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34 Comercialstrasse
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Boutique consultancy with tailor made solutions fit for the 21st century: 

digital, customer experience, loyalty and ancillary revenues

sales & distribution, revenue management, competitor & market watch

innovation, change management, transformation

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We believe that the areas of customer experience, ancillary revenues, technology and digital and innovation are key for any organisation today to create sustainable success - and even to survive. Just a me too product is not enough. And tough market conditions and changing customer behaviour require new approaches and courage to change. 

In our blog we add food for thought: latest insights and best practices around the areas of customer, loyalty, ancillary revenues, revenue management & pricing, sales transformation, network planning, data analytics, technology, innovation, successful examples of business transformation. We also report about discussions from interesting conferences. 

Opportunities for aviation and travel in the age of the hyper-connected consumer

Ursula Silling

think future: Hamburg Aviation Conference 2017 due to start

Facebook's net profit more than doubled to $3.6bn in the fourth quarter. The social network said it was on course to hit two billion users in the first half of 2017. The iPhone celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. 50% of the top ten companies with the highest market value are tech companies. 81pc of consumers search online before they take a buying decision, there are 2.3 million Google searches per second. 57% of decisions had been made up before engaging with a brand. Mobile is growing fast and already leaves desktop behind.  


At the Hamburg Aviation Conference 8 - 9 February 2017 200 top managers, tech innovators and thought leaders from aviation and travelfrom 29 countries will discuss again innovative solutions to approach the current dynamic environment and to transform the business in the age of the hyper-connected consumers. The event has evolved into a global think tank for customer focus, innovation and new trends and hot topics of relevance for the travel industry. 


"Customers expect a seamless travel experience, in reality and in the digital world. This requires a system partnership between airlines and airports.” explains Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO at Hamburg Airport. 


“The new successful airline is all about transforming it into a new entity that yesterday could not be imagined and that the day after tomorrow may be obsolete. Airlines operate in an environment of a new economy, new enterprise and new technology and must master how to link all three to one another and how to enable one another” states Philip Micallef, CEO at Air Malta from 2014-2016, and former top manager with Olivetti, Sita and Equant. 


Rajiv Shah, CEO at the global travel, transportation and logistics technology provider IBS, which received $170m investment from Blackstone last year: ""Innovation is not a choice for any business  in the current dynamic environment. From the technology provider perspective, it is all about ensuring that we can provide the flexibility and agility to our customers, to enable them to drive deeper relationships with the hyper connected consumer".

Other speakers and delegates include top managers from airports such as Moscow, Brussels, Helsinki, Eindhoven, Lviv, from airlines such as Wizzair, Ryanair, Eurowings, Sunexpress, Lufthansa, Finnair, from innovative tech companies such as IBS,, Skyscanner, ICLP, Planitas, Caravelo, Farelogix, BravoAero, Quicket and DiscountIf, a bestselling author from Canada, and representatives from Hongkong Polytechnic University, ISM International School of Management, TU Hamburg and Concordia University Canada. 

Discussions cover among others the digital airport of the future and new retail opportunities for airports and airlines, best practice in terms of customer engagement and loyalty, case studies related to hot topics such as chatbots and messaging apps for customer service, enhanced data analysis to improve planning and customer service, how to develop booking systems to be fit tor the 21st century, talent development in the digital age, a lot more mobile and digital food for thought and how to make change happen. 


There will also be demos about virtual reality (by Airbus), snapchat practical application (by Hamburg Airport), and an innovative approach to retail and personalisation real time (by Traxas). The think tank is also the first aviation event showcasing Slack, a collaboration and productivity enhancement tool which is already used by a lot of renowned companies, including airbnb, Pinterest, BuzzFeed, Pandora, Harvard University, LinkedIn, Samsung, ebay. 


The Hamburg Aviation Conference had been initiated by Hamburg Airport in 1998. XXL Solutions is a group of global professionals who are committed to help their customers succeed in the digital age, from strategy to implementation. They help organisations to transform their business to meet the changing consumer and staff requirements, to innovate and differentiate from competition and to turn new technology into opportunities rather than threats.  The location for the conference will be the first time the Ameron Hotel Speicherstadt in Hamburg. The event will take place 8th to 9th February 2017. The conference language is English. 


