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The Aviation Information Age

"Utilising people-friendly tech boosts passenger satisfaction as well as profit margins."

In 2015, the world saw a huge increase in those taking to the air. The IATA reported the largest increase in demand for air travel in five years, with global passenger traffic rising by 6.5%. Focussing for a moment on the specific Asia-Pacific region, demand for air travel rose by an incredible 8.2%. With this in mind, IATA forecasts that by 2034, 2.8 billion passengers could be travelling every year in this region alone.

For those in the aviation industry, this is fantastic news. However, modern customers have an almost insatiable taste for technology. In order to keep passengers satisfied and loyal, while at the same time looking after your bottom line, it is essential to keep up with the latest advancements in relevant technology.   

Connected, contented passengers

People are increasingly reliant on technology. At home and work, they are never far from their smartphones, laptops and tablets; constantly online and continually connected. Passengers do not want to give this up when they cross the threshold of an airport or even board a plane. In fact, a recent study showed that passengers are more likely to pay for services that keep them in the loop than ever before.   

The current understanding of inflight entertainment must be exchanged for a new way of thinking about the passenger experience. Next generation connectivity allows passengers to use their devices, browse the internet, send and receive emails, text, and use social media while in the air. A step on from ‘entertainment’, we are presented with the opportunity for passenger ‘engagement’.

This ability to offer connectivity creates the opportunity for revenue. Passengers are willing to spend money in order to stay connected. It also allows airlines to target content at their frequent-flyer customers. 

Sichuan Airlines has already implemented a seat-centric inflight entertainment system, allowing them to tailor a unique look and experience for their passengers.   

Jazeera Airways has also invested in a new inflight entertainment and connectivity system in order to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is essential that airlines keep up with customer appetite for connectivity in order to remain competitive. 

Automated, efficient, satisfying

Before passengers even board the plane, they want to make use of the available technology. IATA data reveals that around 75% of worldwide passengers would prefer more self-service options to make their journey quicker. 

The aviation industry has already taken steps to automate systems and speed up processes. There is a greater emphasis on easy, smooth progression from arrival at the airport to check in and on to boarding.   

Self-service systems are becoming ever more popular and widely used in Asia. Facilities such as self-service check-in kiosks, bag tagging and bag-drop counters, and even security clearance and boarding are all making the airport experience much more convenient and passenger-friendly.  

Airports that embrace self-service allow passengers the freedom to control their own journeys through the system.

A great example of this concept going a step further is found in Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA). They have given staff portable check-in devices, allowing them to offer a mobile check-in service anywhere in the airport. 

The move to offering more self-service facilities is proving a popular concept and is being implemented on a huge scale. A fantastic example is IATA’s Fast Travel Program which is encouraging the industry-wide use of such facilities in six stages of the airport journey: check-in, bag drop, document check, flight re-booking, self-boarding and bag recovery.   

In order to offer these facilities, airports have shown interest in fully integrated, end-to-end solutions. This is resulting in increased use of biometric technology and the demand for better tracking solutions. This can currently be delivered through iris, fingerprint and facial recognition, allowing passengers to smoothly and confidently move through the airport system at a much faster pace than before.  

Some American airports have been quick to adopt these biometric solutions and many will follow. There is increasing demand for these services and more and more airports will soon roll out integrated, self-service systems.   

Enhancing the experience, boosting the bottom line

As passengers travel through the airport and onto their flights, they generate an incredible amount of data. This information gives insight into where and when passengers travel, how they travel through the airport and what they buy. In turn this information can be analysed securely in order to tailor services and drive certain sales.

Different data can be used in different ways. For example, self-service check-in and bag-drop lets the airport know when a passenger has arrived. The opportunity then arises to target that passenger with tailored information, suggesting entertainment or facilities that are likely to be of interest before their flight. 

State-of-the-art 3D and mobile wayfinding, and passengers’ multi-media communications, alongside full content management can give airports useful insight into passenger behaviour. It is possible to track how people move around the airport and spot trends in how they complete their airport journeys.    

This data can then be utilised to enhance the passenger’s experience by supplying relevant information or through targeted advertisements. The lucrative potential for the latter is vast. The airport, airlines and retailers can be supplied with the information they need to offer the passenger exactly what they want.   

Another use of the acquired data could be to offer priority services to premium passengers or regular flyers. Airports could also use the information to give transit passengers important flight details, help reduce delays and simply better manage the ever-growing numbers of people that they must process on a daily basis.  

Embracing the aviation information age

Industry professionals and passengers alike are already benefiting from the incorporation of advanced technology and there is more to come. In order to remain competitive and deliver services that passengers want, it is essential that airports and airlines adopt new technology. 

Today, a passenger can use self-service check-in and bag-drop facilities without fuss or wasting time. They can seamlessly travel through the airport’s security and on to boarding with minimum hassle. The system is efficient, making for happy passengers. 

Simultaneously, airports and airlines are able to run more efficiently while collecting data to not only improve the passenger experience, but encourage customer loyalty and drive effective marketing schemes. 

So what is next? The use of new technology in the industry is increasing and there is no reason to think that this trend will end any time soon. As advancements such as the Cloud and Internet of Things are unveiled, it is exciting to consider what the future could offer. 

One thing is for certain: airports and airlines will have to continue to embrace this new technology in order to remain competitive and deliver the services that modern passengers demand.   

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Thursday, 17 August 2017

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