Air Travel Gets More Comfortable and Profitable on the Back of Digital

comfortable air travel
Like every other sector, the air travel industry has got better at collecting data on people and using it to improve customer experience over the past decade. The new direction of travel for the air transportation sector is how to capture and use data more efficiently for a particular touchpoint or event, such as check-in.  Simultaneously, airport operators are linking all the various touchpoints to create a single, integrated value chain.

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I met up with Christopher Owens and Enda Curran at Discover, London 2016, to discuss how a digital workforce and augmented airports are transforming travel for customers and business for operators. “Technology is transforming how data can be collected in order to offer a personalized service around customer preferences. In essence, what we’re looking at now is a connected supply chain”, confirmed Chris.

Chris outlined some of the events or transactions that are focal points for operator investment. “In an airport, transitions include remotely checking in, the actual check-in upon arrival, going through security and onward to the gate. These checkpoints or touchpoints, if they are managed and interacted with using data and information, can make the journey easier for customers and more efficient and profitable for the operators”.

While each of these individual digitisations is transformative, the overall integration of all these touchpoints is the long term objective, but remains a gradual process, as Chris explains. “A lot of information comes from the reservation platform that all airlines use. What has to be managed is the interaction of information between this platform, and the mobile device or smart device of staff and customer”.

The ultimate challenge is to integrate these different technologies in order to manage the processes that comprise the customer journey. Whether passengers are connecting from office, home or a mobile device, they can use information to be steered through the airport.  Other airport workers are interacting with real time data flows to speed up and improve the journey. “Ground baggage handlers using mobile ruggedized devices can interact with dispatcher more real time information flows”, Chris pointed out.

With so much real-time data, it becomes a question of how much interaction a customer wants with staff: some desire a great deal while others, such as the business traveller wishing to move through security as quickly as possible, want the minimum. Either way, the journey from check-in to boarding at the gate is end-to-end optimized. A variety of technology assists the journey, including static displays, kiosks and Wayfinder technology.

Enda Curran took up the story to explain how airport staff are tooling up digitally to help customers, and, in becoming more productive, are also maximizing revenues. “At airports we are increasingly seeing concierge-type services using mobile devices, and ancillary services, helping support services, health and safety issues.”

There’s a marketing opportunity accompanying data analysis of footfall paired with a scrutiny of the profiles of passengers coming through airport, Enda explained. Targeted retail offers can be pushed to passengers in a location and time-relevant manner by integrating personal data with beacon technology. Kiosks and interactive displays can be utilized by operators to offer retails and entertainment transactions both landside and airside.

Nor is it just a case of taking mobile device and sticking on the end of an existing business process. Airports and airlines are using new forms of digital such as machine learning, analytics and Internet of Things, embedding these in applications and connecting them to create new services. “Technology is changing way do things and improving employees’ work mode”, said Enda.

The self-service theme of air travel is set to continue with more kiosks expected at the gate, enabling passengers to download digital content before they board the flight. Connected and real-time data will enable staff to not simply react to events but adapt their action to individual passengers. As Chris says: “The whole thing becomes an integrated value chain.”

Helen Beckett

Author: Helen Beckett

Helen Beckett is the Community Manager of the Business Value Exchange. She has been a writer and editor for over 20 years and takes a particular interest in the challenges facing the CIO in today’s business climate.