Travel Tech Q&A: Qantas Frequent Flyer execs

What happens when you accidentally swap laptops with someone going through airport security, and then traipse off to another country? Simon Hickey CEO of Qantas Frequent Flyer and David Glover head of Loyalty IT share with us the best and worst things about travelling internationally.

What happens when you accidentally swap laptops with someone going through airport security, and then traipse off to another country? Simon Hickey CEO of Qantas Frequent Flyer and David Glover head of Loyalty IT share with us the best and worst things about travelling internationally.

Simon Hickey

Simon Hickey, CEO of Qantas Frequent Flyer(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

What technology do you travel with and why?

Simon Hickey: These days I travel with my iPhone and my iPad if I'm going away ... for a day, those two devices are great. I find that if I'm going for any longer, however, I'll take my laptop.

What's your favourite app?

Hickey: Well, the Qantas Frequent Flyer app I log in to on a daily basis! Handiest app when I'm travelling? I mainly use my phone for mail and staying connected. When I travel, I mainly go from an airport, to a hotel room, to a meeting room and then on again. It's email, it's what I'm using all the time. If we can classify that as an app, that's what it is.

Do you have a travel disaster story?

Hickey: I remember I was in Vietnam one time and I was scheduled to book into a hotel and I got there and they didn't have my booking or any reference to me. They then said they'd found me booked in for the day before and they had cancelled the booking as a result and we were there for a few days. They also said they were full and there was nowhere else to go and things were looking pretty grim. That's the normal sort of stuff I think that every executive comes across, that there's a booking disaster at a hotel that they need to work through to either find alternative accommodation or talk their way through the situation at the front desk.

David Glover: I was thinking of a disaster of a mate's actually. His father came to visit him in the US and when he arrived at my mate's house he pulled out his PC and said that it didn't work and neither did the password. Turned out he'd managed to swap PCs when he was departing Australia. He'd gone through security and picked up someone else's PC and went to the US! He's an elderly gentleman in his 80s and my mate is an IT guy, so he downloaded all the right software and spent some time cracking the password on this PC. He finally got in and figured out who it belonged to and contacted them and they managed to swap back. People have their coloured straps on their suitcases to identify them but you don't think to do that on your PC.

Is that where you see the benefits in something like your iPads?

Hickey: The benefit is that it's smaller, lighter and more convenient for doing email.

Glover: My view is that while it is smaller and lighter, it's the instant on that is the killer part as far as I'm concerned. You don't have to wait for it to boot up. In terms of the apps that I love, the maps are one of my favourites. There's nothing better than being in a cab in Melbourne going somewhere and you know where you're going and you're following the way the driver's taking you and you say well hang on, are you really going in the right way? It's the security blanket.

David Glover

David Glover, Qantas Frequent Flyer's
head of Loyalty IT
(Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

What's the best airport?

Hickey: I think terminal five at Heathrow is quite good now. Still quite crowded but it's over and above the other terminals. It's new, it's more efficient and quite good. Singapore always comes up as one [of the best] because it's got a lot of shops and people use it as a hub airport so that works well because there's a lot people can walk around and do. There's lots of new terminals in airports as opposed to new airports themselves that have been built all the time. There's the new terminal in Dallas, which American [Airlines] are very proud of for example. In terms of lounges, my favourite lounge is the Sydney Qantas International lounge by a long shot. The food there is sensational and the First lounge there in Sydney is phenomenal. Great food, great service, the whole ambiance of the place, the wall as you go in. Everything about it is great.

Glover: When you're travelling, you want to get through and on your way quickly, and one place that impressed me was Hong Kong. You arrive at Hong Kong and you're on the street before you know it. I turn up at almost any American airport it's almost two hours before you're on the street. It's just that convenience I like. I've got friends with Hong Kong passports and for them it's great. As soon as the plane lands, it's quicker than domestic here. For me, that's one of the key things is convenience and that's why we've got Next Generation Check-in, for example, because it's all about taking out the hold-ups in your journey.

Can we expect to see Next Generation Check-in around the world then?

Hickey: You'll see it in some more regional airports first. Around the world, you've still got passports etcetera that you still need to work through. International is a bit different in terms of the experience from Domestic and what we can do with the capability, so that's dependent on a lot of other factors outside of what our control mechanisms are. You never say never, but there's a lot more to it. Regulatory issues are an additional hurdle to Next Generation Check-in and then there's the terminal issues themselves and there's a lot of other issues you've got when you go global.

Best piece of travel advice?

Hickey: I always travel light. Pack efficiently, travel light.

(Front page image credit: Qantas B737-800 VH-VXU image by Andy Mitchell, CC BY-SA 2.0)