Further information can be found on the event website and on social media. 



match making for mentoring

Ursula Silling

In the times of Coursera, iTunesU and other online learning sources there is now also Everwise, identifying the best matches for mentoring on a global basis and providing an affordable integrated platform for talent development.


Users can establish development goals — or import them from their company’s HR system after a performance review — and track their progress against them. Assessments — including via the renowned Myers-Briggs indicator and Strengthsfindersprogram – are also incorporated into the platform so users can ostensibly gain a deeper understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses.


There is an “experience manager,” whose responsibility it is to help participants identify and prioritize their goals. Thousands of mentors from 70 countries and 130 industries are now volunteering to spend 10 hours over six months helping “thousands” of Everwise protégés. I am myself a mentor and have become a big fan of the approach and the platform. Companies pay a fixed monthly fee per employee.

Elizabeth Schillo, Vice President of Sales at Everwise will talk about talent development in a rapidly changing world at the Hamburg Aviation Conference 8 - 9 February 2017.

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Quo vadis Airline Revenues?

Ursula Silling

Airlines rely heavily on ancillary revenues - but quite often the strategy is unclear. Traditional carriers act more in panic after years of discussion, thus reducing their customer proposition as examples of hand luggage only fares by British Airways, Lufthansa and more and more other legacy carriers and the recent switch to buy on board catering in cooperation with Marks & Spencer by British Airways shows. 

Ancillary revenues are not ancillary any more, but technology and lack of innovation and focus in airlines create a lot of limitations. In the meantime, airports and other third parties try to get a piece of the cake  - and customer insight. 

Fundamental change is needed. 

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seafocus meets digital

Ursula Silling

insights and learnings from the digital hub workshop at the seafocus AGM 2016

Could we have imagined 15 years ago that one day we would have one device which helps us to tackle almost all our problems? Communicating with our families via whats app and other instant messages, alarm clock, calculator, newspaper, browser, booking engine and numerous more applications.

And that this device could also be used  for business purposes, invoicing, digitalisation of documents, sales teams and other, identifying locations, particularly where remote workers are concerned? Video conferences costing nothing but just requiring internet access, allowing to manage remote software development teams, remote control eg warehouses and container transport, etc Navigation, often mote reliable than the one integrated in the car - or the vessel? Storing huge amounts of data in the cloud and recuperating it within seconds, still from a mobile device.

Could you imagine going back in time and living without it? The internet and Google, Amazon and Facebook changed our perception of the world and put us in control. 

Yet the most important business issue seems to be that people are not motivated to change. This was expressed as THE key issue by the attendants of the digital hub workshop at the seafocus conference in June 2016, onboard the Viking Lines boat between Stockholm and Turku. Other main pain points and areas of concern for people include manual paper processes and documentation and subsequent inefficiencies, from licensing for seamen to seaway bills and data exchange with the vessels, big data and how to manage them, seemingly simple things such as control over website updates, and more.

Motivating people to change starts by creating some benefits for them, an understanding of "what's in it for me". Quite of the the opposite is the case. People are afraid that digitalisation in particular will take away their jobs, and that they do not have the skills to really manage this. And companies start change programs with lots of consultants, but without working with their own people to build best in class processes and to automate where it adds value - efficiency, security, competitive advantage. An internal marketing campaign with a clear communication strategy needs to be built to achieve enthusiasm, support and real change. Honesty, transparency - even with bad messages - and measurable results should become part of this campaign, with the target to create a culture that embraces change and a spirit of "aways getting better". 

In order to achieve change, successes should be made very visible and celebrated together. We all meed reasons to believe. For example, build the first centre to show case and to create  reasons to believe and reduce skepticism. Ensure that the change program is an integral part of the strategy and include benchmarks for the team to aspire to. By involving your customers and see how their satisfaction increases, or their feedback is taking into account, this creates a large satisfaction. For management and team members it is crucial to go to the port, talk to customers and colleagues and learn from their feedback. 

Using videos and modern means of communication also underlines the dynamics and adds more credibility. Videos and regular  Facebook chat sessions or whats app questions and answers visible to a whole group of remote workers for internal communication when the team is too big and spread to communicate directly are great means of engagement. Get speakers from other companies to tell staff what they have done and achieved, leading to inspiration and support. Create also a lot of external communication messages. If Friends and neighbours read about the successes and tell you about them, it will make you feel proud and confirmed that this s the right approach.

We often think that we alone cannot change anything. It is not true. If everyone starts with what ey can influence, this will be a domino effect. Different departments start to talk and make things happen.


paper and manual processes

Another key pain point seems to be all around the traditional - often manual and bureaucratic - processes around cargo and sea freight, from paper formats to outdated regulations and norms. Pretext is often that some documents meed to be original - yet aviation for example found ways of ensuring that original documents can be created in a digital way.

The electronic cockpit is one example. When we have smart containers and smart chips then the rest should also be simplified. The concern that often internet might not be available offshore was raised. It means that processes need to be created in a way that they are available offline, other communication channels need to remain available as a bck up or means for specific regions. Again this is a parallel to aviation. When Delta's and Southwest's systems broke down recently it created a chaos as documents such as passenger lists and seat plans as well as crew plans were not available offline, and check in staff did mot manage manual processes.

Control over processes such as website updates should be possible to achieve in simple terms. Content management systems have improved drastically in recent years and give much more control to the user. We are happy to share our experiences. 

It might be worthwhile to start conversations between maritime and aviation experts for the specific areas so that learnings can be exchanged and change can be initiated. Sometimes we trust more that something is possible if we have seen that it works elsewhere. This is what happened to some Apple staff in early days. They thought they had seen the split screen with a competitor and therefore did not give in until he had found a solution to make it work. It might also be useful to bring members of ICS and IATA together to have an exchange and get more confidence and use potential synergies for fair roadmaps.

Last not least, big data was a key subject - it is trendy in other industries including aviation as well. A lot of data is available, but quite often not brought together and not analysed and used. Here the magic approach is "think big, start small" to make things happen. Start data crunching at the vessel and the transfer it to other devices. It is also crucial to include customers as well as engineers. Here again the customer satisfaction measurement and feedback from eg nps can help. It would be worthwhile to establish a workshop for an exchange between companies of various industries regarding big data solutions. 

Big data also relates to market watch, understanding what is happening and what it means for your business. There are different cycles for this, and it is crucial to be clear about what you want to achieve before embarking on this. And the subject cyber security is of course a key one, it was mentioned as well yet not as top priority.

For all of the above, a Hackathon could help to strectch our minds and create some new and innovative ideas how to tackle the problems.


We would be delighted to help. We can get you in touch with people who have worked in the various areas mentioned aboce, so that you can establish a dialogue and take away some learnings from it. We can make recommendations which website tools to use. We could also organise workshops to cover these topics specifically by bringing those people together, OCS and IATA members should for sure be present. Or we could help you directly in your organisational environment to tackle these problems and achieve change.

Last not least the Hamburg Aviation Conference could  be a forum to join. It brings aviation together with other industries and science to learn from each other and to develop innovative ideas how to solve the current problems and challenges.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for any questions, contacts you would like me to establish or any other issues. 

Ursula Silling, ursulasilling@xxlsolutions.u 

Personalisation for delivery - it was about time

Ursula Silling

Buying online used to be great - but followed many issues with delivery. You bought online in the first place because you wanted flexibility.

Good that @DHLPaket solved this: meeting clients' preferences by personalising your delivery experience. You teceive an sms with a link to a world of choices - when to deliver, where to deliver. 

Online sales will be fun again! 


#digital   #innovation #customerexperience


Welcome to the future - now

Ursula Silling

Travel in the future should just be easy and convenient for all the parts yet fun and inspiring in terms of experience. Bringing magic back to travel - the technology is already there. 

