Blog: Don’t put airports in the corner

The travel experience has pretty much gone full circle, from the heyday of travel by steam, the glamour in the early days of commercial air travel through to the blandness of stations and airports in the 80s and 90s and now back to organisations thinking very carefully about the experience they give to their customers from initial booking to arriving at their destination.

If we take the airline industry, the airline companies themselves have been hugely innovative in the options they now give to their customers to make the experience for them positive on a personal level. Specifying what seats and food they would like, priority boarding access to the airport lounge and so on. Historically the gap in the experience has been within the airport itself, but with the use of technology that is about to change and the relationship between the airport and the people passing through is going to take off.

Change is gaining momentum

Having spoken to many technology leaders within the industry and examining of sector specific articles including the ‘Airports IT Trends Survey’ delivered by Airports Council International, Airline business and SITA, we know that the leaders are all keen to take advantage of technology developments to enable them to change.

Personalising the passenger experience, making travelers lives simpler and meeting the expected demand of travel are all on the agenda to make the airports part of the enjoyment of travel and not a necessary evil.  In recent years the implementation of technology is ultimately leading to improved loyalty and increased revenues for the airport and its ground based partners and is set to continue in the future.

The fundamentals

Technology has a key role in meeting the demand and improving the experience of travelers, and the growth of spending in this area confirms this is a significant focus. Over half of the airports surveyed for the ‘Airports IT Trends Survey’ already had major programs related to self-service and passenger mobile apps in place.

There are numerous infrastructure improvements to improve the travelers experience within the airport in the pipeline such as Near Field Communications (NFC), Real-time geo-locating staff passenger and assets as well as improvements of IT infrastructure including Wi-Fi.

One key mechanism for delivering real-time information to airport users are through mobile apps. Using the rise of social to their advantage 45% of the worldwide airports surveyed plan to offer the ability to pay for services such as Wi-Fi and parking through mobile apps over the next 2 years.

Arriving at the destination

Promoting a better experience encourages travelers to get airside sooner so that they can enjoy the full facilities of the airport. The more dwell time the more money spent in shops, restaurants and duty free.

Providing a platform to facilitate this relationship between the traveler and the airport, integration of systems across the airport and business intelligence to understand traveler behaviors are all key.

Given the uniqueness of these environments and the appetite to innovate there is no off the shelf solution to this problem. It’s a great opportunity for Airports to drive value for its customers and partners through the innovative use of technology.