How Location Technology Can Create a World Class Airport Experience

4th May 2017

location technology for airports

We’ve all been there: you finally arrive at your destination airport, several hours late due to ominous-sounding “technical problems.” You are most likely tired, dehydrated and frustrated beyond endurance. But then, you’ll have to wait for the luggage carousel lottery. The track starts moving. Eventually a suitcase appears, but of course it’s not yours. Neither is the second, third or twentieth. After half an hour or so, you realize your luggage has actually gone missing.

Common sense dictates that you go to the airline office, but you can’t seem to find it. Somehow, you get directed to a basement annex where you can report the problem. The help desk is oh-so sympathetic and helpful, but no, they don’t have any spare shirts you can borrow.

The next step is to find a taxi, preferably a licensed one, but all the signage seems to lead you back to the gift shops. At this point, though, you don’t care anymore and just collapse into the first car you see. As the taxi pulls out of the airport, you can’t wait to fall face-down onto the first hotel bed you see.

The air travel industry is perhaps the only one which can live up to its bad reputation. With everyone being subject to the same stress and chaos, air travel has failed to provide a differentiating experience to travelers. The recent United Airlines blunder has only tapped into the resentment every passenger feels towards air travel experiences.

How to Create Better Passenger Experiences?

Nobody who’s ever done it enjoys business travel. Finding your way around an unfamiliar airport can be stressful and disorienting. By the square meter, airports are some of the most investment-intensive properties around, and using some of this money towards deploying location based technologies, can significantly improve the guest experience. Happy, informed passengers mean less work for the ground and service staff, fewer incidents and ultimately a better international reputation with both airlines and passengers.

Location based technologies such as Bluetooth beacons and WiFi can interact with kiosks, digital signages, RFID tags and the airport mobile app, to successfully guide travelers to their destinations within the airport through indoor navigation, display targeted advertising, provide location specific informational and send travel notifications.

Following are some of the ways in which location intelligence can create a world-class customer experience at every touch point of the traveller journey:   

Checking in and Finding Your Gate

While this process is reasonably well understood by most passengers, having a manned check-in desk usually implies a queue and can quickly become a bottleneck at various points. This is where real time data gathered through sensors and WiFi can be used to predict the level of crowding and take remedial measures. Nearly 48% of all airports are planning to introduce location based services at all stages in this process by next year, because location technologies can quickly identify problems as they develop and allow action to be taken or staff reassigned before unacceptable delays result.

Once a boarding pass has been issued, the combination of location sensors with the Airport WiFi can be used to guide the passenger to the right departure gate, display real-time notifications about flight status and allow the passenger to search for destinations of his choosing. The latter can be integrated with a variety of loyalty programs, or be used to display contextual advertising based on which retail outlets the passenger is close to.

Airport Dwell Time

Airports are a place of waiting. And every extra minute of dwell time could translate into extra retail revenue for the airport. Location technology can engage passengers in real time and convert bystanders into store visitors. Personalized promotions can be sent to passengers who are close to participating stores. Who can deny the love of shopping, especially if it comes with attractive coupons? But people are generally afraid of missing their flights while shopping. What if you could use WiFi and beacon technology to alert them about their flight status in real time? Notify them that they have 15 minutes before their flight departure? It would put their minds to ease, let them linger for longer and perhaps result in a sale.

Similarly, restaurants and food outlets can save passengers the trouble of waiting for their order to be delivered; they can use location technology to send alerts about food pick-up time and drive up the overall dining experience.

Security

Context-aware messages can be used to remind travelers of security rules and procedures as they approach checkpoints. In most contexts, security personnel spend 90% of their time on tasks such as explaining these to the public, making sure procedures are followed and the like – none of which directly contributes to real security. Keeping passengers informed timely can significantly reduce this workload, allowing security personnel to concentrate on the truly important parts of their job.

And if an incident did occur, it will not be enough to have an evacuation plan posted at a few points around the building. Location sensors can automatically direct people to the nearest exit, keep an automatic headcount and instantly locate people who are unable or unwilling to leave the building.

Parking

Hassled passengers are expected to remember a number like “6A” – the spot where they park their cars. They hope to remember landmarks around the parking garage entrance, but airport decoration tends to be institutional and therefore fairly uniform, so it’s never easy. Surely, many parking managers can tell stories about vehicles being reported stolen, only to turn up safely tucked away in some corner.

Blaming the customer when this happens is a cheap cop-out that does not benefit airport operations in any way whatsoever. As it turns out, there is an extremely affordable and easy solution to this: label each parking space with a QR code. The user simply scans this code as he parks, and the airport app can direct him to the correct spot later. Alternatively, location tech can also provide live information and guide customers to their preferred parking lots. Upsell offers can be made to customers to move their cars from remote lots to terminal or valet lots.The airport WiFi can also show passengers the fastest route to check-in or departure gates.

On Arrival

In many service-oriented industries, the trend is increasingly towards self service. This is not just a question of saving on staff costs: people enjoy the feeling of being in control. Claiming your baggage is a significant pain point for many travelers, including factors such as simply not knowing how long it’s likely to take. Offering real-time information such as belt numbers and wait times can help in placing people at ease. RFID tracking of individual bags is likely to become ever more widespread and can potentially be used to inform passengers of when exactly they can expect to receive their belongings.

Once past immigration, they can make their way to an arranged meeting point, or even share their location with hotel shuttle services or whatever party they’re hoping to meet. This is a significant improvement over the venerable inkjet-printed sign reading “Mr. Smith.” Hopefully, by the time they finally lift their luggage into a car’s trunk, they’ve experienced a completely seamless and trouble-free journey from check-in to baggage claim.

Create a Positive Air Travel Experience

With landing fees and other airline revenues relatively stagnant, airport management companies will have to look for innovative ways to both boost non-airline revenue and allow greater efficiencies. Managing the passenger experience using location based technology can play a large part in this. Next time a frequent flier declares “I am never going back to Dubai/Gatwick/Mumbai!” don’t let your airport’s name land on that list.

Our SaaS tool Proximity MX reimagines location based services by combining the power of Location Intelligence, Actionable Insights and Mobile Engagement.

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