Design the future: An interview with Anita Gorgin, Global Marketing Strategy Manager at Lufthansa Group

“Flying is more than just transportation; it’s an integral part of the journey, and it feels like we're just getting started in making it an even more remarkable experience.” Anita Gorgin

Animation to represent aviation marketing and business insights from Anita Gorgin at Lufthansa Group
Anna Milani

Anita Gorgin, Global Marketing Strategy Manager at Lufthansa Group, joins Anna Milani, Senior Service Designer & Researcher at Designit, to share insights into the integration of airports and airlines in shaping the passenger experience, the value of human touch in the digital age, and the ongoing challenges and optimism surrounding sustainability in aviation.

Anita, could you start by sharing a little bit about what you do at Lufthansa Group?

I am a global strategy manager, and my team focuses on developing Lufthansa Group’s B2C strategy and pinpointing where we can be more efficient in our processes. I have a dual focus: looking outward to understand our customers' needs and looking inward to streamline how we do things at Lufthansa Group.

With so many different cultures and ways of thinking under the Lufthansa Group umbrella, a big part of my role is to encourage collaboration across our diverse portfolio of airlines. It’s very important that we have consistent standards and processes that work for everyone, as this helps us operate more efficiently by finding new ways to work together with a digital, data-driven mindset, and it also sets us up to innovate and adapt for the future.

Travel can be such a personal journey for many. How does Lufthansa ensure that every passenger's experience is memorable? And what role does the airport play in this?  

We place a huge emphasis on having a team that's deeply committed to making a personal impact. I like to think of it as being superhuman in our approach to hospitality, where every gesture and interaction counts. For instance, in collaboration with several airlines and diverse departments of Lufthansa Group, we executed an initiative that provided travel assistance to passengers who needed help navigating the airport during our busiest times. It’s about creating special moments, whether it’s celebrating Easter, Halloween, Pride, or any significant occasion at our airports, showing passengers we’re here to share in their celebrations and make their experience special.

Airports play a crucial role in this because they serve as the stage where many of these memorable experiences start. And by embracing technology, we can make the passenger journey through airports smoother and more personalised, from the moment they step in until they board the plane.

This is where the balance of personalisation and privacy comes into play. We see a lot of potential in using data to tailor our services, and at the same time, we recognise that protecting privacy and handling data responsibly is paramount. It's about collecting and using information in a way that's safe and truly adds value to the travel experience, because that is what helps us understand and cater to passenger needs in the most personalised way possible.

As it relates to the passenger experience, what is the role of the airport versus the airline? Where are they separate, where do they overlap, and how do you define those boundaries?  

The relationship between airlines and airports is collaborative at its core, although people differ in their opinions about the depth of this partnership. Airports facilitate access to our services and set the stage for the journey ahead. Airlines play a pivotal role in personalising this journey, ensuring passengers feel valued and supported from the moment they arrive at the airport. Our goal is to create a seamless and integrated experience where the transition between airport and airline feels almost imperceptible to the customer. This encompasses both our physical presence at the airport and digital interactions, such as pre- and post-flight communications.

While certain aspects, like airport wait times, fall outside our direct control, we strive to mitigate their impact through effective communication. Ultimately, our focus is on ensuring that passengers never feel isolated or unsupported, and I think that highlights the importance of a thoughtful and coordinated approach between airlines and airports.

What are some of the challenges you face in shaping the customer experience?

Bringing together different perspectives and needs, from office staff to ground handlers to cabin crew and pilots, makes for a complex environment to navigate. This is where a strong internal brand plays a crucial role. My time with Lufthansa Group has shown me the power of inclusive decision-making. When everyone involved in a project contributes their insights, we discover better solutions and create a sense of ownership around them. This approach turns team members into ambassadors for new initiatives, and I’ve seen that this can greatly amplify their impact.

