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Business as usual is not good enough

Robson Freitas, Head of Operations, Security and Emergency at Belo Horizonte International Airport, examines the revolution the air industry is experiencing in seamless travel and explains why now, post-pandemic, is the time to deliver a passenger experience that is above and beyond.

When we think of an airport, we usually think of queues, delays, security checks, high prices, and other annoyances for passengers. However, this sentiment has been radically changing due to the action airports are taking with a focus on operational efficiency and customer experience. Airport operators have understood that providing a high-quality airport experience makes a difference among travellers, as well as increasing the airport’s non-aeronautical revenue. A negative airport experience and general dissatisfaction can result in passengers choosing to fly from a different airport.

Modern airports interested in improving the traveller experience need to understand the traveller’s perspective. It should be clear to airports that some services are essential and extremely necessary for a great customer journey, such as service, cleaning, wayfinding, security checkpoint. However, with the world steadily recovering from the pandemic and with the opening of international borders, now is the time for airports to focus on differentiating themselves rather than just surviving. With global aviation competition heating up once again, it’s airports that can ensure that customer experiences are far from trivial and basic.

Doing the basics for the customer experience is no longer enough, which increasingly requires airports to take disruptive actions and positive strategies in which the customer is prioritised. It is necessary to rethink the current modus operas, because for years we have basically been doing the same thing in managing the customer journey. After all, customers increasingly expect their airport experience to be as seamless and personalised as their online retail, banking, and social experiences. The airport of the future will be with the customer first: smart, connected and personalised. Supported by technological solutions and partner ecosystems, airports must move forward to put the customer at the centre of their operations.

How is IT contributing to driving changes in customer experience?

Technological innovations play an important role in improving customer experience. Through smart solutions, the airport can now track and share real-time information about passenger flow, flight and baggage status, availability of service resources, sales of services and so on. We can create an airport capable of quickly responding to the needs of each passenger and making them the best possible.

Passenger and airline expectations are changing rapidly, and it is up to airports to keep pace with these changes using advanced technological capabilities of 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics. As the millennial generation dominates the consumer market through their fingertips, it forces airports to develop services and experiences in line with the new era of tech retail. While online has disrupted conventional non-aeronautical revenue-generating business models, it has also brought untapped ‘out of the box’ opportunities that are yet to be developed by airports, such as the use of airline miles as currency for purchases at airline stores, retail, in restaurants, payment for parking, use in bookstores, payment for taxi or subway, car rental, etc. operating at airports around the world.