Big Interview: AI will be so prevalent we'll stop talking about it, says Amadeus tech boss

Big Interview: AI will be so prevalent we'll stop talking about it, says Amadeus tech boss

Christophe Bousquet gave Travolution an update on how the GDS and European tech giant is adopting AI as it goes through the biggest digital transformation in its history in partnership with Microsoft

Artificial intelligence is on the way to becoming so prevalent that we will stop talking about it, chief technology officer at GDS and European travel tech giant Amadeus believes. 

Christophe Bousquet is currently overseeing the biggest technology transformation in the company’s as it shifts to the cloud in partnership with Microsoft to usher in a more data-driven era of IT development and delivery. 

Bousquet said around three quarters of the work to create the new Microsoft Azure cloud-base platform has been completed.

And in terms of bringing applications on to the platform Amadeus is around one third through that project with some if its shopping solutions already off main frame servers.

He said Amadeus has to honour its commitment to deliver the ability for its customers to help their clients to realise their dreams and the companies that are successful in this today all have a number of things in common. 

“Almost systematically they have a platform model working on the cloud and they are very much data-driven, using AI and have a strong culture of innovation. And that’s precisely what we’ve been doing at Amadeus.”

Speaking to Travolution at the Amadeus Airlines Executive Summit in Dubai in September, Bousquet said cloud offers flexibility and better speed to market, as applications are run closer to where the data is being consumed, as well as resilience with the ability to scale up and down as required.

“The vast majority of our applications will be moved to the cloud and fully benefit from cloud capabilities,” he said. 

“We are moving safely, there will be no disruption. It will be totally transparent. One important thing that the cloud is giving us is a data platform. 

“We have a strong culture of data within Amadeus. Each of our applications is producing data in the platform and it’s analysed using AI and machine learning and this is fed back into the product to influence how it behaves. 

"For this you need a strong and efficient data platform. We are using a data mesh paradigm so a network of smaller data platforms are interconnected. 

“And we have been investing in AI a lot. I tend to say AI is everywhere. Every new product has AI behind the scenes. 

“I believe within two years we will not talk about AI anymore, every single product we develop will have AI.

“For AI to work you need three things. You need data, you need experts, and we are working with Microsoft and universities and data science teams, and you need use cases where you can apply AI and our industry is full of use cases. 

“For example, facial recognition, disruption and finding the best solution to rearrange the flight, offer management, coming up with the best, the best price, for your customer. 

“And there’s security, we have invested a lot in security to detect any dodgy activity in our system.”

Bousquet said Amadeus took the decision to move to the cloud during the time of COVID specifically because the disruption the pandemic caused was seen as a driver for change.

“You have to become better after a crisis,” he said. “We have to make a step change in terms of technology. COVID did not slow that down, it accelerated it. It was the time to make that decision.

The focus initially is in Europe where Amadeus will have Microsoft Azure locations in Amsterdam and Dublin and then it will look to Asia and the US.

The firm’s current data centre in Erding, Germany, will be gradually phased out over time but Bousquet said the huma resources will still be important for Amadeus even when it has moved to the cloud.

As the aviation sector continues to recover from the COVID pandemic, Bousquet said technology must be applied to two key areas: the increased difficulty of travelling due to rules and restrictions, and the human resource scarcity that was apparent during the summer.

“What does that mean? It means we have to come up with what everyone calls digitalisation. I’m not a big fan of this word, but it’s really about automation and giving control to the passenger, abut going to the airport and not having to check-in.

“It needs to be more systemic, also in terms of disruption and servicing after the flight has to be online giving autonomy to the end user. That will be how we deal with the scarcity of talent.

“The more you automate, fewer people will call the call centre and fewer people you will needed at the airport. And we also see this scarcity of talent in the IT side.

“We are being approached by customers that want to do more with us because we are an IT company. IT makes sense to focus on what they do best, running an airline, that trying to find IT talent.”

Amadeus is experimenting with emerging technologies to assess the potential opportunities they offer travel. The metaverse is one such area that Bousquet believes will be relevant in the years to come. 

“It’s still difficult to measure what will be the exact impact, but I can think of two things. It will be a sort of parallel world where travellers find their inspiration so as a provider of IT for travel we need to be there because it will be a new source of inspiration.

“The second thing is it’s potentially also going to become a point of sale or marketplace where customers will go to buy tickets. 

“Creating digital twins is a way of taking something which is physical and make a virtual copy with a value. This is also something that needs to be explored.”