Data Privacy vs Personalisation for Airports

Posted: 11 November 2022 | | No comments yet

We discuss how airports can strike the right balance of offering a personalised experience without breaching passengers’ privacy.

Cyber Security and Digital Data Protection Concept. Icon graphic interface showing secure firewall technology for online data access defense against hacker, virus and insecure information for privacy.

Passenger data is vital to airports. It tells them who is passing through their terminals, what’s important to passengers, whether they splurge or save on purchases, where they enjoy travelling to, and so much more. Essentially, it holds the key to personalising passenger journeys, which in turn increases customer satisfaction and loyalty while generating more revenue for airports.

However, it can be more complex than it seems. There is a fine line between airports using data in the passenger’s best interest (i.e. for a more personalised experience) and breaching their privacy.

Join us as we discuss how airports can personalise passenger journeys without overstepping the mark.

Personalisation vs privacy – what passengers want

Today, people are much more aware of how their data is collected and shared by the brands they buy from and businesses they interact with. They know it can be misused and are not afraid to call companies out for it. In addition, data breaches and security concerns have given rise to laws like GDPR that restrict data collection and processing of personal data. And we’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of businesses fined for failing to comply.

Interestingly, while data privacy is considered important to consumers, they also favour personalisation, with 80% of consumers saying they’re more likely to purchase from a brand offering a personalised experience and 67% saying it’s important for brands to adjust content based on their preferences.

It’s tricky terrain for all businesses, including airports which want to strike the balance of providing passengers with the personalised experience they desire without breaching their privacy. So, how do they go about it?

Tip 1 – Be explicitly clear about passenger data collection & usage

 Data privacy is a hot topic in the airport industry right now and was recently discussed at the International Airport Review Online Summit. Panellist Stephen Saunders, Director of Innovation and Information Technology at Cincinnati Airport, defined it as “ensuring the data is in the right hands, for the right purposes”, and we think he hit the nail on the head.

Collecting passenger data can benefit airports and the passengers they serve, but airports must be clear about the data they gather and how they use and store it. Airports must have a valid reason for collecting, using and storing passenger data. This reason must be explicitly apparent to the passenger to avoid breaching GDPR and other data privacy regulations.

What passenger data do airports collect?

 Airports collect various passenger data, including but not limited to the following:

  • Personal information (name, address, birth date)
  • Email address
  • Payment into
  • Purchase history
  • Preferences
  • Biometrics
  • Location data

How do airports collect passenger data?

Airports can collect data before passengers even reach their terminals. One way is through an airport ecommerce website where passengers can book flights, hotels and holidays with the airport and purchase extras like Fast Track and Queueless Journey tickets. Parking reservation software is another valuable source of passenger data for airports.

There is also the opportunity for airports to optimise touchpoints in their terminals to collect passenger data, for example, through biometric scanning, WiFi and Bluetooth integrations, scannable QR codes for in-airport deals and digital customer feedback systems.

Airports use passenger data for operational purposes, such as processing passengers more efficiently, reducing wait times and improving airport security. However, they also collect passenger data to inform decision-making, improve the passenger experience and ultimately, unlock more revenue.

Tip 2 – Consider alternatives like anonymised data and passenger profiling

While many people are happy to part with their data for a more personalised brand experience (76%, no less), airports must question what and how much data they need to create a personalised passenger experience.

Many in the industry argue that collecting and using passengers’ details isn’t necessarily the only way to develop a personalised passenger experience and that airports should look at alternative options.

“You can use anonymised data to do a lot of personalisation. You just have to think about the right ways to do it,” said Mats Berglind, Digital Innovation Manager at Swedavia Airport, at the IAR Online Summit. He continued, “for example, you can use anonymised data to see passenger flows. You don’t necessarily need to know who that passenger is. Maybe it’s enough to see what flight they’re on. You can also look at groups and destinations to start the personalisation journey.”

In agreement, Rashid Al Busaidy also spoke of the value of creating passenger personas to achieve personalisation at scale, something they have tested at Oman Airports. “First, we analysed our passenger segments – the different groups of passengers using our airport based on inbound and outbound data from our business functions. We then utilised those segments and developed specific personas based on our understanding. With those personas, we can better understand who our passengers are, their needs, expectations and habits. At this stage, we could identify the types of passengers and what those passengers were most likely to expect during their journey through different touchpoints within the airport,” he said.

Tip 3 – Put passengers in control of their data and experience

While airports must carefully look at the passenger data they collect, what’s necessary and valuable alternatives like anonymised data and Artificial Intelligence, they also need to consider the age-old question – who ‘owns’ the passenger?

For a long time, it was airlines. After all, passengers booked their flights directly with carriers, so it made sense for them to capture and control passenger data.

However, times have changed. Thanks to advanced ecommerce solutions like the Rezcomm Marketplace, airports are equipped with the tech to sell flights, hotels, holidays, parking reservations and an abundance of travel products directly to the customer, becoming their first touchpoint and gaining control of their data.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or.’ As Dave Wood, Client Director of Airport Services at redcentric, said at the IAR Online Summit, “ideally, no one owns the passenger because we’re trying to be much more collaborative now.”

Steven Saunders agreed, suggesting we need to think less about airports and airlines being in control of passenger data and more about giving passengers the means to control their own experience. He said, “I think it’s really about giving that power back to the passenger to select not only what they’re sharing with us because it’s their data but also what they want to hear from us.”

Using Rezcomm’s Centralise Manage My Booking module, airports give passengers total control over their bookings and reservations, enabling them to see what they’ve purchased and, perhaps more importantly, what they haven’t. It’s a simple but effective way of empowering passengers with control of their own experience.

Our Data Subject Request module also enables customers to submit data requests to see what information an airport holds about them and ask them to remove it. As a result, airports can benefit from having a precise record of their actions and proof of compliance.

Tip 4 – Store passenger data safely

To recap, we’ve discussed the need for airports to inform passengers of their data collection and usage policies and workable alternatives for achieving personalisation. We’ve also touched on the importance of passenger data ownership and empowering passengers with control over their experience.

Finally, we must look at how airports store data and the importance of complying with relevant data protection regulations like GDPR.

To put it simply, airports must:

  • Give a valid reason for collecting passenger data
  • Store passenger data securely
  • Inform passengers why and how they will use their data
  • Inform passengers how they can remove their data from airport systems

We’ve shared more information about this in our blog, ‘How GDPR is affecting airports.’

Tip 5 – Work with the right airport tech partner

Handling data can be a minefield, but with the right tools at your fingertips, it’s easy to stay compliant while providing the personalised experience your passengers desire. Deliver a customer-centric approach to passenger information usage with Rezcomm’s suite of Customers modules, which include Centralise Manage My Booking, Centralised Data Privacy Management, Data Subject Request Management and Customer Relationship Management.

Download our brochure for more details and book a meeting with the Rezcomm team to see how we can support your airport with passenger information privacy.



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