Vienna International Airport’s importance as an east-west hub catering to 20 million passengers is emphasized by the region’s status as the sixth most prosperous in the European Union. The Austrian capital plays host to a broad range of international organizations from the UN Industrial Development Organization to OPEC.
Vienna is a major business travel destination as almost 40% of Austrian industry is represented in the city. It is also a popular transit point for tourists. This year almost 100 airlines based at the airport recorded year-on-year growth in passenger numbers of 6% percent.
The airport is investing heavily in the future. Plans are on the drawing board for a third runway and the new state-of-the-art Skylink Terminal will be operational in 2012.
Innovation is the hallmark of Vienna International Airport’s management of passenger flows as it plans for future growth. And self-service facilities are available throughout the airport and remotely (e.g. at the city train station serving the airport), for booking, flight check-in and bag tagging.
This strategic thrust to create an efficient and passenger- friendly environment has now been crowned with the installation of common-use self-boarding gates by SITA. These are available to departing passengers for all 100 or so airlines based at the airport. This world-first in passenger facilitation is proving to be hugely popular with passengers since it was introduced earlier this year.
It is also a significant advance on other self-service boarding gate deployments, notably in Germany and the US, which have been limited to single airline system use which does not allow for the full and economic use of an airport’s facilities and IT infrastructure. Common-use self-service boarding gates mean more control over the boarding process, less congestion at the gates and fewer potential delays in take-off. When in-bound flights are delayed, self-boarding can help to make up for lost time and reduce the knock-on effect on outbound flights.
Customer satisfaction is improved as the boarding gate staff is free to focus on more complex issues such as missing passengers, dealing with excessive hand luggage, seat upgrades or passengers in need of special assistance rather than the mundane repetitive task of manually scanning boarding passes.
With plans in place for a doubling of the airport’s capacity next year when the new Skylink terminal becomes operational, and a target of 25 minutes connecting time between flights, discussions were opened with SITA, on how to optimize boarding pass scanning and passenger validation with limited boarding agent intervention.
Mag. Julian Jäger, COO of Vienna International Airport said: “One of our main strategies is to improve our service quality and the passenger travel experience at Vienna International Airport. This new boarding solution will substantially contribute to our objectives.”
In total, Vienna International Airport will have 92 double-lane gates available for use by 20 million passengers now, and to meet expected growth in the coming years. This will allow Vienna to react quickly to gate changes and to board passengers faster than ever before. The target of 25 minutes connecting time between flights provides Vienna International Airport with a significant competitive edge as the east-west hub of choice in central Europe.
The pay-as-you-use shared infrastructure means there is no capital expenditure and reduces operational costs. The airport also benefits from an end-to-end solution with certified gate devices from multiple vendors.
Staffing flexibility and cost savings for user airlines have been significant. Boarding times have been dramatically reduced. Passengers now feel more in control of the boarding process. The orderly process means there is no more crowding around the gate area before staff is in place and boarding can actually get underway. Boarding times at the gate are down to five minutes in some cases.
All in all, the Vienna International Airport experience bears out what passengers around the world have been telling SITA in its 2010 Passenger Self-Service Survey that 70% of passengers would use automatic boarding gates if available. The following is a list of the key benefits which have accrued in Vienna as a result of this innovation:
- Simplified processes
- Increased flexibility on gate allocation
- Double lane gates save time
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Reduces issues with staff deployment at peak periods
- Integrated, end-to-end solution
Dave Bakker, SITA President Europe, said: “Expanding the range of passenger self-service options is critical to introducing operational efficiencies and reducing costs for airports and airlines alike. As part of SITA’s Intelligent Airport strategy, the common-use self-boarding solution implemented and integrated at Vienna International Airport shows our willingness to work closely with our customers to optimize the passenger journey and anticipate problems in advance. This solution implementation has proven the viability of common- use self-boarding to the air transport industry and the travelling public.”
For more information on Vienna International Airport visit www.viennaairport.com
Case study: the advantage of common-use self-boarding
Just consider a 240-seat single aisle Airbus A330 with a 95% passenger load. In testing with a real airline, SITA found that two boarding agents and one service agent would take approximately 19 minutes to board all passengers.
However, with one agent and two SITA Self-Service Boarding Gates, the time was reduced to approximately nine minutes. This not only reduces the boarding time by just over 50%, but mitigates significantly the risk of delayed flights as agents can focus on verifying that all passengers are on time at the gate.