APEX in Profile: Celie Navatel

APEX in Profile: Celie Navatel

Image: Celie Navatel

Celie Navatel
Vice-President of Development Program Management
Thales InFlyt Experience

Born and raised in France, Celie joined Thales as an intern during her last year of engineering school. She has held several roles at the company including as system engineer, sales manager and program manager for British Airways and Air France. She is the proud mother of three daughters, including twins.

Fun Facts:
Frequent flight: LAX–CDG
Years in the industry: Almost 20
Passport stamp you wish you had: Fiji
Favorite social network: Facebook
The future of flight will be: Supersonic

Did you choose the airline industry or did it choose you?
I chose the industry. I always loved planes and wanted to be a pilot when I was young.

What adjacent industry trends do you have your eye on right now?
Virtual reality and artificial intelligence. I’m excited about the technology and how reality is getting closer to the concepts of Isaac Asimov, my favorite author as a child. 

How does your background in engineering benefit the work you do today?
I’m able to understand the issues, challenges and processes of our business. In turn, I’ve had the opportunity to lead and inspire young women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

“I’ve had the opportunity to lead and inspire young women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

How do airlines use in-flight entertainment (IFE) to differentiate their offering?
When I worked with Air France, the airline was looking for something chic and consistent with its branding; meanwhile, British Airways was looking for an integrated passenger and crew experience. Over the years, IFE systems have evolved so much and we offer capabilities that enable airlines to differentiate themselves through their unique brand.

What are some of the challenges with the industry at the moment?
Thales InFlyt Experience has grown so much in the last 15 years, from 200 employees to 2,200 today. Our challenge is creating and ensuring a culture of innovation and risk-taking. We are solving this through an internal and external digital transformation. 

If you could make any change to the air travel experience, what would it be?
I would revolutionize the entire airport experience, from security to the boarding process.

What’s the most overlooked aspect of the passenger experience?
The comfort of passengers in the aircraft, from personal space to air quality. 

What have you learned about what passengers like to watch in flight or how passengers use the IFE system?
Tourists are looking for an escape and enjoy the entertainment aspect – watching the latest movies, playing games and following their flight on the live map. Business passengers and younger generations are more focused on having connectivity, so they can remain active at work and on their social networks.

Describe your best and worst air travel experiences.
My best experience was the very first time I flew on an Airbus A380 during a flight test; I got goose bumps. My worst experience was flying a small aircraft over the Pyrenees in France and realizing I would never be a pilot because of my motion sickness. 

“APEX in Profile: Celie Navatel” was originally published in the 8.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine.