Accenture Travel: You started your career in the airline industry more than thirty years ago, and presently you are the Senior Vice President for Los Angeles at American Airlines. What drives your passion for aviation?
Suzanne Boda: The ability to make the world a smaller, more inclusive place is what drives my passion. Of all the really important things our team members do—and that list is long—bringing people together is at the top. We fly over borders, walls and stereotypes to connect people from different races, religions, nationalities, economic backgrounds and sexual orientations. And we do it professionally and safely every day for more than 500,000 customers across five continents. I find that pretty amazing.
AT: Accenture's research finds the ratio of female to male manager is at a poor 17:50 globally. While Pew research reveals that the share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies fell to 4.8% in 2018. How can airlines leverage digital and technology to advance equal leadership opportunities for women?
SB: Social media and digital job posting websites allow companies to specifically target potential candidates when we have openings. Today, when a job is posted, you can boost ads to targeted audiences on LinkedIn and other places, which helps to make sure you’re getting a broad, diverse range of applicants. In a traditionally male dominated industry, that’s critically important to making sure women are aware of careers in aviation and the many benefits they offer.
AT: How can airlines amidst intense competition and rising customer expectations—improve operational efficiencies, while delivering superior traveler experience?
SB: Our goals as an airline are to get people to their destinations safely and on time. We are always seeking ways to be more efficient, and as the industry and environmental factors change, it is imperative we constantly fine tune how we operate. Improving or adding new technology to enhance operational performance, refreshing or adding new facilities to improve the customer experience, providing improved technology tools for our customers and team members, and continuing to provide training for our team members help us better serve our customers, elevate our performance and therefore, compete more vigorously.
AT: How can airlines capitalize on their operational systems to enhance the traveler journey?
SB: The number one thing our customers expect is a safe, on-time operation. This year we’re taking a number of steps to improve our performance, both through technology and process improvements. For instance, we are using new technology in a number of our hub cities to expedite aircraft getting from the runway and to the gate as quickly as possible. We’re also reviewing our processes to turn aircraft once they arrive at the gate - trimming any inefficiencies and ensuring our team members can safely and efficiently service and turn an aircraft to get it back out on-time for its next trip.
AT: What kind of a traveler are you?
SB: I am primarily a business traveler, working in several different ways while traveling. I use our new high speed WiFi to stay connected to email while in-flight, and also use the opportunity to spend time with our agents and crew members. Hearing concerns and suggestions from our team members helps me better understand where we can improve, and it provides a more holistic view of our operation.
AT: What is your favorite Travel destination?
SB: Japan. I had the opportunity to spend time there during high school as part of a study abroad program, as well as during college. My first job in the airline industry was as a passenger service representative and Japanese Interpreter with Northwest Airlines, and my career has allowed me to spend a number of years living in Japan, too. It will always hold a special place in my heart – I really fell in love with the people of Japan and their culture.