APEX in Profile: Dante Dionne

Apex-Experience-6.4-Q&A-DionneDante Dionne
Senior Innovation Technology Manager
Korean Air

Alongside his position at Korean Air, Dante is an Organizational Leadership PhD candidate and adjunct faculty member at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. He has more than 25 years of industry experience in global technology innovation, systems integration and management consulting.

Frequent flight: LAX-ICN
Now watching: Mr. Robot
The future of flight will be: Intergalactic
Favorite Airport: ICN
Passport stamp you wish you had: Fiji
Favorite messaging app: Kakao Talk

Can you share some of your PhD research with the APEX community? My doctoral research focuses on how the process of developing leadership skills can influence competition. A micro-social perspective is that the fundamentals in improving passenger experience are not isolated to a set of techniques or technologies. At its core, we must focus on meeting the evolving needs and expectations of the human condition and the societies in which we live.

What do you think is the most overlooked aspect of the passenger experience?
The Wright brothers were successful in overcoming the challenge of flight because they were studying the laws of nature (aerodynamics) while their competitors sought to build a flying limousine. We must look beyond customer amenities toward a better understanding of the passenger experience through the lens of human evolution and motivational theories. As comedian Louis C.K. puts it, passengers are already experiencing the “miracle of human flight” by “sitting in a chair in the sky … like a Greek myth.” That seems to be a step in the right direction.

How do content and entertainment expectations change for people when they are traveling?
I believe that passengers have similar expectations for in-flight and on-ground content and connectivity options. For example, in Korea, the wireless infrastructure is so advanced (significantly faster than the US average) that in-flight Internet services based on existing commercial satellite technology would be disappointing to them. That is a primary reason why Korean Air has not implemented in-flight Internet.

Social media affords us a better understanding of the image our customers have of themselves.

How important is social media for an airline in the digital age?
Simply put, social media affords us a better understanding of the image our customers have of themselves. We can and should adapt to meet the ever-evolving needs and expectations of our customers.

Today’s global traveler relies upon technology to remain constantly connected. Firms can leverage this phenomenon to enhance and provide consistent service levels to these digital natives. As an example of meeting this challenge, Korean Air interfaces with Kakao Talk, a popular mobile instant messaging application for smartphones in order to provide up-to-date flight status information.

How will millennials’ needs and expectations transform the airline passenger experience in the years to come?
This is the question of the day. In light of the failures of experts attempting to project the impact of boomer and Gen X generations, I believe most experts would do well to take care when prognosticating generational changes.

I have two adult sons who grew up plugged in to the World Wide Web in the largest and most racially and ethnically diverse generation in human history. According to scholars, such as Neil Howe and William Strauss, growing up thinking globally has instilled a sense of destiny, a collective self-image and a penchant to lead a meaningful and satisfying life.

What new technologies do you have your eye on to improve the airline passenger experience?
While my team assesses all new technology advancements for potential application, I personally believe that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to become a vital component in any firm’s passenger experience strategy. If not now, it will likely shortly be on the radar for employment across all industries. Just to be clear, we are not talking about the evil Skynet AI [from The Terminator]. An important value-proposition of AI is that is can help our firms provide content and services more finely tuned to customers based on known preferences and past behaviors.

If you were not doing your current job, what would you love to be doing?
While I thoroughly enjoy the challenges of corporate innovation, I could easily see myself designing and leading a university cross-discipline innovation program that prepares students for the fast-moving global workplace. Alternatively, scuba diving has been a passion of mine for 20 years now. I really enjoy exploring marine habitats all over the globe. Believing that the oceans are essential to life on this planet, I like to think that I would find working with marine life rewarding and meaningful as well.

Every job has a cool factor. What is yours?
My team’s job is to play with new toys and dream up exciting real-world applications. Bringing people together and making the world a more awesome place through imaginative play seems cool to me. Besides, scholars such as Lev Vygotsky suggest that imaginative problem solving is crucial to healthy development.

What is the one item you cannot travel without?
When traveling, I look forward to the several hours of in-flight time as a way to catch up on a good audiobook. Therefore, I would say that a fully charged smartphone, headphone and audiobook combo ranks at the top of my relaxing travel accessories list. However, an argument can be made that there is no more necessary piece of travel equipment than a comfortable and reliable pair of walking shoes – which has been known to make or break the best-laid travel plans.

Two things that you miss most about home when you are traveling?
My wife and my cat. We humans spend a third of our lives in bed. As such, I miss my pillow top mattress as well.

Something that only a frequent flyer would understand?
The value of traveling with your own pillow. Allergies and laundry chemicals notwithstanding, an inhospitable hotel pillow can make your destination much less favorable.

If you could sit beside anyone on a plane, who would it be?
I have to say my wife because she is going to read this. My second choice would be comedian Jim Gaffigan.

Your top three films of all time?
The Hobbit 1, 2, 3.