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No longer passenger experience; It’s now seamless travel | Reflections from PTE

Let’s get things straight. The conversation is shifting. It is no longer a question of passenger experience. Air travel is now defined by ensuring seamless travel.

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Passenger Terminal Expo, much like International Airport Review, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and once again impressively exceeded the 5,000 visitor mark with more than 6,800 attendees passing through the RAI Amsterdam.

The conversation is shifting. It is no longer a question of passenger experience. Air travel is now defined by ensuring seamless travel, tailored and personalised for each and every passenger.

Having spent three days at Passenger Terminal Expo and Conference, it has become clear that the passenger now desires – no expects – a seamless experience from door to door. Expectant of instant gratification and efficiency in day to day life thanks to the phenomenal ascent of technology, the air passenger now demands a similar level of personalisation from his experience when travelling by air.

How do we achieve this?

Sitting down with various leaders throughout the three days, it was something the CEO of Hamburg Airport Michael Eggenschwiler, that really stood out.

We need to start seeing the airport through the passenger’s eyes.

It seems obvious does it not?

Yet too often the overarching experience of an airport or airline is not designed to optimise passenger experience. With a proven correlation between revenue generation and passenger satisfaction, it’s time to prioritise the latter in order to achieve the former.

So what is a seamless experience?

Seamless travel is ultimately defined by an absence. Seamless travel is the absence of disruption, the noticeable facility of moving from A to B without issue. Seamless travel is an expectation for the modern passenger. The seamless traveller doesn’t necessary need retail options, restauration or help with security checks. Crucially however, they might desire these options. A seamless experience is therefore personal to each passenger. 

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Seamless travel – not just passenger experience

This is why tailoring of experience is essential. There is no one-size-fits all approach possible. Seamless travel is definitely the use of technology to ensure security checks are as quick and efficient as possible. But this use of technology to ensure seamless travel is just one part of the overarching experience. Going back to the phrase from Mr Eggenschwiler. “We need to start seeing the airport through the passenger’s eyes,” and this is ultimately based upon the idea that each passenger or group of passengers must be treated as they wish to be treated. Seamless experience is personalisation for the individual.

So how do we achieve this?

Personalisation of experience is fundamentally reliant on the correct capturing and understanding of passenger data.

The great data question

Europe has an issue with data. Europeans are scared of their data being shared. The fear of cyber hacking is largely irrational and fuelled by misreportings in media outlets. The aviation and airport industry now needs to convince passengers in Europe and around the world that the responsible and transparent collection of their data is in their own interests. In order to create this seamless experience when travelling by air, data collection is essential.

There is no one-size-fits all approach possible…

If a particular demographic tends to travel on holiday at a certain time of day at the weekend in large groups, an airport can effectively collect this data and use this information to ensure correct planning and management strategies are implemented to ensure that both these passengers are dealt with at the airport, crucially in the manner in which they wish to be treated.

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Big data will come to define air travel

Equally, if those who purely want efficiency from an airport and only use it at certain times during the week, then necessary measures might be taken to ensure the screening process is as fast as possible during these periods. These are just hypothetical examples. The theory and the main point is that each traveller wants a different experience from their airport or airline. In order to achieve this data collection is of fundamental importance.

We need to start seeing the airport through the passenger’s eyes…

Data collection for a personalised treatment of the passenger as they wish to be treated is the new way of looking at passenger experience. Data collection and understanding is seamless travel.

With the way in which we treat passengers with restricted mobility increasingly coming under scrutiny, this data collection for personalised management strategies is of fundamental importance for finding means of ensure all passengers enjoy travelling by air and have the same quantity of services and assistance where and when necessary.

Creating a relationship with the passenger

The way airlines and airports can move forward and make progress is by creating a renewed relationship with the passenger. This will be facilitated by new technologies and mobile solutions but not exclusively so. As many industry leaders mentioned throughout Passenger Terminal Expo, passengers still desire the human touch.

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What can mobile solutions do to ensure a seamless travel experience?

Single token travel and biometrics continue to create a real buzz in Amsterdam and there is no doubting the revolutionary nature of this technology for ensuring this seamless experience when physically in the airport.

The way airlines and airports can move forward and make progress is by creating a renewed relationship with the passenger.

Further to this, the actually journey prior to the airport was discussed at length and how airlines or airports can begin to interact with passengers before they’ve even reached the terminal. Once again putting an emphasis on creating this renewed relationship with the passenger. Technological advancement is everywhere and many exhibitors demonstrated extremely exciting new products and developments.

