“If all goes smoothly, the least amount of time spent on a journey is on the airplane and in the airport,” says Gene Quinn, Co-founder and founding CEO of Tnooz.
“But a key component of having a productive business trip, a romantic holiday, or a memorable family vacation, is the seamlessness of how you get there.
“And one thing that we sometimes forget about travel is that it’s a very emotional product,” he adds.
The evidence is all too clear that airlines and airports are sharply focused on continuously improving the emotional life-on-the-go experience for travelers.
Airlines are looking predominantly at providing location-based mobile device services for their passengers, with 66%-91% planning to implement these at most journey touchpoints by 2019, says SITA’s surveys.
In the meantime, findings from the Airport IT Trends Survey 2016 show that 20% - 80% of airports are either planning or will trial a major technology initiative in this area by 2019.
According to Aéroports de Montréal’s CEO James Cherry: “We have to meet our customers’ evolving needs. We want to give them choices and options so that they feel they’re in control of their journey.
“That’s why we’ve embedded technology everywhere in the new area, and we are using it to enhance customer experience.”
The emotional connection with travelers is facilitated by technology but driven by human behavior and interactions with people in the travel space. Together they determine the life-on-the-go experience.
Gene Quinn, CEO and Co-Founder, Tnooz
Passenger personas and emotional connections are critical considerations when investing in the life-on-the-go experience, as SITA’s latest Passenger IT Trends Survey shows.
“The emotional connection with travelers is facilitated by technology but driven by human behavior and interactions with people in the travel space,” says Tnooz’s Quinn.
“Together they determine the experience – and there’s one thing that no one can give you back and that’s if you have a bad travel experience. So, that’s what’s at stake every time a passenger walks into your airport, or boards your airplane, or fills out a passport application or an immigration application on a mobile device,” says Quinn.
“The travelers’ adoption of new technology is important as this will impact the emotional connection that they associate with travel and whether they will choose to use new technology instead of the more traditional means they’re used to.”
It’s clear from the latest Airport IT Trends Survey that airports are already doing a lot when it comes to providing a more seamless journey for their travelers.
Over 20% of airports have already mobilized some of their services, making them easily available to the passengers that pass through their airport every day.
By 2019, this will increase to over 70%. It means that airports are not only keeping travelers informed, they’re also ensuring their travelers experience the most seamless journey possible.
But it’s equally clear from SITA’s Passenger IT Trends Survey that this seamless experience is becoming less of a ‘nice to have’ and more of an expectation. It’s closely intertwined with travelers’ emotions throughout their journey.
As the survey’s research shows, those emotions can fluctuate. At the booking stage of the journey, we see travelers experiencing the most positive emotions.
Yet as passengers check-in for their flights and head through security, we witness a drastic drop as emotions hit their lowest levels.
As travelers become more used to new technology, the passenger survey says they’ll most likely lean more towards wanting to complete the mundane journey processing steps before reaching the airport, to allow for more dwell time.
Accelerated adoption across the industry will depend on human factor considerations and breaking down the barriers for those people who do not naturally embrace technology and remain skeptical about the increasingly connected nature of modern life.
Nigel Pickford, Director of Marketing Insight, SITA
“Processing steps tend to subtract from the traveler’s airport experience,” says Nigel Pickford, Director of Market Insight, SITA.
“This is precisely why many airlines and airports have their sights set on introducing technologies across the journey steps, such as bag-drop and passenger flow management.
“But the success of such tech depends largely on how it can be adapted or applied to improve the passenger experience, either directly or indirectly via airline and airport systems and their staff.
“Accelerated adoption across the industry will depend on human factor considerations and breaking down the barriers for those people who do not naturally embrace technology and remain skeptical about the increasingly connected nature of modern life.
“This all adds to the experience of life on the go and making the passenger’s journey a hassle-free one,” adds Pickford.
To help bring about this hassle-free experience, a large majority of airports are providing self-service check-in for both passengers and bags, with 91% of airports having made self-service passenger check-in through kiosks available to travelers.
Of those, 61% have deployed agent assisted common-use bag-drop, whereas 26% offer it unassisted. In addition, one in five airports have a self-service offering at the gate, though this will most likely increase over the coming years.
SITA’s passenger survey also finds that 91% of passengers who use self-service technology to check-in will do so again and again.
“It’s clear evidence that once travelers are converted from face-to-face interaction to ‘easy-to-use’ technology for their travel journey, few want to go back,” says Pickford.
Mobile continues to dominate the IT investment agenda for passenger services, with nearly 80% of airlines planning major investments in passenger services via smartphones over the next three years.
Other major investments in passenger experience are being directed towards generating ancillary revenues, with 64% of airlines planning programs that will achieve this.
For airports, IT investment in passenger processing takes an equally high priority. Over the next three years, passenger self-service will continue to be high on their agenda, as two-thirds of airports plan major IT projects in this area.
With the growing influence of mobile usage, we’re also seeing 90% of airports undertaking either a major program or a trial project related to mobile apps.
While adoption of mobile usage for passengers throughout their journey is on the rise, there’s no reason for airlines and airports to think they can sit back and relax.
With passengers expecting an ‘always-on’ travel experience, that will mean embracing newer technologies and experiences along the way.
The good news is that new technology adoption is rising fast up the IT agenda, with 45% of airports already planning a program in this area in the next three years.
Crucially for the ‘life-on-the-go’ experience, the Internet of Things (IoT) is one of them. Some 68% of airlines have committed budget to major projects or R&D over the next three years.
For those of us on the move, this will help immensely as the IoT enables objects to ‘tell us’ their status, eliminating the need for manual intervention to gain any sort of information from any object.
This will take the guess-work out of many operational issues, helping airports, airlines and passengers to remain informed at all times. See also: Gateway to the Internet of Things.
Improving the passenger experience means furnishing each passenger with personalized and relevant information, where and when they need it.
This alone opens the opportunity of a world where right from booking through to arrival, all the notifications travelers receive are relevant specifically to them in relation to their journey.
Tailored messaging for travelers is no new thing. With the intelligence of Google algorithms, for instance, most adverts on the internet are specific to online search habits. So, what one person sees differs to others.
Singapore Changi Airport’s EVP for Airport Management, Lye Tech Tan explains that keeping passengers informed is key but how they’re kept informed is even more important.
At Singapore Changi Airport, there’s the recognition that it’s all about the individual and as such the airport aims to provide ‘smart’ information relevant to individuals when they need it.
“In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, having the ability to tailor simple messages for each traveler will make it more meaningful to them,” says Changi’s Lye Tech Tan.
“Travelers want a seamless service, when and where they need it. In addition, they want to be able to encounter new experiences along the way and share this with those they are connected to in their social media world.”
Ultimately, the experience of life-on-the-go, and the emotions evoked by it, are about a balanced approach, with airline and airport staff, as well as processes, being as much a part of the equation as technology.
In fact, the technology and information provided to airline and airport staff is critical to the journey experience, because it enables staff to make informed decisions and take appropriate action when needed.
That’s why, according to the Airport IT Trends Survey, the provision of mobile devices to staff to improve operations is on the rise, with the arrival hall and departure areas being the most common places for deployment.
This need for a balanced approach in making for a better life-on-the-go and a seamless journey is echoed by the experiences of SkyTeam.
As Perry Cantarutti, SkyTeam’s CEO and MD says: “You can’t rely on technology alone to provide a seamless experience. The people factor is vital too. And for it all to work effectively, the correct intersection of technology, procedures and service delivery is crucial.”