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Magdalene Mburu, Digital Service Owner, SAS Airport Operations
Magdalene Mburu, Digital Service Owner, SAS Airport Operations

Aviation

People of SAS: Magdalene Mburu The networker

Magdalene Mburu and her team ensure that the digital network is every bit as vital to SAS’ operations as the one that connects the airports, the airplanes and the customers.

Originally from Kenya but a long-time resident of Norway, Magdalene Mburu has been at SAS for 24 years now. She is part of Airport Operations based in Oslo, a crucial piece of the puzzle that keeps things running smoothly across the operation.

If the job sounds like it could be unexciting, think again. “No day is the same,” Magdalene says. “Every single day is different. Some days can be quiet, but it’s always exciting.” 

“We have a station center and that is the heart of operations for the ground handling part of the business,” she explains. “That’s where they coordinate everything, all the irregularities, everything related to our production. If anything fails, they’ll always call me, no matter what the time is. And I always pick up the phone because I think it’s so much fun to be able to help and because I like challenges. That way they can concentrate on getting the planes up in the air and moving all the passengers.”

Magdalene is a crucial part of the SAS operation both locally, in terms of making sure people and planes arrive and depart as they should at Oslo, as well as throughout the SAS network.

“We have responsibilities that go well beyond Scandinavian borders,” Magdalene says. “Before the pandemic, I could be working on opening a new destination like Haneda in Japan. Or, like now, on the relocation of the station office in Beijing and the coordination of the network infrastructure or speaking with Chicago about biometrics. When developing solutions we never just think of Oslo, we think ‘how could this help all the other hubs and stations?’ We want everyone to share in the success.”

Though technology can sometimes seem as if it creates more complications than solutions, Magdalene says at SAS it’s been precisely the other way around. “Technology has made things much easier, but that’s because SAS dares to try things out. We are curious. We want to be at the forefront of technology at all times.”

Magdalene and her colleagues in Airport Operations are tasked with making sure the SAS airport staff around world have the tools they need to assist customers efficiently and get them the answers they’re looking for.  

“We develop apps that help employees. Our main focus is on our employees, the ground handling and cargo. We listen to them, hear what sort of things they need solved, and we find a way of translating that into IT solutions. I make sure that I have regular contact with airport authorities, to find out how we can make things easier and do things better. Right now, Safe Travel and vaccination passes are top of mind – where GDPR and international coordination and cooperation through IATA are success factors.”

Contract Billing is another example of a great application that lets the employee register additional services to other airline and cargo customers, such as Qatar or Lufthansa. This makes life easier for SAS employees and ensures that we don’t miss valuable revenue.   

Magdalene says all these services will only get better as technology improves. In Oslo, where she is based, the roll-out of digital devices on the ground is almost complete – making work life even easier.

“Our employees will be able to answer your questions from anywhere, because they’ll have mobile devices that they can use to access everything – they don’t need to go back to their desk and log onto a computer.”

The next frontier

Increasing the use of biometrics is the next exciting frontier. Some passengers may already have come across systems where boarding is handled by facial recognition, with no need to even present a boarding pass. This, says Magdalene, will begin to be used throughout the journey, so that passengers can breeze through check-in, security, boarding and even immigration, in the most convenient way possible. It’s also more secure, she says, and can allow SAS staff to focus purely on customer service.

During the pandemic we have gotten used to safe travel as a concept – where travelers need to have documentation ready that confirms you are “licensed to travel” from a virus protection point of view. Magdalene predicts that with close cooperation between airport authorities, IATA and Star Alliance this will become an integrated part of the journey even when the pandemic is behind us.

“In general, biometrics will bring us real added value for security in the future – we’ll be able to have even better security than we have today. You probably won’t need any human interactions moving through the airport. The only human interaction will be to give you better service. Everything else will be seamless,” Magdalene concludes.

 

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