Airports Empower Passengers

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...

“There will continue to be an increase of interactive technology incorporated into digital displays,” adds Saleme. “People are becoming very accustomed to interacting with the touchscreen, whether its an iPhone, iPod, or Android device … touch technology is going to continue to become more prevalent at the airport setting.”

Information distribution; social media

“We are quite interactive in social media; it enhances our ability to directly interact with our customers, and to personalize the experience,” remarks Ingalls. “We really do try to provide a personal customer service experience where we are able to do that. Using various forms of digital communication to push information out to customers in real-time is a great benefit.”

Ingalls has participated on many airport technology standard-setting groups; currently, there are several areas the groups are working on related to the passenger processing experience.

“There are a lot of capabilities for direct interaction with the customer,” says Ingalls. “There are so many different channels now; that’s what’s so exciting about what technology has brought us in terms of the capability for a direct communication link to the customer or end-user.”

Keith Gerr, marketing director with FlightStats, says the company has been zeroing in on the fact that airports want to deliver a great customer service experience. “There are some big themes we roll out with, one of them being the ability to provide data consistency across all customer touchpoints.”

FlightStats weaves a combination of consumer products along with its website and additional products an airport can purchase, such as data feeds, as a way to provide data consistency to airport partners, says FlightStats’ Wright.

“Think about FlightStats as a network,” explains Gerr. “We have the website, apps, data relationships; our Airport Portal service allows airports to view us as an extension of their brand; that is an objective of ours.”

Adds Scott Hopkins, product development for the airport segment at FlightStats, “Our fundamental goal is, we have a huge traveling consumer base, and we want to be able to connect airports with that traveler base.

“One of the areas that airports are really interested in is getting offers into the hands of travelers, such as for concessions or parking.”

Passenger processing; customer service

“We have seen huge benefits from common use technology over the years … I can’t tell you what that’s meant to us both economically and operationally,” says Ingalls.

When you get down to the customer service level, common use should be transparent to the customer, he adds.

With regard to the ability to check-in online, technology and the function of IT at the airport starts for many travelers before reaching the terminal. “Technology that enables paperless boarding; self-bag tagging; express and remote bag-drops; online check-in; mobile information delivery … all of that is going to continue to increase at the airport setting, and make facilities more operationally efficient,” explains Ingalls.

Carriers at McCarran have been trialing self-boarding technology. “When we open our new terminal building... ,” says Ingalls, “... all gates will be outfitted and equipped with self-boarding functionality.

“We are also putting in kiosks in the new terminal building that can support self-bag tagging. Bag-drop functionality is really going to be key; I think that process will skyrocket in terms of usage across the U.S. as it rolls forward out of what has been very limited pilot-type activity.”

On customer service, Ingalls says McCarran has provided complimentary Wi-Fi since January 2005, and initially that was a customer service item. “We have earned a considerable amount of revenue through sponsorship and other types of arrangements related to the Wi-Fi service. To me, that’s a great example of having your cake and eating it to — providing the experience to the customer while still earning the revenue.

“This is all about empowering the customer; they have the technology in their hands. Airports must continue to put the power of process into the hands of travelers.”

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