Passenger journey reimagined: Innovative and AI technologies applied


7 November 2022



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Mthoko Mncwabe, Chief Information Officer of Airports Company South Africa, gives his overview of innovative airport technology and how it can revolutionise the passenger experience.

Imagine a world where you arrive at the airport and the gates know your name without presenting your Identity Document and Boarding Pass. Everything is automated. You check in your bag using a high-tech solution which tracks it from the moment you’ve checked in, to when you arrive at your destination. You are not worried about finding your way, as there is a GPS-enabled system guiding you every step of the way. When you finally get to your flight, your seat welcomes you and immediately entertains you according to your preference. A passenger journey reimagined….

With the right technology, this imagined future may indeed be a reality. The emergence of technology trends in the travel industry presents a unique opportunity for us to creatively deliver an innovative experience to our travellers. What does that look like? How would the environment be impacted? Those are some of the considerations we have when exploring this amazing world of technology.

Artificial intelligence

According to WNS Ltd, a leading process management company, artificial intelligence in airlines is set to reach $2.2 billion by 2025. The most common use of this technology is with chatbots, which are increasingly used to engage customers and resolve queries. In Asia, this technology is currently being used to estimate the average lifespan of the parts of its planes to improve operational efficiencies. The use of this technology eliminates human error which can be detrimental in our industry where travellers rely on the most accurate information for the best travel experience.

Big Data

The concept of Big Data has been topical in many industries. This relates to the collection and subsequent use of mass data collected to study customer patterns and behaviour. Big data can help improve the customer journey or user experience and can provide airport management companies such as ACSA with analytics to make informed decisions. We could enhance retail services provided to passengers by understanding consumer patterns and behaviour. In the travel industry, we collect a lot of customer information. Question is, how do we create value and knowledge applying this information to support the aviation industry as a whole? Imagine if we knew exactly what traveller X preferred to watch on their flight by just observing trends and analysing data we have at our disposal?

Contactless technology

With the recent pandemic, travellers have become accustomed to the concept of no touching, and the growing use of contactless devices. No touching presents a safe environment for travellers and gives them a sense of comfort. Globally, airports are doing away with paper boarding passes and physical ID’s. This has been replaced with biometric systems with facial recognition and contactless boarding passes. In addition to the safety elements presented by this technology, it has streamlined processes and saves time and resources.

The ACSA app provides information on flights, parking, F&B and retail outlets, facilities and health and safety, as well as customer feedback and chat bot capabilities.

The ACSA app provides information on flights, parking, F&B and retail outlets, facilities and health and safety, as well as customer feedback and chat bot capabilities.

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