‘Provide our customers ... technology they want’

Up Close: Tyler Craig, NCR Travel’s vice president and general manager

Tyler Craig has the difficult job of keeping on top of the ever-evolving world of technology and how it changes the way we travel.

As the new vice president and general manager of Duluth-based NCR’s travel division, Craig manages the company’s work developing everything from airline check-in kiosks to interactive map displays at airports.

Craig joined NCR earlier this year from SITA, an air transport technology and communications commercial cooperative. NCR, originally known as National Cash Register Co., now specializes in self-service technologies such as ATMs and self-service checkout at grocery stores, as well as airport kiosks and mobile check-in.

In the travel division, NCR calls itself the leader in technology to issue mobile boarding passes, which are available on Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and a number of other carriers. It also is a leader in common-use self-service airline kiosks, which are used at a number of airports outside Atlanta.

Self-service technology for airline travelers is helping to mitigate airlines’ financial challenges and is helping to improve the traveler experience “by making it simpler and more convenient for consumers to manage their journey how, when and where they choose,” according to Craig.

Q: What is NCR working on right now that will change the way we travel?

A: When I look at the industry, it’s the world’s largest industry that also suffers from some of the worst consumer satisfaction of any major industry.

And it is ripe for being transformed through self-service automation.

There’s a big push to have 100 percent self-service automation at the check-in position, but extending the benefits of self-service automation beyond check-in throughout the passenger’s entire journey, that’s what NCR is all about.

Q: What can be shifted to automation after check-in?

A: If you look at the passenger’s entire journey from at home on the Web, in transit through mobile and then in the airport beyond check-in, you have your bag drop, security, at the gate.

And then in between, when they’re beyond security, being able to offer them coupons and discounts for the things that they want to do while they’re waiting for their plane, which is shopping and buying food, going to restaurants.

Q: What is the definition of 100 percent automation for the check-in process?

A: It’s an International Air Transport Association objective.

Their objective is to have 100 percent automation by the year 2020. Self-service automation is either Web check, mobile check or on a kiosk.

Q: What technologies do travelers use when flying out of Hartsfield-Jackson now? What do we not currently have at Hartsfield-Jackson that other airports have?

A: [Travelers at Hartsfield-Jackson] use the self-service check-in kiosks. Delta uses our mobile boarding passes.

There’s not the prevalent use of the common-use passenger processing; you still have your dedicated solutions [at check-in counters].

There’s way-finding solutions [interactive maps] that are not being used — passengers can go up and say I want to go to whatever location at the airport, and we’ll provide them a map on how to get there.

Hotels can let passengers look at their reservation and make reservations online.

Q: How do you manage a business that’s constantly changing through all these advancements in technology?

A: We have a service-oriented platform that allows us the flexibility to provide our customers the technology they want, when they want, where they want and how they want it. The platform is the underlying software layer that allows you to interact with one piece of software and have it transport the information to another piece of software.

Q: Why do you think some people don’t like to use self-service technologies like checking in for flights online or using mobile boarding passes?

A: It really is a customer behavior based upon familiarity with the technology and comfort with the technology.

The newer generation, they grew up with mobile phones [and are] very comfortable using it.

And older folks aren’t necessarily quite there yet. It’s a very small percent.

It’s at the point where people experience and use self-service in other aspects of their lives.

I think the principal reason people don’t use it is they feel they have complex travel needs that are not going to be met at the self-service kiosk.


Meet Tyler Craig

Age: 49

Originally from: New Jersey

Family: Wife, Lisa; 23-year-old son, Ian

Education: Bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Auburn University. MBA from Georgia Tech.

Hobbies: Golf