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Share the love ... embrace those extra passengers

Published on  29 August by Thomas Knierim , Senior Manager, Market Insight, SITA
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In the first of a two-part blog series on how the air transport industry can accommodate peaks in passenger flow, especially during the busy summer tourist season, Thomas Knierim discusses three key areas for airports.

Everyone knows that summer is the busiest travel time of the year. But besides the increase in sheer volume, there is another factor to consider: Many of these additional passengers have special needs. New or first-time travelers, families with young children, minors flying unaccompanied by an adult. These passengers require that extra bit of attention from airport staff, which, combined with larger overall volumes, can create bottlenecks at airport checkpoints.

Consider the three areas below to manage the onslaught efficiently and cost-effectively, ensuring all your passengers, whether first-timers or seasoned veterans, have the best possible experience.

Passenger flow: Where are they now and where are they going?

Historical and real-time data of passenger and staff movement is critical to optimizing flow in the airport environment.

In the fall of 2010, SITA Lab initiated a pilot with Cisco at Copenhagen Airport to create a prototype dashboard in 3D, showing the movement of people in the airport based on their smartphones' WiFi signal. Loading historical information into a predictive analytics tool showed patterns of behavior, including: dwell time areas, similar passenger routes, and likely transitions from one area to another. This information can be extremely useful, not just in optimizing passenger flow during peak periods, but also in gaining a better understanding of passenger behavior.

Since then, airports and other agencies, such as the TSA in the US, are using technology to better manage passenger flows.

Self-service: Let them do it

Self-service is a win-win for airports looking to ease congestion during peak travel times. Mobile technology is aiding the adoption of self-service for passengers and airport staff alike. Passengers are using their smartphones to book reservations, pay for their tickets, check in, board, and trace their baggage. Airports can use workforce mobility to improve resource management and space optimization and to reduce handling costs.

Bag drop is the latest development in passenger self-service. Brisbane Airport and SITA have teamed up to allow Jetstar passengers at Brisbane to drop off their bags in less than 25 seconds.

The initial results at Brisbane are very encouraging, especially considering that baggage check-in is the main obstacle to wider adoption of self-service. While 65% of passengers say they want self-service bag drop, only 9% of airlines currently offer it - but 74% plan to by the end of 2015.

The seventh annual Passenger Self-Service Survey will be released in October. Join our exclusive webinar, conducted jointly by SITA and ATW, on October 10. This year's survey was conducted at six of the world's leading airports and includes opinions of more than 2,500 passengers.

Capacity planning: Plan intelligently but stay agile

System integration, collaboration, real-time operational control and agility are all vital components of capacity planning. By optimizing them, you can make better decisions at your airport. You can bill more accurately, and count the number of passengers as they're processed at each checkpoint, resulting in the more efficient use of assets, better business results, and an improved experience for your passengers.

Agility is particularly important for adapting to spikes in passenger traffic. It is crucial that airports be able to react in real-time to changing conditions, whether they be planned (summer, Olympics, large events) or unplanned (weather) disruptions. Quebec City Airport uses SITA Airport Management Solution "action boards" to receive data in an intelligent and intuitive way, enabling actions to be taken with a single click, and automatically updating all related data and activities while flagging potential issues. This allows duty managers to avoid mismanagement of gates, desks, lounges and other resources that can be stretched during times of peak passenger traffic.

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