Friction blocks users from smoothly and painlessly completing their journey, so reducing friction points helps promote a more seamless journey for the passenger.
Strategic challenge 1: Passenger confusion
It’s been many years since the travel-ready process (the process of getting through security) has changed materially. The last change in the United States occurred in 2006 when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) mandated that passengers separate liquids and aerosols from carry-on luggage after a thwarted trans-Atlantic airliner bombing attempt.
Now, with COVID-19, airports and airlines are rapidly introducing new technologies to passengers, from online food and retail orders to temperature screenings to immunity/health passports. Soon, airports and airlines may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination.
While many age groups are quick to adopt new processes and technologies as part of the passenger journey, infrequent flyers may not be aware of these processes and technologies.
Communicating to passengers what lies ahead at their home airport is paramount to frictionless travel.
U.S. airports operate in an environment that increasingly puts pressure on the need for non-aeronautical revenues. Existing structures, however, often constrain airports in securing this revenue.
The less discretionary time a passenger has after proceeding through security, the less money they will spend, significantly impacting both concessions and the airport’s overall performance. For example, at airports as large as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and as small as Huntsville International Airport in Alabama, the TSA uses tomography scanners, so passengers don’t have to remove electronics from carry-on luggage. To use a commercial term, speed of service at the checkpoint can contribute to more time for shopping and dining.
Strategic challenge 2: Lack of discretionary time
Executive Director of Syracuse Hancock International Airport.
“Airports will need to ensure that new technologies fostering a touchless experience do not slow the travel-ready process, thereby decreasing a passenger’s available discretionary time to shop or dine,”
Airports are under various commercial and political pressures to improve passenger experiences.
This improvement depends on the performance of airport employees and other staff to introduce and maintain technologies that allow passengers to do what they want, when they want to, and how they want to.
While mandates require the use of touchless technologies at checkpoints, pre-order airport concessions apps like Grab in Philadelphia can create an online digital marketplace for passengers to use when they choose.
When airports have a customer-first mentality, introducing and applying new technologies is the key to unlocking improved customer satisfaction. We see it with car navigation and contactless banking, and soon we’ll see it with airports delivering new experiences. Airports should establish key performance indicators for new airport technologies and continually assess and improve them through performance analytics.
Strategic challenge 3: Culture change
CEO of Tulsa International Airport.
“Technology is poised to be the critical driver for a quantum shift in how passengers experience their airport journey”
Airports traditionally have viewed information technology as a necessary back-of-house support function rather than as a contributor to passenger experience improvements. Over the last five to 10 years, however, airports have started to recognize the strategic importance of future-ready technology to a modern airport experience. Technology improves efficiency, which leads to cost reductions, which, in turn, leads to improvements in the passenger journey.
There’s an old axiom that says contented passengers vote with their wallets; a technologically advanced airport experience could drive a passenger’s propensity to spend, with, for example, the use of online digital marketplaces. Technology elevates the overall passenger experience to the benefit of both passengers and airports. Focusing efforts in this area can contribute to the strategic goals of airports, especially as passengers clamour for a more touchless experience to maintain control of their safety.
Norbert Onkelbach, Chief Commercial Officer at Jorge Chavez International Airport (Lima).
“Covid has taught us to be more entrepreneurial in how we work with our suppliers, and this needs to remain post-pandemic”
Strategic challenge 4: Technology adoption
Strategic challenge 1: Passenger confusion