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Key recent airport innovations

Ursula Silling

Airports keep innovating for the benefit of the travellers, sometimes on their own, sometimes in cooperation with airlines.

Most projects include use of technology to facilitate self service or information flow, but also some activities to simply get the magic back to air travel, for example with Helsinki's new-look baggage hall and sleeping pods for transfer travellers.

Here a quick description, but find more details in enclosed article:

  • real time flight tracking introduced by Cork Airport

  • Helsinki's new-look baggage hall, reflecting Finland's natural beauty - and sleeping pods for travellers to improve the transfer experience, but also their partnership with Finnair to turn the runway into a catwalk are quite unique

  • Tigerair airport agents being equipped with iPads to reduce queues and improve the customer experience

  • Malaysia's first fully self-service bag drop system launched by Air Asia and Type 22

  • new bag drop and check in solutions at Madrid through cooperation of Iberia, Aena and Siemens

  • digital business lounge by Aéroports de Paris at Orly

  • automated document authentication at Abu Dhabi airport

  • central security at Amsterdam Schiphol

  • biometric passenger token project at Aruba Airport - to ensure the "happy flow"

Find more details here

The cold reality of wifi on airplanes & what Louis C.K. thinks about it

Ursula Silling


American Airlines has just announced that they sue their supplier Gogo because they claim ViaSat has faster inflight internet. Gogo's shares immediately decreased by 30%. 

Certainly inflight connectivity has become big business. According to Euroconsult's newly released report, Prospects for In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity, total revenues from passenger connectivity services are expected to grow from $700 million in 2015 to nearly $5.4 billion by 2025, a 23% CAGR over the 10-year period. 

The number of connected commercial aircraft is expected to grow from 5,300 to 23,100 over the 2015-2025 period, accounting for 62% of the global fleet. 

it seems that in the US the race between airlines about best connectivity on board is a serious one. Do customers decide for an airline because they offer (better) wifi? Or will it just become a hygiene factor to judge the image of an airline, whether it is modern and applies to latest standards? Mobile friendly websites and mobile check in have become a goal post in this way. Customers take it for granted and almost get suspicious about an airline if they realise that they do not offer mobile check in or a website working well on all devices.

Louis C.K. jokes about wifi on airplanes. He says, “It’s fast, and I’m watching YouTube clips. It’s amazing—I’m on an airplane! And then it breaks down.… And the guy next to me goes, ‘This is bullshit.’” Many travellers have experienced exactly this.

We had called it the "cold reality" of inflight connectivity for the panel discussion at last week's Hamburg Aviation Conference: In most cases in-flight wifi is not a good experience. You never know whether your plane will offer it as most airlines have equipped only parts of their fleet. In addition, planes can have different equipment installed, And quite often equipment is broken or wifi does not work consistently throughout the flight, or with very low speed. 

In this panel we tried to shed light on some of the key questions surrounding connectivity on board, gate to gate and end to end. And to understand what the customer really wants and what it means for the airline. And if the customer is prepared to pay for wifi. In addition, we looked at other opportunities which the connected aircraft can bring, leading to increased operational efficiency (for example position optimisation, weather real time information, crew information etc).

Too often, these questions are looked at with a focus on technological solutions - whilst the latter should just be the means to achieve a target. The above mentioned American Airlines case of wanting to terminate their contract with Gogo as they realise that their competitors offer faster broadband is an interesting case to watch. It seems in the US the race between airlines is not about connectivity yes or no but who offers the best one.

Let's put the customer in the equation. Are they really demanding it or is it being pushed as it represents big business for the supplier. Can airlines really achieve a positive business case from this quite significant investment in the times of decreasing yields? 

in-flight entertainment systems are used for various applications, including HD movie browsing and playback, audio tracks, games, food and beverage browsing and on demand ordering, duty-free products browsing and purchasing, moving maps, informational pages, weather and news, advertising, passenger surveys, video announcements, in-flight event announcements, language classes, virtual museum visits, information about the destination etc. 

