The needs of the passenger have fundamentally changed
International Airport Review spoke to Konrad Best, Vice President – Digital at Munich Airport, to find out how the German airport is striving to secure a seamless travel experience.
How important is creating a seamless travel experience for aviation?
The value creation along the passenger’s journey offers multiple opportunities and risks. In recent years, customer needs have changed radically due to the development of new technologies and therefore these needs require new approaches.
The opportunities seamless travel provides are an ability to deepen the customer relationship and collect a deeper understanding of customer needs. This gives us an opportunity to identify and monetise said needs. Bottlenecks in the aviation sector can be more efficiently resolved at the same time by implementing new technology.
However, there are also risks. Opportunities for new value creation can be overtaken by third parties through the use of technology if the aviation industry does not address the challenges together with the relevant stakeholders.
What challenges stand in the way of international hubs operating seamlessly?
At Munich Airport, the concrete effects are diverse. Employees are using new marketing tools to establish tomorrow’s personalised customer dialogue, or are avoiding media disruptions by systematically using smartphones in the maintenance process. For anyone in the ‘Smart City’ airport, and especially for flight operations, it is important to continuously improve the quality and accessibility of data.
For ‘the joint concert’ of the system partners in aviation, future analysis and collaboration tools will open up immense opportunities. Our goal is to use new technologies to better connect people, infrastructure and machines, and to relieve staff of monotonous, physically or mentally stressful work through automation.
To what extent do new technologies help to alleviate these challenges?
In principle, there are technical, as well as socio‑cultural, drivers. First of all, technology is becoming smaller and cheaper. Secondly, the available computing power is increasing exponentially – this opens up unexpected possibilities. Thirdly, the varied use of technology increases. More and more, it permeates our daily life, as well as our work and all business models at the airport. Alongside this, people are nowadays ‘always online’, and this fact has strong sociological effects on the social system.
This means we are facing completely new challenges in terms of customer dialogue, employee recruitment, staff retention and motivation. To cope with this, we need to develop completely new communication rules and behaviours, which poses a great challenge to the traditional corporate communication measures.
What schemes does Munich Airport already have in place to try and secure seamless travel experiences?
With the platform ‘Passngr’, Munich Airport operates a solution for passengers that intentionally goes beyond the boundaries of our own airport. The cooperation of several actively involved airports makes it possible to offer a service that is highly relevant from the customer’s point of view: A digital travel assistant that provides first-hand information throughout the entire journey – from the trip to the airport, at the airport itself, upon arrival at the destination airport and during the onward journey to the final point. At the moment, the ‘Passngr’ platform exists in the form of an app, but, in the future, it could possibly also become a language assistant, chatbot or something similar.
What is your vision for the future of the airport?
In the coming years, there will be a lot of change throughout the customer journey”
In the coming years, there will be a lot of change throughout the customer journey. It is all about ensuring that passengers can enjoy their journey, travel smoothly and arrive more relaxed. In the more distant future, autonomous driving and shared economy models will revolutionise the way passengers travel to the airport. Here, we will need new logistic concepts.
Additionally, we will be able to further automate our processes and, in particular, use predictive analytics based on integrated data to proactively design these processes. This will substantially increase the quality and usability of the infrastructures. I believe that, subsequently, there will be a greater integration within mobility ecosystems. One question, for example, will be who decides which means of transportation is used – the customer or an end‑to‑end mobility manager? Who leads the customer journey? It is obvious that airports, airlines and other mobility service providers will have to intensify their collaboration to meet people’s future mobility needs.
Konrad Best began his career as an entrepreneur in the media business during the early 1990s. In 2004, he went into the telecommunication business, working in the B2C division of Telefonica O2 Germany in several leading positions. His next role was Director for Offers and Content at the video on demand platform Maxdome, before he went to the telecommunication company M-net in Munich. Since 2016, Best has been Vice President – Digital at Munich International Airport, responsible for the digital B2C strategy.