We all talk about ‘seamless travel’, but the risk is that everyone has their own interpretation. We have to do something across the air transport industry to ensure a common understanding, to share data so we can achieve what we all say we want. It’s not something any one player can achieve.
Our own understanding is that the new technologies give us the opportunity to be what we call ‘contact sensitive’. To do this effectively we need to know the current situation of each individual passenger and then provide only relevant information at each stage of their time with us.
On the other hand, we earn 50% of our revenues from non-aviation sources, such as passenger parking, food and beverage, and retail as a whole.
So we also want to use the new digital channels to offer airport-specific services. We just have to strike the right balance, otherwise we risk alienating passengers. It’s very easy to turn your smartphone off or to delete an app.
"Can I help you?"
Three years ago, we launched a program to take this further. At every airport there are staff sitting in one location waiting to provide information to passengers.
We wanted to make this a better service for everyone, so – with passengers involved at the design stage – we introduced InfoGate Counters, linking passengers to staff at the airport’s call center through the use of video conferencing.
Anyone not wanting to use their smartphone can go to any counter, press a button and speak to someone in their own language.
We have to strike the right balance, otherwise we risk alienating passengers. It’s very easy to turn your smartphone off or to delete an app.
Michael Zaddach, Senior Vice President IT, Munich Airport
We’ve also linked several service providers to the same InfoGate Counter. So you can talk to the airport lady and then switch across to someone at car rental – real people able to help at multiple points across the airport. It brings them to you rather than forcing you to them.
We extended the range of services further with InfoGate Interactive screens, enabling you to find information relating to services at the airport, or flights or anything else you would expect to find on an app or on the website. Plus a barcode scanner and RFID scanner, and dynamic way-guiding from your current position.
We have 13 InfoGate counters across two terminals and handle about 10,000 calls a month, with just three agents on shift in the call center, answering within three or four seconds.
It’s increased the availability of services, maintained the personal contact, enabled a more effective use of our staff and reduced demands on the centralized information counter in each terminal. Our InfoGate Interactive touch-screens have about 80,000 users a month.
Free contact data
To maximize contact with mobile users, the key is Wi-Fi. Since July 2014 we have offered it free in exchange for a name and email address and now have contact data for about 120,000 passengers, offering no other benefit than free Wi-Fi.
Add another benefit such as a free coffee and the numbers increase dramatically. We have about 8,000 sessions a day through the Wi-Fi.
We’ve also been testing our own airport app, which is now going live. It gives users Wi-Fi access, flight information, a section for them to keep their own travel details (for example, MyTickets and MyServices), a catalog of services, a range of context-based push services, maps and a virtual tour of the airport.
The key to the complete approach we’ve adopted is the backend architecture that collects the data – such as flight data from AODB, customer data from CRM and sales data from POS systems in the shops.
We’ve learned that it’s really important not to concentrate only on the IT side. Our digital strategy is to make travel easier and more comfortable, and to increase non-aviation revenues.
To do this we have to define new service offers through digital channels – but we can’t do it by ourselves. We have to build partnerships with airlines and others within and outside the airport community, talking to partners across their own service portfolios so we can all benefit.
To accelerate these cross-selling opportunities, we’ve set up a focused digital unit that uses a base architecture to progress in small steps, each easily measured. If something doesn’t work we discard it. If it works, we use it and move on. It’s a simple mantra – measure, learn, optimize.