Adopting a mindset of being open to continuous evolution is also essential. The processes and standards we set today must be flexible enough to accommodate future changes, whether those arise from shifts in stakeholder dynamics, external partners' circumstances, or the need for technological updates. For me, this perspective isn’t just a professional stance, it’s also my personal belief in the importance of creating robust, adaptable solutions that maximise long-term value.

Is the human touch something that you see becoming extremely important in the customer experience?

Certainly the human element is essential, but the level of importance people place on it varies a lot depending on whom you ask. For example, even for people who are deeply immersed in the digital world and might seem detached, there could still be a desire for a humanised, personalised experience.

There are moments when a digital interface isn’t enough, where a human presence to guide, solve a problem, or simply be there for emotional support can make all the difference. Delivering amassing service isn’t just about catering to overtly emotional needs, it’s about understanding and accommodating all customer perspectives, including those who might not place a premium on emotionality. So, I think it’s essential to see from the customer's point of view, not just our own as an airline, and recognise that preferences will vary.

What are some moments where the digital experience just doesn’t get the job done yet?

Digital tools haven’t quite mastered the in-flight experience. It's a unique environment, and of course, it’s also constrained by the physical limits of an aircraft cabin. In this setting, the value of human interaction skyrockets. Our flight attendants, pilots, and crew members play irreplaceable roles. They're the heart behind the flight experience that no digital system can replicate.

For instance, when passengers experience fear or anxiety, say during turbulence, that human connection becomes especially important. Even in common scenarios where pilots comment on the weather or point out geographic landmarks, they are not informing passengers – they're curating an experience. The act of flying, the journey itself, is an event. The image of a traveler gazing out of the window at a sunrise or a city skyline has become almost iconic.

It’s crucial for passengers to feel valued as individuals on their journey, not just as ticket holders. At Lufthansa Group, we recognise the need to make every passenger feel seen.

How do you think the human aspect – the human touch – is resonating with younger generations as they become more and more digitalised?

The human touch still strikes a chord with younger generations. They're growing up with technology that offers personalised content effortlessly, and this expectation transfers to every interaction they have, from social media to travel. Brands and social platforms that excel at delivering such tailored experiences, like TikTok, set a standard for what young people expect from technology.

For young travelers, it's not just about digital interactions but about how these interactions feel intuitively designed for them. It's a delicate balance of leveraging data to personalise without intruding, creating an experience that resonates personally and makes their journey with us memorable. Whether it's suggesting destinations on TikTok or crafting a journey with ChatGPT, it's clear that the desire for the human touch is not lost – it's just taking on a new form, integrating with technology to create a new kind of personalised experience.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see for sustainability in aviation?

Honestly, balancing sustainability with affordable travel and excellent customer experience is a massive challenge. It’s a long game, and while the industry is making progress in the right direction, I think it will take many years to fully realise these goals.

A big challenge is making sure everyone can afford to travel, not just people who have enough money to spend on premium experiences. But keeping travel costs low is tough when you're trying to be more sustainable because, typically, greener options cost more. For consumers in almost every industry, sustainable choices are still not the norm, and making those options available to all income levels is a hurdle yet to be cleared.

The idea that travelling should be a right, especially in our connected world, is something I stand by. There's still a long road ahead for sustainability to be an affordable choice for everyone.

What are you most optimistic about in the future of this industry?

I'm really hopeful about the strides we're making to improve the entire flight experience and the connections we create. There's a big push towards sustainability in the industry, and while flying isn't as green as we’d like yet, the clear commitment across the board gives me a lot of hope.

I'm also confident about our growing ability to meet our customers' expectations and aspirations. We're in a unique position to make people's dreams come true by taking them to destinations they've longed to see, and I believe we're up to the task. The industry is moving forward in exciting ways, and I'm sure we'll continue to innovate and improve. Flying is more than just transportation; it’s an integral part of the journey, and it feels like we're just getting started in making it an even more remarkable experience.

Do you want to learn more about our work with the aviation industry? Are you looking for ways to reimagine your employee and customer experience? Reach out.