Image via IATA

Nick Careen
Senior Vice-President
Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security

Nick Careen succeeded Tom Windmuller as IATA’s senior vice-president for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security on October 1, 2015. Prior to IATA, Careen started his career in the industry with Air Canada and its subsidiary Jazz where his last role was as Air Canada Vice President for Airport, Call Centers and Customer Relations, a position he held from 2013 to 2014.

Location: YUL
Frequent flight: YUL-GVA
Years in the industry: 24
Now watching: Quarry
Favorite airport: LHR
Favorite aircraft: B787
Brand of suitcase: Briggs and Riley
Passport stamp you wish you had? Russia

What do you imagine the airport check-in process will be like in 10 years?
In my view it’ll be dramatically different than it is today. By that point, we should be well into a single-token, one identity environment with the use of biometrics, meaning that customers will have the option to choose.

What you see today with traditional check-in with people behind the desks will probably be gone, if not dramatically reduced, unless an airline chooses to do it the traditional way, which might be an interesting vintage way of looking at it in 10 years’ time.

I believe kiosks will probably be gone, I can see those becoming a sort of dinosaur of the past, a relic, in 10 years’ time. Maybe not 10, but 10 to 15 for sure. I only say probably 15 because there’s been a lot of money invested in these kiosks and there’s a great interest in a lot of these airports to continue to find uses for them. But if you look at the statistics the amount of check-in on them is going down, because mobile is picking up more and more.

I think it really will be an almost fully automated process where customers have their own choice with how they want to utilize it. Check-in areas will have a dramatically reduced footprint, with the whole idea of getting through an exception-based security checkpoint, so that travelers can get in and enjoy the passenger experience that the airlines and the airports have invested so much time and money in. That’s sort of what I see: The Jetsons.

Are there any crucial touchpoints where human interaction and human agents will still be needed?
I think it really boils down to choice. A more mature legacy airline might want to have a little bit of both because of elites, million-milers and top-tier customers who would rather interact with a human. So I think it’s always going to be a bit of a hybrid, but I definitely think there will be airlines that take advantage of one extreme versus the other. It is about creating choice, and if you want to interact with a human being then you may choose to fly with this particular airline, but if you want to pay bare bones for a ticket then you’re probably going to fly with the fully automated airline.

What do you think is the most overlooked aspect of the passenger experience?
I think it’s passenger experience measurement. This is not a fully thought-out industry position, but we don’t measure the passenger experience. We measure pieces of it, but I think we really need to get into that process of measurement of data to really understand what it is that we’re doing for our customers. We don’t measure connection times and we don’t understand the stress that is created by huge customer lines. We really need to measure the passenger experience beyond the traditional on-time performance, baggage loss, queue time, basic stuff.

What never ceases to amaze you about the airline industry?
The strive for innovation I think. There are all kinds of reasons for that: It’s a very competitive marketplace; the margins have traditionally been six percent to two percent. But I don’t think there are other industries that you could draw parallels to how much innovation is done, and how much time is spent on innovation in this industry. The innovation is to me what keeps me energized; we’re always looking for something better, bigger, better, all the time.

Something only people working in the aviation industry would understand?
Everybody says it gets in your blood. There is something there, and there’s something about the mystique of aviation. You know, it’s a cool industry. Who doesn’t like to travel? I mean, if you surveyed the planet and your only question was, “Do you like to travel?” what do you think the responses would be? The majority of people want to travel, and going to other places around the globe is pretty cool.

If you could sit next to anyone on a plane, who would it be?
My Dad. Without any hesitation. He’s the most interesting man on the planet. And I only see him once a year. I talk to him all the time, but I don’t get to see him so, that would be preferably a nice long flight to somewhere where I could document the things that he tells me, the stories that he tells me, so that would be the trip of a lifetime.