The benefits of airport apps in a technologically-driven world

Tara Hernandez from Gerald R. Ford International Airport details how the airport’s app drastically improves the passenger journey; ensuring flying from the airport is not a stressful experience.

airport app

In today’s world, being connected is as important as ever – the average American checks their phone 46 times per day, for everything including emails, phone calls, texts, social media and apps. Phones and tablets hold endless amounts of information, all designed to make our lives easier, make us more connected and serve our needs faster and more efficiently.

Think of the last time you travelled – did you check all of the above, plus your airline or airport’s app? If your flight was delayed, you may have received a notification from the airline’s app, or, if you were curious about parking or security checkpoints, you may have checked your airport’s app. There lies the option of having all your needs met in one place.

Meeting the digital expectations

At Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), we want to make the travel experience easier and better for those who choose to fly from our airport. Therefore, in September 2018, we launched our new mobile app. The app was designed to give travellers another way to connect with us and to make wayfinding around the airport easier and faster. It is designed to provide passengers with airport information before they leave on their journey to the airport, or to check on their way (safely, of course).

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport app features real-time flight departure and arrival information, updates on parking availability at the airport, and security wait times. Additionally, amenities such as food and beverage locations, children’s play areas, business centres, nursing rooms, and the Military Welcome Centre are all featured on the app. Passengers can also connect with the airport ground transportation options that are available.

Since its launch over a year ago, the app has been downloaded by thousands of people. We have heard from passengers and guests how it makes the pre-boarding experience far smoother by being able to see what is available ahead of time – such as food and beverage facilities, parking availability and security waiting times. Our airport passenger traffic has increased considerably over the years. We are the fastest growing airport in Michigan – having grown 88 per cent since 2009 – and last year we served a record 3.26 million passengers. GRR currently serves 32 non-stop destinations on seven airlines, and we look forward to more options popping up on the map in the future. As our traffic has increased, so has our need for an expanded facility and more amenities, as well as the curiosity of passengers wondering how long the security wait will be, or, especially during the winter months, if there is any covered parking available. With our mobile app, travellers have that information at their fingertips.

Developing GRR further

On 28 August 2019, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport announced Project Elevate, a three-stage expansion of the airport that begins with a $90 million extension of Concourse A to accommodate the expected passenger growth over the next 20 years.

Airport leadership is currently seeking federal approval for the second development of Project Elevate, which proposes to add a Federal Inspection Station (FIS), capable of screening international commercial passenger flights. The third development will be to relocate the current air traffic control tower to make way for diverse terminal-area developments, such as additional tenant hangars and more parking, amongst other improvements.

The Ford Airport is also currently in Phase Two of the Gateway Transformation Project – a two-part development in which the first phase included consolidating the security-screening checkpoint, adding in new terrazzo flooring, lighting, restaurants, children’s play areas, and more. Phase Two is set to be complete in spring 2020 and will include updates to the airline ticket counter spaces, new airline baggage service offices (BSOs), upgrades in the baggage claim area, and the removal of the TSA’s CTX baggage screening machines from the public area.

Preparing for future travel

With so many exciting projects and developments in our future, we can expect technology to play a huge role. Wayfinding, amenities, ease of use and services will all play a part in what we do and how we serve our customers.

Passengers have told us that they love having the instant access of a mobile app and the ability to be even more prepared for when they travel. We all know travelling can be stressful, and this is one way in which we have tried to ease passengers’ minds during that journey. We have also created an informative video to help promote our app and demonstrate to users the features it entails.

In the future, we are hoping to add other highlights. Many of our facilities are currently under construction and, as we expand our footprint, we will be updating the restaurants, bars, shops and amenities that are available. Additionally, we have a section where passengers can provide us with feedback, as we are always open to hearing what they would like to say, or have them connect with us on social media.

Technology is constantly changing and it is important for our airport to be connected to our passengers – to listen to their needs and to respond to how aviation and airports can help make the experience easier and more enjoyable.

The convenience of having an airport app at your fingertips when you fly is important, as we live in a world with a ‘need it/want it now’ attitude. So, whether the traveller is a weekly business passenger who knows the minute details of the Ford Airport and wants to check security times, or they are a family destined for Florida for a winter getaway and are curious about parking availability, our mobile app is capable of meeting their needs.

Biography – Tara Hernandez

Tara Hernandez is the Marketing and Communications Director at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, responsible for airport marketing, advertising, public relations and media communications, social media, air service development, event planning, internal/external communications, branding, community outreach and customer service.

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