Within 10 years IATA believes that 80 per cent of passengers will be adopting a “self service” approach to the departure process. Richard Piper assesses the impact this will have on passenger flow at airport terminals
Historically, queuing to access the departure lounge and gates has been a major source of disruption during peak times – an issue which has been alleviated in many airports by the installation of self-service access gates, or eGates, and a number of other time-saving self-service options, such as automated boarding processes, document scanning and, increasingly, social media – which can all help to avoid boarding queues and ID checks.
IATA’s Fast Travel Program seeks to offer solutions to passengers through working with airlines, airports and suppliers to encourage them to implement the best possible technology and procedures to promote fast and efficient passenger flow.
Industry surveys, according to IATA, have indicated that over 50% of passengers would like to see more self-service options in order to reduce queues throughout the airport experience. To facilitate this, IATA is putting in place a number of industry standards that aim to lower costs, give passengers more options and more control over their journeys, and reduce the number of instances in which they will have to resort to traditional check-in procedures.
By the year 2020, IATA believes that up to 80% of passengers worldwide will be offered a complete self-service experience based on their standards.
A recent example of an airport facility taking steps to improve their passenger flow is Lisbon Airport in Portugal. ANA Airports of Portugal announced that eGates had been installed at Terminal 1, and came into operation in December of last year. The gates allow passengers to scan their boarding passes in order to gain access to the security areas, which can be validated via the normal paper document, or via a smartphone – a practice that is becoming more and more commonplace.
They are working in conjunction with Portuguese company Vision Box and anticipate that the new systems will increase passenger flow and improve the passenger experience at the same time.
The director of Lisbon Airport, João Nunes, said: “This partnership allows ANA to offer the most advanced technologies in the implementation of self-service solutions for passengers in complete alignment with the IATA FAST TRAVEL program, which is also supported by the ACI.”
Today, in addition to going hand in hand with some self-service systems, the involvement of a smartphone can also be of major benefit to both airport and passenger. The access we all have to social media outlets nowadays is being utilised by airports around the world, as is the ability to tailor an application (or app) to their own specifications – allowing passengers access to up to date and salient information on the day of their journey.
According to a joint survey last year by SITA and the ACI – SITA Airport IT Trends Survey – ‘improving the passenger experience is the number one driver of IT investment by the majority (59%) of the world’s airports’.
A mobile application can give passengers current information about the status of their flight, including the estimated wait times, which is very important and reassuring information to have at your fingertips – particularly for those who perhaps do not travel frequently. According to the figures by SITA, 88% of airports are planning to invest in such applications by 2015.
The report also highlighted the benefits of geolocation technologies, which can be used to effectively track the location of airport resources in order to streamline operations as much as possible. They can also be used to monitor passenger flow and to highlight areas where improvements could be made. This ability to compartmentalise the information collected will inevitably improve passenger flow if acted upon.
Francesco Violante, CEO at SITA, said of the survey towards the end of last year: “This year’s Airport IT Trends Survey shows that operators are investing in the ‘intelligent airport’ to improve the passenger experience in an operationally efficient manner. With airports planning to invest in business intelligence, and using it to better collaborate with partners, it is clear that there is a strong desire among operators to work together with stakeholders, including airlines and ground handlers, to create a better passenger journey.”
It is clear that the latest technologies, both in the world of security and of mobile applications can have a real impact on the way in which passengers negotiate terminal buildings. A well informed passenger is far more likely to have a smooth transition from arrivals to departures. Knowing exactly how much time they have, whether there are expected delays etc. will ensure that they are best placed to be in the right place at the right time.
The self-service systems will also ensure that, having arrived in the correct location, the passenger can continue through the checks in an efficient and timely manner, giving them more time to spend in retail areas and hopefully to part with some money within these outlets. Again, the self-service systems can help here, as many of the units are small and compact, which allows airport operators to utilise the space that is saved to maximum effect – be that a retail or a catering outlet. (Turn to page 22 for more on non-aviation related revenues.)
A smooth and hassle free journey is very high on the priority list for the traveller in 2013. So ask yourself, could you be doing more to make this a reality for them?