Why the airport of the future needs to be customer-first
The air travel industry is growing exponentially. To respond to the challenges presented by increased demand, airports must put the customer first.
In the airline industry, demand is outstripping supply. Travel disruption is becoming more and more common, with delays, missed connections, lost luggage and overcrowding becoming the norm. Alongside the explosion in global demand, the damage done by disruptions is exacerbated by a lack of consistent systems and protocols, sub-optimal communication, and a newly empowered, social-media savvy customer. In Europe alone, experts project that congested skies will lead to a 12% drop in demand over the next 20 years – which represents 237 million fewer passengers.
Despite these challenges, airlines and airports can respond with a positive, customer-first strategy. To manage the strain on overstretched infrastructure, the industry can improve the customer experience in airports whilst improving operations. Airports can achieve this through streamlining processes, increasing throughput and optimizing the complete, A-to-B customer journey.
Why integration needs to improve
Traditionally, the airline industry has been a trailblazer in technology. As early as the 1960s, airlines were implementing advanced computer systems to sell tickets and manage air traffic. Despite this history of innovation, the airport experience has not changed much in the last 50 years. As a result of fierce competition, economic turbulence and increased taxation, airport management have become increasingly concerned with reducing overheads.
As a result, archaic systems have remained in place. By and large, the main barriers to enhanced customer service and alleviating congestion are gaps between touchpoints. For instance, the customer experience at airports can seem repetitive or redundant. The customer will be asked the same questions at check-in, security, immigration, and boarding, having to present the same documentation repeatedly. This is as a result of coherence and communication between airport, airline and other ground staff – which produces a negative customer experience.
Deploy tech to put the customer first
In reality, there is no real reason why cutting costs should be at the expense of customer experience. Equally, as the industry grows, there also is no reason why the tradition of innovation should not continue – especially as the key to a smoother-running airport certainly lies within technology. After all, customers will increasingly expect their air travel experience to be as integrated, personalized as their online retail, banking, and social experiences.
For example, automated check-in systems and e-ticketing can reduce waiting times and promote flow-through. Airports can also deploy this technology to allow customers to move seamlessly through security, border control, and connections, enabling passengers to travel through the airport with greater ease. Similarly, airlines can enhance the overall customer experience through loyalty programs, preemptive personalization, and targeted marketing. Through investment in technology, airports can enhance communication between stakeholders, which in turn eases congestion, cuts costs, and creates a customer first environment.
Dynamism, integration, and transparency – the future of the airport
Many customers’ ideal travel experience is thoroughly integrated, transparent and seamless. To create this environment, airports have to work towards building a dynamic communication infrastructure. As such, the airport of the future is customer first: intelligent, connected and personalized. Supported by technological solutions and partner ecosystems, airports can move toward putting the customer at the center of operations.