Online Exclusive: The Future of Airport Customer Service

Jan. 25, 2013
Technology is facilitating dramatic change in the aviation industry

Until recently, airlines were responsible for the majority of customer service during a passenger’s flight but that has changed in recent years. As airports have realized the importance of providing the best possible flight experience for customers traveling through their terminals, they are attempting to make waiting for a flight more comfortable, by providing gourmet eateries, cell phone charging stations, higher-end facilities, a wider variety of in-airport activities, among other planned upgrades.

At Allegiant Systems, we are creating technology that will revolutionize the inflight experience — both for airline crew and passengers. As technology continues to develop, these same technologies will be able to be applied to improving processes and customer service in the airport. We have identified three specific areas in which technology will improve how airports perform, both day-to-day and in the long-term.  

Facilitating Day-to-Day Delays

When flying, many negative customer experiences are created because of unforeseen delays, mechanical issues, weather problems, etc. These annoyances can create delays of minutes or even hours, and in the worst case scenarios, even cause the flight to be cancelled until the issue has been resolved.

Since the ruling that airlines (at US airports) must report lengthy delays went into effect on August 23, 2011, airlines have decreased the number of delays that customers’ experience, but it is possible for the frequency of these delays to decrease even further, if both airlines and airports have the right technology. iPad-based technology (like Allegiant Systems’ FlyDesk) allows cabin crew to manage all reporting and manuals digitally, making it quicker and easier to address unforeseen problems as they arise.

Let’s look at a common problem: mechanical issues. When an airplane experiences mechanical problems (after boarding), the in-flight crew is required to complete multiple reports, which can contribute significantly to the length of delay experienced by travelers. These delays can also have a big impact on the operations of an airport. If a parked plane is blocking other flights from landing/departing from that gate, it can cause a delay for every aircraft that was scheduled to depart after it.

If this happens multiple times each day, imagine the logistical issues that airport personnel would experience. But if the delayed aircraft was enabled with digital reporting technology, the reports would be less time consuming for the in-flight crew and could result in a quicker response time, and therefore, shorter delays for travelers.

Improved Airport Station Operations

As well as improving reporting processes, iPad-based technology offers a more effective way to handle customer service issues. Aviation CRM systems are becoming more user-friendly and will be accessible via iPad systems, like FlyDesk. These CRM systems make it easier for both in-flight crew and airport staff to access customer information, process sales and address customer service issues. Currently through FlyDesk, airline crews can access corporate memos, manage internal communications, access flight data, up-to-date weather info, etc. while in-flight, from a single device. In the future, airline crews in the airport will be able to handle customer check-in, checking baggage, selling tickets, anywhere, anytime from a single, handheld device.

Of course, this technology will have a huge impact on airport operations as well. Fewer employees can be used to accomplish the same tasks in the boarding area (a benefit for the airlines) and because all customer service activities are centralized onto one handheld, mobile device in the boarding area, the whole process will be smoother and less complicated (a bonus in keeping airline operations running on schedule).

Today’s consumers rate airports, just as they do airlines – in fact, there are even polls/articles dedicated to comparing the best and worst airports - so these new technologies will be a huge benefit in improving customer satisfaction and pre-flight experience, as well as improving a given airport’s reputation.

Increased Ancillary Revenue Opportunities

In the near future, there will be many opportunities for both airlines and airports to increase their ancillary revenues. One common problem in airports is the lack of space available for (an ever increasing number of) passengers, which restricts the services that can be offered on-site.

Rather than using a kiosk or desk to check-in customers, sell destination activities, ground transportation and provide customer service, iPad technology will allow the same functions to be executed and will not require additional infrastructure or space in order to do so. From selling ground transportation or local activities, to selling food and drinks while passengers are waiting to board, iPads will revolutionize the airport retail business model, making it easier to sell anywhere in the airport, at any time.

iPads also serve a greater function: they enable staff to multitask, and as a result, provide better customer service to travelers. Not only can staff check-in customers, sell products/services, find up-to-date flight info, but they can also be more effective in the case of extended flight delays or cancellations.

Imagine this scenario: you’re a customer who is going on their first vacation in a year and you’ve just found out that your flight has been delayed by 24 hours. Not only will you miss the first day of your well-deserved trip, you’re also going to incur more costs.

Now imagine that the airline staff was able to help facilitate all of the logistics of the delay for you, immediately and from one handheld device. They could find the best hotel for you and your family, arrange a rental car to transport you there and offer suggestions on family-friendly restaurants to enjoy with your free meal vouchers.

In fact, they can offer all sorts of concierge-related services to make your delay more tolerable. At the end of the day, you may not be happy about losing out on a day of vacation, but you will definitely leave the airport happier about the way that the airline (and by extension, the airport) handled the situation.  

Tomorrow’s Technology

In the near future, technology will create a dramatic change in the aviation industry. It will improve customers’ in-flight experience and will allow airline and airport crew to be more effective, more productive and therefore, a greater resource to their employers. It will help decrease airline and airport costs, while increasing profits.

We, at Allegiant Systems, are excited to see these new technologies come into fruition. And of course, we’ll do everything we can to help aviation technology along it’s way.

About The Author

Joe Ayson is the Director of Corporate Development & Marketing at Allegiant Systems. In this role, Joe is responsible for overseeing product marketing, communications and corporate partnerships. As the leader of the team who created Allegiant Systems' new iPad EFB and cabin crew technology FlyDesk, and who previously managed Allegiant Air's internal technology development team, Joe has extensive experience in developing and implementing all types of in-flight technology.

About Allegiant Travel Inc.

Allegiant Travel Company, Lixar and AvIntel, have joined forces to create Allegiant Systems, a strategic partnership that combines more than 50 years of airline operations, consulting and technology development experience. The venture is positioned to solve complex airline operations problems using innovative technology solutions based on Apple’s iOS software. Through its cloud-based platform FlyDesk™, operators can finally deploy seamless automation solutions fleet-wide - efficiently and more cost-effectively. The company is headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada with a branch office in Toulouse, France. For more information, please visit

About the Author

Joe Ayson | Director of Marketing & Corporate Development

Joe Ayson, Director of Marketing & Corporate Development, Allegiant Systems