Emirates Airline president Sir Tim Clark warned of disruptive changes in the airline industry that new technologies are going to bring in the near future, saying that airlines must put data and technology at the centre of their business. For years, the Emirates boss has been eager to bring his company into a modern digital landscape and now he has his sights set on blockchain technology.

In his latest interview Clark told The Business Insider that there is a “storm” awaiting the industry and if airlines do not make changes to the way they deal with emerging new technologies and digital trends they “will perish”.

“It’s not a question about using advanced technology to increase the way you do your business like ancillary revenue streams because that’s a given,” Clark said. Airlines need to deconstruct their businesses internally and rebuild them on digital platforms, which means including advanced technology as a core element of the business.

Emirates is already doing that and the impact is supposed to be “revolutionary”. According to the airline’s boss, the company has put data and technology at the centre of the business. “There is no compromise on the spend on technology and digital. Data is key – if you don’t embrace data, you will perish,” Clark stated.

Vision for the future

Over the years, the Emirates boss has been outlining a visionary map of the future for airlines, stating that their thinking seems “Jurassic” and urging the airline industry to reshape the way they do things. According to him, digital disruption was “staring them in the face”, warning that airlines ignore it at their own “peril.”

Back in September 2016, at the annual Aviation Festival in London (UK), Clarke discussed how digital disruption will come along and redesign the digital platform, which will streamline what businesses do “by as much as 50 percent.” In his view, which he presented at a panel for Apex, the issue was not just about customer-facing systems, but also the back-of-house systems and the distribution systems.

At the same festival in 2017, Clark reiterated that the way airlines go about assembling the resources, and how they use their back-of-house systems, are going to be completely transformed by digital technology. He stressed that new platforms in which future processes are going to sit will be “fundamental” to the future of the industry which is why “deconstructing and reconstructing” companies in the digital environment is what everybody must do, OpenJaw Technologies reported.

Technology for profit and efficiency

In October, 2015, the Emirates Group announced it will embark on an enterprise-wide transformation strategy, with the goal to make the Emirates and dnata, the air services provider, the leading technology enabled travel experience enterprises.

The aim of the initiative was to place data at the core of the organization. In order to do that, the airline was going to examine new technologies and ideas, everything from big data and predictive analytics to artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, crowd sourcing and collaboration.

Clark explained to The Business Insider that technology such as artificial intelligence or robotics can be deployed to reconstruct the enormous amount of processes necessary for operations to work in a manner that would create greater levels of efficiency.

Currently, the airline industry is restricted by the constructs of the many systems in place, and so is the mindset of the workforce. Efficiency for an airline would come through the simplification of the task and the ability to handle more tasks with the same amount of effort.

And, those working in the airline business who think they would lose their jobs by being replaced by an AI or robotics, Clarke says are “wrong, wrong, wrong”. The aviation executive thinks that “As the wealth is created and the systems are improved we will be able to do so much more.”

Revolution by blockchain

Clark has made it clear in recent years that he is keen on the future of blockchain technology. Although today, it is most widely associated with transactions involving cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Emirates boss says that is where his airline sees most potential.

“Blockchain is a revolution within a revolution,” Clarke stated in the interview with The Business Insider. “It is going to transform everything we do and how you and I interact with each other and things around us.”

What is important is not how much money people make by mining bitcoin, but how it is constructed and the many applications it has beyond cryptocurrencies. Blockchain could soon find its way into other sectors such as law enforcement or healthcare.

Clark is most interested in how it can be adapted for use in the airline industry. One such application could be the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Clearing House (ICH) – a platform where international airlines settle up their bills using a variety of currencies.

“In the end, blockchain will drive everything we do in the next five or 10 years. Make no mistake about it,” Clark once told an Apex panel.