Airports in the 21st Century have become some of the most technologically advanced buildings in the world. It wasn’t too long ago that robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) were seen as wildly futuristic, but such has been the rapid pace of advancement, that these technologies have now become commonplace. In Geneva and Auckland they are today guiding passengers through foreign airports in a language of their choosing, and even recognising, reading and reacting to their emotions.
From the very moment a passenger enters the terminal doors, to the second their feet touch foreign soil, digital tools and technologies are playing an increasingly important role. Biometric enabled self-service check-in facilities and bespoke mobile phone applications, designed to help navigate through airport processes, from check-in to boarding, and bag drop to shopping, are testament to this. The potential of big data and data science is also helping airlines and airports alike to get closer to customers than ever before, establishing patterns in passenger behaviour and better tailoring services to accommodate this.
Functionality from door to plane
This of course isn’t just innovation for the sake of innovation. One of the fundamental catalysts driving change in airports is the rise of the digital traveller. With a smartphone in every pocket, contactless payments at most stores, and access to the internet from almost any location on earth, travellers have come to expect a level of digital experience in every aspect of their lives - airports are no exception.
It is this context that inspired us at Priority Pass to carry out research designed to uncover just how technically savvy today’s businesses travellers are. We found that there is a clear demand for digital technologies that enable a seamless travel experience through the various stages of the airport. When travellers were asked to discuss the innovations that they view as important to the airports of the future, 46% said that they expect to see high levels of automation across areas such as kiosks and check ins. We would expect these numbers to continue to rise over the coming years as airport features like the robots who greet passengers at Tokyo Airport and the airport luggage check-in robot at Geneva Airport, become more commonplace.
The research also found that 50% of European travellers believe that digital boarding passes and e-tickets make the airport experience much easier, with 41% of frequent business fliers regularly using airport mobile apps when passing through an airport. The findings of our study confirm the strong appetite that we know frequent flyers have for digital. Since our brand refresh, we have seen a dramatic increase in the use of our new Priority Pass app across all platforms - iOS up over 50%, Android up by 10% and downloads of our BlackBerry app up by over 1,000%. We also polled our members in a recent Digital Pulse Survey and saw a 90% rating on digital initiatives such as the Digital Membership Card and new mobile app (86%).
There is clearly a growing impetus to deliver a seamless digital experience at airports, driving new levels of 21st Century customer service, while taking the stress out of travel and providing a more personalised and intuitive passenger experience. The beautiful thing with technology is that there is no limit to what can be achieved, so it will be exciting to see what new developments 2017 brings.