The sweet spot at Geneva Airport

At Geneva Airport we work to three kinds of innovation: at the base are pragmatic projects aimed at passenger satisfaction, through innovative social ideas, and then to ‘dreams’ at the top, providing another experience or anticipating passenger needs.

Gilles Brentini, Innovation Manager IT-Airport, Geneva Airport

Passenger Experience

Innovation is a key ingredient for any customer loyalty recipe. It anticipates needs or delivers a new experience. It’s not necessarily complex, so simple things can easily bring a smile to a nervous passenger.

At Geneva Airport we work to a pyramid of three kinds of innovation: at the base are pragmatic projects aimed at passenger satisfaction, through innovative social ideas, and then to ‘dreams’ at the top of the pyramid, providing another experience or anticipating passenger needs.

Today 97% of our passengers have a smartphone and we have an app for them – scan your boarding pass and it gives all the travel information you need to board.

Apple Watch

But we’ve gone further by offering an app on the Apple Watch – launched this year. We had to think carefully about what information to provide, given its size. It needed to be relevant to each stage of the journey and to be precise.

We began with parking, which is difficult to find in Geneva Airport – and you can note your exact parking space. Then you have immediately necessary information on the flight, such as how much time you have before boarding.

You get notifications pushed to you, in case of change of gate or flight. And there’s more information available if you need it. All through the Apple Watch.

Relaxed passengers

We work towards finding that sweet spot of efficient,
cost-effective and integrated processes linked to
emotionally relaxed passengers. 

Gilles Brentini , Innovation Manager IT-Airport, Geneva Airport

Robots to the rescue

Another dream project is Robbi, our robot. Geneva Airport’s role is also to promote the Swiss innovation culture and that’s actually how we started working on this robot idea with a Swiss company called BlueBotics. For the first version we decided on two core principles.

First, keep it simple, don’t add complexity. So we focused on autonomous navigation. Second, make sure it’s reusable, flexible and adaptable. So we came up with an information panel – but one that can move and take you to the destination you select.

Early usage was at arrival in the baggage hall area to welcome passengers and help them find points of interest, like money change and free transport tickets, among other things.

More recently our information robot was used at departure immediately after security, promoting our shops and their various promotional offers. Touch the screen and select the promotion you’re interested in – then the robot will take you to the shop.

It works via a laser scanner and two PCs – one to control the web interface and another to control navigation. It’s also connected to Wi-Fi so we can keep an eye on where it’s gone!

Feedback across the media has been very positive. Most passengers love the novelty and practicality. Some don’t care and a handful hate it. Children accept it as nothing out of the ordinary!

Appetite for more

Of course, while the novelty aspect is useful and provides some entertainment for passengers, now we’ve seen it working well we want to add more – particularly flight information. We may be used to the idea of robots within an industrial environment, but in public areas they remain a rarity. So we’re focusing on how we can use the technology to really deliver benefits to our passengers –­ not least to smooth out the emotional roller-coaster.

We’re also learning by watching how other sectors are using robotic technology in areas such as shops and hotels. We came across a trolley in a hotel that will follow housekeeping staff as they move from room to room. Increased usage is also raising a quite profound question – what should the robot look like? Should it be ‘humanoid’?

These are very early days, but we’re in no doubt that technology has a universe of new opportunities for our industry as we all work towards finding that sweet spot of efficient, cost-effective and integrated processes linked to emotionally relaxed passengers.

And if we can add entertainment and enjoyment along the way, so much the better for all!

See also

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
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