners, start-ups included.

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