Amplifying the passenger experience is one of the most important goals for airport leadership in North America.
According to the 2023 Airport Business Infrastructure Survey, providing a better experience insider the terminal is one of the top drivers for airport management when it comes to investing in the future. The advent of advanced technology works in tandem with these efforts when applied correctly.
But technology and infrastructure should do more than provide a better experience inside the airport. It should provide an immersive experience.
Electrosonic recently released its The revolution in post-pandemic airport amenities looking at how operators transform passenger experience through technology with a key focus on Experiential Technology.
Forward-thinking airport management is ready to start investing in this technology, but getting to the end goal of revolutionizing the passenger experience takes layers of planning.
The Importance of Customer Experience in Airports
Airport executives are prioritizing customer experience to make airports more than just transportation hubs. The goal is to transform them into destinations with unique themes and placemaking that resonates with the community.
Brandon Harp, Senior Business Development Manager for Electrosonic encourages airport leaders to think about three key pillars: effective airport communication, creating positive experiences through technology, and targeted advertising. He also emphasizes the importance of a robust content strategy to drive the success of technology implementations.
“Customer experience and customer care in airports now is at the top of everyone's to-do list,” Harp said. “What we're noticing in terms of trends is turning an airport into more of a destination, make it a place that's got some sort of a theme to it."
Increasing customer satisfaction scores is directly linked to generating more business for airports. Satisfied passengers are more likely to choose the same airport for their flights and are inclined to spend more on concessions and other services.
The focus on customer service has become a top-three priority for airport executives, leading to innovative approaches to enhance the overall passenger experience throughout the facility.
Challenges of Passenger Negativity
Creating happiness and a positive atmosphere throughout the airport is crucial. Negative perceptions often stem from the stressful nature of air travel, including concerns about flight delays or missing flights.
“It always starts with creating that happiness,” Harp said. “If you're not creating happiness throughout the airport or you're not putting a smile on someone's face, an airport experience is often thought of as a negative thing."
The human-centric approach is highlighted, with a focus on understanding the passenger's mindset. Experiential technology is proposed to improve the entire passenger experience from the moment they arrive at the airport, aiming to put a smile on their faces and make the overall experience more enjoyable.
Role of LED Technology in Airports
LED technology is identified as a pivotal component in the digital transformation of airports, serving multiple purposes. It is categorized into three main pillars: advertising, passenger information, and experiential elements.
“We're seeing a big uptick in LED technology,” Harp said. “That's something that serves multi-purposes.”
Advertising through LED screens involves contracts with companies, while passenger information includes vital details such as flight information and lane queuing. Experiential elements focus on creating a sense of euphoria and entertainment for passengers, contributing to a visually engaging environment.
Electrosonic conducted a survey that revealed a significant uptick in LED technology within airports. This technology serves various purposes, including advertising, passenger information, and creating experiential elements.
LED technology in airports is categorized into three main pillars:
- Advertising Component: Involves contracts with companies for advertising purposes.
- Passenger Information: Vital for day-to-day operations, including flight information, lane queuing, and curbside details.
- Experiential Element: Focused on creating a sense of euphoria and entertainment for passengers, transforming the airport into a visually engaging environment.
Harp said this trend originated in Asia, involving location-based entertainment. It aims to keep passengers entertained while waiting for their flights, contributing to a positive mindset and overall passenger experience.
"In the realm of airport technology, the success of LED applications extends beyond hardware,” Harp said. “It's not just about screens; it's about what's displayed on them. A robust content strategy is the heartbeat of our creative technologist approach, driving engagement, shaping experiences, and influencing the scores that define how passengers perceive and return to an airport."
Definition of Experiential Technology
Experiential technology is defined as unique, interactive technology that serves a purpose of engaging passengers. It goes beyond traditional displays on walls, incorporating art, community elements, and opportunities for local businesses to contribute to the airport's success.
“Experiential and immersive are two words that we often hear are thrown around rather loosely, and I think it means something different to everyone,” Harp said. “To me, something that's experiential in an airport environment is unique and individuals or passengers can interact with it."
The term creates a unique and engaging atmosphere, encouraging airport executives to think outside the box. The interview emphasizes the importance of incorporating technology that enhances the overall passenger experience and transforms terminals into one-of-a-kind spaces.
Integration of Technology in Airport Planning
Experiential technology is considered a vital part of airport planning, and its integration should begin at the very early stages of the planning process.
“We often say it has to be at the very beginning of your planning,” Harp said. “There's the infrastructure that goes into supporting it, but as part of that infrastructure, it's being able to create a unique kind of engaging, friendly, happy environment."
A case study for Newark Terminal A is presented, where initial skepticism about the importance of experiential technology shifted after implementation. The positive impact on passenger experience and recognition of its value underscores the need to consider technology, design, and engagement early in the planning stages.
AI will Change the Passenger Experience
Artificial intelligence has been a topic of major discussion as it has come to maturity in the past year. This technology can have a sizable impact on how airports serve their passengers and the terminal environment as it enter the airport market.
“Artificial intelligence could be simulating the way that people interact and how predictive analytics and things could help people understand how to actively navigate an airport," Harp said.
Harp suggests that AI can simulate the way people interact within the airport environment. This implies creating digital models or simulations to understand passenger behavior and optimize processes.
AI, through predictive analytics, can assist in understanding and forecasting passenger movements. This could be especially useful in predicting crowd flow, optimizing security processes, or estimating wait times.
Harp envisions AI-powered wayfinding systems that passengers can interact with. This could involve asking questions and receiving real-time responses, providing a seamless navigation experience without the need to touch screens.
Enhancing Passenger Navigation: The role of AI is seen in actively helping passengers navigate the airport. This could include features such as providing step-by-step directions to gates, information about amenities, or even personalized recommendations based on individual preferences.
Evolution and Prevalence of AI: Harp notes that while AI is already in the conversation, its full potential and specific applications in airports will likely evolve over the coming years. The key is how airports, airlines, and operators plan to leverage AI to enhance the overall passenger experience.