How Technology Helped Changi Airport Win The World’s Best Airport Award for 5 Consecutive Years
Many airports around the world want to put digital transformation at the heart of their commercial strategy. Some are even walking the talk; they have a digital roadmap in place which goes beyond mobile boarding passes and text alerts. But not many of them have a comprehensive view of how to drive this change. To make air travel a stress free experience for travelers, airports need to understand their passengers – their pain points and frustrations.
While most airports are still trying to establish a good business case for digitization, Changi airport has evolved into a place which is ‘more than an airport.’ According to passengers, Changi airport, unlike other travel hubs, is not where you start a journey, it’s where you end it. Because the moment you land there, you’ve arrived! Indisputably, the most beautiful airport in the world and all set to break its own record, Changi clinched the Skytrax World’s ‘Best Airport Award’ for the 5th consecutive year.
Independent of any airport control, the Skytrax annual rankings is a true and impartial reflection of nearly 14 million travelers. The survey evaluated traveler experiences across different airport services – from check-in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security and immigration through to departure at the gate and Changi competed with 550 airports to secure the top spot.
What makes Changi continue its winning streak? It’s the exceptional passenger experience. From cutting edge technology to the Balinese swimming pool, the butterfly garden and the bowl of mints at the information and immigration counters – every aspect contributes to improving the passenger journey..
Technology is All Pervasive at the Changi Airport
Changi airport has rolled out a number of digital transformation initiatives. It integrated people, processes and technology to set the benchmark in passenger experience and operational efficiency.
Seamless WiFi access – WiFi connectivity or the lack of it, is that one primary factor that has the potential to directly impact the overall air travel experience of a passenger. And Changi airport does not disappoint its travellers. It has been offering free, unlimited WiFi access to travelers since 2002, way before iPhone was even a thing. Today, more than 37,000 passengers access the airport WiFi, with speeds upto 4Mbps. Even those without electronic devices can stay connected by using one of the 550 free internet access kiosks.
Self check-in counters – Their Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) project is a great evidence of their digital transformation endeavours. Passengers don’t have to wait in long queues at Changi. They can select seats, print boarding passes and bag tags at the self check-in counters and use the automated bag drop machines to check-in their luggage. As a next step in providing an even better airport experience, they plan to incorporate facial recognition technology at these self-service counters to eliminate the need for manual identity checks.
Automated Feedback Systems – Airports are always thinking of ways to improve passenger experience. At Changi, they have installed automated feedback system at all passenger touch points to solicit customer feedback. By ditching the old school feedback register and automating the process, they collect over a million responses per month. To show how serious they are about this initiative, the feedback systems are installed at all strategic points – at immigration and information counters, at the retail zones, at the F&B outlets and even outside the toilets.
iChangi Mobile App – The use of mobile devices has become intrinsic to a traveller’s journey and Changi airport tries to address this need through their passenger facing mobile app. The iChangi app helps passengers navigate through the airport with ease. One can also access updates about flight status, shop online, discover dining outlets, explore facilities and services available at the airport. Not just that – passengers can even reserve tables at their favorite airport restaurant through the app. The iChangi app is close to the reality of a one airport app.
Real time staff collaboration – Changi airport uses technology not only for the benefit of its travellers but also its staff. Their Service Workforce Empowerment and Experience Transformation (SWEET) initiative allows the airport staff to communicate in real time with the help of iPads. This enables the Changi experience agents to remotely access updated operational data and assist passengers at all times.
Thinking Ahead: Investing in Future Technological Innovations
Always driven by a desire to exceed passenger expectations, Changi airport announced the launch of the ‘Living Lab Programme’ according to which it plans to invest $50 million in a five year initiative to accelerate innovation. It will collaborate with companies and startups to develop new technological innovations and test them in a live airport environment. The current plan is to test data analytics and IoT solutions, sensors at taxi stands, new screening technologies and autonomous cleaning robots.
Understand Passenger Preferences: CAG wants to leverage data analytics to gain real time insights into its airport operations and improve efficiency. On the other hand, by tracking location data or the movement of passengers through the airport, it can gain unprecedented access into their habits and preferences and turn them into actionable insights. This information can be used to personalize their retail offerings.
Improved Screening Process – The security process is currently a significant pain point for travellers. Changi Airport Group (CAG) is determined to resolve this bottleneck by introducing a walk-through body scanner powered by the millimetre wave technology, which apparently is a safer alternative to the existing scanners. It will reduce wait time for passengers as they’ll no longer need to remove electronic items during screening because this new technology can identify any concealed object – metallic or non-metallic.
Efficient Taxi Services – Speed and efficiency are the two main drivers behind all of Changi’s digital initiatives. To reduce wait times for passengers and to ensure the availability of cabs at peak times, it is deploying cameras and sensors at taxi stands. The technology can track the number of people waiting in the queue and accordingly calculate the estimated wait times and update both – the passengers and the taxi providers.
Holistic Digital Transformation
Airports aiming to have a long term digital strategy in place can learn from Changi airport and how it used technology to lay the groundwork for a wonderful passenger experience. By putting passengers at the heart of their business strategy, investing in its staff, introducing innovations and launching pilots to see if a new digital solution will scale – Changi airport has, unsurprisingly, earned its place as the favorite transit airport for passengers across the world.