According to the 2011 SITA Airport IT Trends Survey, respondents ranked ‘improving customer service’ as the primary driver for new technology investments. Says SITA, mobile services investments for passengers and staff continue to top the airport investment priority list.
With regard to passenger processing technology, the survey shows that self-service continues to grow, and that airports plan to extend the self-service concept to other passenger touchpoints such as e-gate and common bag-drop functionality.
On the digital communications front, SITA’s survey suggests that services on mobile devices and social networks are set to support the airport’s customer service vision.
“Notification of flight status and delays on passenger mobile phones remains at the top of airport mobile investments,” states SITA. “Utilizing mobile phones to direct passengers around the airport is beginning to attract airport investments with 44 percent of respondents planning for such services by 2014.
“Airports also have a strong desire to offer retail services by way of the mobile device [60 percent with plans by 2014].”
With an increased focus by airports to provide a quality customer service experience for travelers coupled with the benefit of emerging digital display and passenger processing technology on operational efficiency, information technology (IT) is driving the business of customer communication and engagement at the airport setting.
Comments Derrek Wright, FlightStats director of business development for the airport segment, “Airports are moving towards an orientation of really optimizing the traveler experience. What traditionally was an IT approach with providing data to airports via FIDS screens has now expanded to the entire communication ecosystem within and around airports.”
Says Sam Ingalls, assistant director of aviation, information systems, McCarran International Airport, “I’m very dead-set on business driving the technology, and not the other way around.
“In a general sense, my airport colleagues are really doing a lot of exciting things and moving forward. I’ve seen a groundswell of activity over the past few years, and a lot of uptake of the various initiatives and implementation of technology.”
Dynamic display solutions
David Saleme, concessions manager for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, has been with the Port Columbus International Airport for some 15 years.
Dynamic signage allows for frequency of impressions, flexibility, and creative content, relates Saleme. It’s a very good medium for the messaging we are putting out there with our different concessions; it allows a very high degree of flexibility with almost instantaneous ability to update content.
Because airports are pressured to enhance non-aeronautical revenue generation, Saleme says a good strategy is to combine content that informs the traveler with promotion and advertising offers.
“We look for that continual increase in gross revenue sales, but what also helps us is the ability to employ combination-use hardware, so we are able to provide both flight information in the media proximity of the advertising,” explains Saleme.
Adds Engalls, “The ability to dynamically display whatever it is you may need to display in any part of the terminal at any point in time is an incredible advantage.
“Whether it’s LED or LCD, we have some 1,300 dynamic signs in Terminal 3 and, excluding the FIDS, some 400 in Terminals 1 and 2.
“We have really fine-tuned our process with the dynamic signs, and it really gives us a lot of flexibility to drive messaging to different parts of the terminal building, and provide information to customers that we couldn’t do in a static sense.”
With regard to the future of signage technology, Saleme says we will continue to see a growth in the use of large format digital media. Designing advertising that catches the eyes of customers is important; large format digital media does that, he relates.