APEX in Profile: M. Seyda Tartar

Image: Turkish Airlines

M. Seyda Tartar
Digital Innovation Manager
Turkish Airlines

Seyda is responsible for managing Turkish Airlines’ Digital Innovation and R&D team, where he focuses on improving customer experience and operational efficiency. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Boğaziçi University and a master’s degree in Management of Technology from New York University.

Fast Facts:
Location:IST
Years in the industry: 3
Favorite aircraft: Boeing 777
Now listening to: Yanni
The future of flight will be: Digitalized

Every job has a cool factor. What’s yours?
I’ve always been a fan of technology. I even learned how to read and write using a Commodore 64, when I was five years old. Now 30 years have passed, and through technology, I am able to touch every guest’s journey. Plus, I am getting paid for doing what I love. What more could I want?

Turkish Airlines recently completed its move from Atatürk Airport to the new Istanbul Airport. How will the passenger experience be improved by some of the technologies the Digital Innovation Lab deployed at the new location?
One initiative that proved instrumental during the transfer is a digital airport map with an indoor navigation service, designed in partnership with local startup Mihmandar, to help not only passengers but also employees find their way in the megahub, which is the largest airport terminal ever built.

Another critical solution that we have implemented is the extended RFID baggage tracking project, which informs the customers right after their baggage is brought to a particular carousel so that they can enjoy their time in other facilities such as duty-free shops or food and beverage outlets instead of waiting at baggage claim. The same technology has also been integrated with the lost and found system, making it super easy for the agents to identify the owner of lost baggage.

What do you think is the most overlooked aspect of the passenger experience?
It is always easy to provide your customers with a good experience if everything runs smoothly, but the important thing is how you shape your customers’ experience when there is a problem, such as a disruption. We should focus on the roughest situations that passengers might face during their journey and try to remedy as much as we can.

How is Turkish Airlines’ Digital Innovation team set up to lessen the gap between startups’ agile processes and airlines’ legacy ones?
For larger companies like ours, it isn’t always easy to move forward, as we can get stuck in procedures and processes. But if you work with startups, you must think like them and you must take action in a synchronized way.

Our Digital Innovation team understands how startup culture works, which is why we are acting as the gateway between startups and our organization, allowing us to overcome obstacles in a faster and more efficient way. After evaluating all parameters, our top management decided that our team would report directly to the chief technology officer, thereby minimizing the effects of being a larger legacy company. Turkish Airlines is a huge company, but it isn’t a chubby one at all. We see the Digital Innovation Lab as the most important component to making it agile and responsive.

Turkish Airlines’ Digital Innovation Lab is heavily involved in the local startup scene. Why is that?
The Digital Innovation Lab has its own team of developers for software and hardware projects, so we are capable of taking on innovative projects in-house, but we also collaborate with the local startup ecosystem.

As Turkey’s flag carrier, we believe pursuing joint projects with local startups is very important. Turkey is home to many technology centers, incubators and accelerator programs, where we can easily access startups working on technologies like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and blockchain. We are especially interested in early-stage technology startups, so we can remain at the forefront of the competition.

APEX in Profile: M. Seyda Tartar was originally published in the 9.3 June/July issue of APEX Experience magazine