Improving the Airport Customer Experience

“Customers expect a seamless travel experience, in reality, and in the digital world. This requires a system partnership between airlines and airports.” Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO at Hamburg Airport. – Hamburg Aviation Conference 8-9 February 2017. It is clear across the industry, all airports are making a conscious effort to constantly introduce new innovations to enhance the customer experience.

Technology is developing and is really being embraced by the industry to create new, innovative experiences to make the process of travelling as smooth and as fast as possible. Self-service and remote check-in are great examples of a trend that has quickly spread across the industry. Now passengers have the opportunity to check-in online before arriving and some airlines allow you to do this via their app. This helps reduce queues, and allows passengers to go straight to security if they don’t have any baggage.

Taking technology developments one step further, and demonstrating the amount of innovation we are yet to see – Amsterdam Schiphol is trialling a new a ‘biometric self-boarding’ system to attempt to make the boarding process as quick and easy as possible. This will mean passengers can board the plane without showing their passport or boarding pass at the departure gate, really modernising the process.  

Limiting queues and optimising the security processes is a real focus. Schiphol airport is also currently conducting a test with KLM to allow passengers to leave laptops and liquids in their bags – if this is successful, this will drastically reduce the wait time at security and really improve the passenger experience.

Another trend that is spreading, is equipping all staff with an iPad. This is becoming popular in high-street stores, but if airport staff are armed with an iPad, they can quickly access all operational information so they can help passengers with flight times, gate information, directions etc. this is just another development airports can implement to enhance customer service.

Strong Wi-Fi is now expected from passengers, SITA found that 83% of passengers travel with a smartphone so they will want to be able to use this to its full ability. Having Wi-Fi also equips consumers with the ability to interact with airport and airline apps, beacons and store promotions – which will enable airports to communicate with passengers on a personal level. For example, Miami International Airport have a smartphone app, which offers directions, personalised shopping and dining information, and real-time flight, travel and destination updates – having Wi-Fi makes Apps like these more usable. Also, offering access to plugs and space for business passengers to do work and keep their phones or laptops fully charged is another way to improve the customer experience.

Utilising technology offers the opportunity to gather data. This then offers the opportunity to push out personalised information directly to their mobile phones such as flight updates; recommendations of places to visit and tailored promotions in the airport. Making the customer experience individual. Beacons have been adopted by numerous airports with the goal of enhancing the customer experience. They can offer; flight information, baggage collection, directions, share current promotions and events, the list goes on.

Further to technology, it is important for airports to have a strong tenant mix to ensure there is something that appeals to all passengers. Skytrax World Airport Awards 2017 winner, Singapore Changi Airport, is due to the vast array of leisure and entertainment facilities – making the travel experience enjoyable and relaxing.

Retailers, F&B, leisure and entertainment tenants are striving to create new campaigns and events to make the experience unique and increase dwell time. Bearing in mind that customers are passengers, and therefore only have a certain amount of time before being called to their gate – tenants are faced with a challenge. Airport tenants need to deliver an exceptional experience to encourage passengers to spend their limited time in their store and purchase.

There are expansions being planned across the industry, we can see more runways being built; airports advancing their routes and adding more tenants – consistently working hard to develop their capabilities and increase capacity.

Airlines and Airports working closer together to integrate technology and develop innovative new initiatives is being seen widely to enhance the customer experience. There is always research and planning being done to introduce a new trend, but what will be next?

Kat Whitehead, Senior Marketing Executive, Foundation Recruitment

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