What International Airport Review learned

That said, new technologies are extremely exciting, but if wrongly implemented within an airport their potential is dampened. The way in which aviation and airport is truly going to ensure a seamless experience for each and every passenger is by implementing new technologies within a pre-existing and coherent philosophy, which I believe and many of the experts in Amsterdam agree, to be rooted in the collection and intelligent use of passenger data to personalise experience fundamentally how the passenger wants to experience his or her airport or airline.

Following the annual Skytrax Awards, congratulations must go once again to Singapore Changi that has now won the annual World Airport of the Year five times in a row. Find International Airport Review’s Top 20 World Airports here… 

 

 

 

4 responses to “No longer passenger experience; It’s now seamless travel | Reflections from PTE”

  1. It was the same tenor at Hamburg Aviation Conference, but all those new and mostly isolated developments, establish new and proprietary “standards”, such more data silos. Information (not only data) exchange is a big issue for Airport (and airline) Collaborative Decision Making, Total Airport Management and other strategic issues. And mostly an issue in the heads, not in what technology can do for us today. Silo Thinking. And “not invented here”. Or “Yes, I want your information. No! No way I give you mine.”

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  3. Ian Newman says:

    I’m sorry but anyone who travels regularly understands that airports are people processing platforms; no airport in the world has either seamless travel or travel processes that are tailored to each individual, except for maybe VVIP’s. I travel at least twice a month, almost always in Business or First class, and have yet to come across an airport that has even marginally accommodated my needs let alone created a seamless journey for me.

    What it looks like from the customer side is that the so-called seamless journey is broken up into a series of obstacles to get through. In order to get preferred seats or seats with colleagues (even at the front of the plane) means checking in online, which is still often better than dealing with the member of staff at a check in desk.

    Once check-in queues have been overcome and bags have been checked in, there is the “security” process to navigate. Security processes change, regularly, for what seem to be arbitrary and pointless reasons. All the time you spend in queues with a member of “security” staff barking commands for whatever process is in play that week: all electronics out, all electronics in, out of their wallets, left in their wallets; switched on, not switched on. Liquids in bags, liquids not in bags; shoes off or not, every item in a separate tray or not, bags scanned vertically or on their side. Almost every time there is something different and every single airport has its own little quirks to deal with, apart from the national changes and always there is the petty authority, officialdom and often outright hostility to deal with as well as the groping.

    After security comes navigating the shopping mall: bearing in mind that I rarely travel in economy and even if I do I have access to VIP lounges, I don’t have to put up with a lack of seating areas, the noise and the general discomfort of a typical international airport and that is on top of the cost at cafes and restaurants. Why do airports feel the need to open their luxury goods stores at all hours and yet getting a magazine or newspaper or maybe a coffee at very early or very late flights in the main halls is nigh on impossible. Why do many airports insist on not making flight announcements, but do continuously make security announcements and regularly yap that they don’t make flight announcements.

    At some point there is usually passport control to navigate, one of the least cumbersome processes in general but many countries make it as hostile as they possibly can.
    Just navigating most large airports has become a quest, most signage systems are inadequate, in fact most airports take the positions where navigational signage would be looked for by most passengers and put advertising hoardings there, simply because they know that they are the premium spots for advertising revenue.
    Boarding a flight, has its own hoops to jump through, ground staff who ignore standard airline boarding processes, whether budget or premium, creating scrummages at the gate that are often stressful and occasionally unsafe. Why do airlines board their passengers only to have them stand in a two metre square metal tube which is often either freezing cold or at boiling point?
    Because I travel so often I have created my own systems and coping mechanisms in order to ensure that I can get through an airport with the minimum amount of stress, and I know many other frequent travellers who have similar things. Firstly, I have airport clothes, and unless I was to come straight from a meeting to an airport I always wear my airport clothes. Secondly my hand baggage is packed for the airport, not for the meetings I will attend or the work I may have to do. Thirdly and this is the most important and in contrast to the suggestions of the article, depending upon the airport and airline I disengage from direct deliberate contact with airport workers from the moment I enter the building (or after check in) until I get to the lounge where I will wait for my flight.

    If there are automated systems, I use them, if there is any way to avoid airport workers at almost any level I do. If there are issues with a flight such as delays or cancellations I will in the first instance turn to mobile or internet systems to resolve travel problems. In most cases, only when all other interactions are absent will I turn to a member of staff.

    German Airports are probably the best to deal with or go through, the shopping isn’t overtly in your face like most; there is usually enough seating and enough quiet areas to meet normal passenger numbers with ample newspapers and often free or reasonably priced hot drinks. Although staffing is brusque, it is efficient and unlike most airports relatively unnoticed. Even saying this I have yet to find a reasonably large airport that has ever put passenger needs at the forefront of design or operation and for anyone to suggest that airports are creating seamless travel is just delusional and no technology will fix that.

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