Kenny Jacobs, CMO at Ryanair stated that they think that wifi on board will not be a key decisive factor for a customer to decide for an airline. When booking a trip, for example to Barcelona, the customer is excited about Barcelona, not about the trip itself. The trip is the commodity. Yet Ryanair do test a simple on board network with Airfi, a kind of portable mobile network, to be able to provide movies for entertainment, with a special focus on families - one of the customer segments that had avoided Ryanair in the past. 

Some airlines have gone for partnership models in order to finance wifi. Vueling partner with Movistar in order to finance wifi on board. JetBlue have started a partnership with Amazon, focusing on Amazon Prime customers. Norwegian offer wifi for free on all of their shorthaul fleet in Europe and see this as a key differentiator. 

For sure, route length and maturity of the airline in terms of customer experience and positioning as well as simple profitability figures are key in terms of the decision if and when to introduce any kind of connectivity on board. If done well, it might help to differentiate and gain some additional revenues and gain savings through increased efficiency. But it is not an easy journey and will in many cases will just add additional problems and another big project. Maybe airlines should cooperate with airports in this area as well to create gate connectivitiy?

Some airports such as Hyderabad have started to introduce fast wifi at boarding gates to allow passengers to download videos within 3 minutes. Will airports take over the customer experience whilst airlines fail? Or will airlines and airports find a way to cooperate for the benefit of the customer?  Do they really listen to their customers to know what they want from wifi? 

And finally, what about passenger-related 'big data'? For example, by providing cabin crew with relevant passenger insights? Or by turning the inflight portal (be it wireless IFE or inflight connectivity) into a personalised environment? One statement at the hamburg think tank last week was that airlines already own millions of data, but are not able to use them nor to even bring them together. Should this be solved first? 

"End-to-end connectivity is all about connecting people not computers", says Jon Norris, Lumexis, VP Sales. If the people - the customer - are the starting point of any considerations, then it will lead the airline to the right decision for their specific environment.. 

Please contact us if you want to get in touch with the participants of the panel or if you want to discuss with us if inflight and / or gate connectivity could be relevant for you, whether a viable business case can be made and what you need to look out for. 

US 17/2/2016



XXL Solutions is a boutique consultancy founded in 2010 by Ursula Silling. It focuses on customer, technology, innovation to improve customer experience, generate revenue and achieve a sustainable profitability and strong market position. It helps airlines, airports, other travel stakeholders, retailers, banks, insurance companies and other industries to develop and implement their commercial strategies, manage change and meet the challenges of the always connected customers. In contrast to other consultancy organisations XXL Solutions develop tailor made solutions for organisations and work with their client’s people as a way of transformation and embracing change.


The boutique event “Hamburg Aviation Conference” has become the leading think tank for future oriented organisations. It brings CEOs and senior management, experts and thought leaders from the aviation and travel industry together with retailers, technology organisations and universities to think future and to discuss holistic strategies to face this dynamic environment. The conference was originally founded by Hamburg Airport in 1999 and has been organised by XXL Solutions since 2014.

@hamburgaviation, #thinkfuture16,







meet the robots - and see how they can change the customer experience

Ursula Silling

Meet the robots and find out how they can change our world. 

Robot sales keep growing world wide as part of the overall trend towards automation. Usage is numerous, and opportunities are large. Yet we need to adapt and get used to this new world. At the Hamburg Aviation Conference 2016 we introduced the ibot, with Tanaka San, Nikken Sekkei, designer of Tokyo Narita Terminal 3 , participating in the "new generation airport" panel in the form of a robot. Ther are numerous other uses we can imagine as part of the move to increase productivity and improve customer service. 

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What organisations can learn from Titti the dog

Ursula Silling

Titti, the dog and her owner in Malta that got famous for their synchronised diving, got viral after a video was published in social. A couple of months later they have more than 3,000 followers on facebook, appear in Italian television and are invited to Los Angeles to a show. This was never planned yet they were open to just accept it. Businesses tend to think they can plan ahead and therefore quite often do not see nor grab opportunities coming along. They might even kill them immediately because of internal discussions and processes. Titti the dog can be an example how to do things differently - and succeed. 

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