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How to improve the modern airport experience, from check-in to ‘Taxi!’

Article 12 févr. 2024 Temps de lecture: min
By: Sandipan Chakraborti

If it's true that the journey is more important than the destination, then airport operators have a lot at stake.

Passengers who rate their experience a 10 out of 10 spend an average $15 more than passengers who rate it a 1–5 out of 10.1

Technology enablers promise to transform many airport customer touchpoints. Those operators who invest now to optimize customer experiences will be the ones to profit.

Below, we’ll take a look at the various stages of airline customers’ journeys and consider the potential for the experiences of these customers, as well as what airport IT leaders can do to prepare.

Envisioning the modern airport

Automation throughout the modern airport continues to increase, requiring less human labor for airport maintenance, transportation, baggage pickup and drop off, security checks, and counter staffing. Ongoing developments in AI and autonomous robots and vehicles could transform how passengers engage with airline brands and airport vendors while moving to and from planes.

Verifiable passenger entry to airport

Manually confirming the identity of every individual entering an airport is time and resource intensive. AI and machine learning technologies can automate this process using facial recognition capabilities to confirm individuals’ identities and assess if they pose any sort of threat.

Personalized concierge service

As modern airports have diversified their offerings to occupy waiting passengers, finding what one needs has become difficult. AI assistants can provide flight details, book or change reservations based on real-time events, and guide passengers step by step through the airport.

Real-time baggage tracking

With RFID tags, passengers can track checked-in baggage using mobile apps. The bags can be paired and monitored with passenger flight information, enabling real-time updates to be issued when relevant.

Transportation services

Autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs) can be deployed via requests from users or AI assistants to move passengers and individuals with disabilities throughout the airport. Emergency medical services can also be quickly deployed this way.

Security check

AI at security areas can help check passengers and carry-ons by leveraging data from x-ray scanners, security classification profiles, customer data and flight details. Automating this task alongside human checkers can both increase thoroughness and decrease wait times.

Enhanced shopping services

Location services and previous shopping behavior  can be cross-referenced to encourage waiting passengers to seek out specific retail experiences with notifications, discounts and offers.

Queue management

AI can access real-time data to recommend queues with smaller wait times for passengers, ensure appropriate staffing to handle expected large passenger loads or open new queues when a higher passenger load is expected. Staff can even be dynamically retasked in the moment to help manage passenger traffic based on queue KPIs like the number of passengers per queue.

Infrastructure management

Generative AI and real-time IoT monitoring can provide predictive and prescriptive insights based on analytics of operational areas, and, with digital twin technology, airport management can simulate airport infrastructure to test operations, maintenance and renovation projects in various scenarios.

Modern airports can use these insights to drive betterment projects like recommending preventative maintenance on key airport infrastructure, deploying custodial robots for cleaning and maintenance, policing premises and preventing security threats, and finding ways to reduce carbon emissions with regular ESG reports.

Passenger communications

5G networks  and cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 technology can be implemented to support high-speed, low-latency communications in both airport operations and passenger experiences.

Passengers will interact with AI bots and digital assistants for real-time guidance from the moment they step into the airport to the moment they’re in the air.

Preparing for the modern airport

The modern airport will require increased automation and widespread AI adoption to drive its operations. Passengers will interact with AI bots and digital assistants for real-time guidance from the moment they step into the airport to the moment they’re in the air.

While the promise of these technology enablers is significant, the task at hand for leadership of large- and medium-sized airports will be to ensure their IT departments are well versed in generative AI, machine learning, IoT and big data.

These competencies should be supplemented with more traditional IT skills, including data engineering, infrastructure and cloud engineering, cloud-native application development, product and platform engineering, and digital security and threat modeling.

Modern airports are quickly becoming smart transportation hubs and modern airport operators will need to adapt, viewing peoples’ urgency to move to and from airplanes as context for transportive customer experiences.

Sandipan Chakraborti is Associate Director of Hybrid Cloud Consulting at Kyndryl.

1. 2023 Airport Business Infrastructure Survey, Aviation Pros, March 2023