Flying in Style: New Technology for Airports
I found myself heading to the airport for my third flight of the year a few days ago. Let’s be clear about one thing: I do not enjoy airports. The anxiety of luggage restrictions, lines and security was more than enough for me to handle, even though I knew I only packed a laptop, a guitar and the lunchable my sweet mother packed me for a snack (Yes, I’m 27).
I had my entire previous nightmare of airport experiences lined up in my head as I got to the bustling airport this time around…and by the time I sat down to watch my plane roll up to our gate, each and every one was gone.
Airport technology is on the rise, making passenger experiences a lot smoother. A yearly survey called the Airport It Trends Survey is completed by the Airports Council International and SITA, where they study airports from all major regions in the world. The survey shares great insight into the changes brought in 2014, and how technology is taking a stronger stance in the process of airport services.
IT & T (IT & Telecommunications) investments can help in multiple ways in airports. For 59% of airports, passenger processing is of a high priority when it comes to IT&T, with 47% prioritizing security measures. To make checking in easier for passengers, nearly 37% of airports use and plan to increase their number of self-check-in kiosks, with 92% of all airports using kiosks within the next three years. By 2017, 72% of all airports will have more than half of their passengers using kiosks for check-in. These kiosks also have the ability to print your bag tags, offering self-baggage drop-off immediately before security.
The system was smoother; I walked passed the huge line-up that usually haunts me, and had to wait behind one person. Customs was also a breeze, with more self-kiosks offered to passengers to speed up line times and process their passports.
Some people like to be as up-to-date as possible leading up the moment they find their seat. New technology is offering apps for airports, with 50% of airports offering updates via mobile devices. By 2017, almost all airports will provide this service with another 40% increase in the next two years. Another helpful feature is the notifications of “irregular operations”, alerting passengers and staff of any disruptions affecting their own flights. Some of the largest airports already offer these notifications, as disruptions in their procedures have greater consequences.
About half of airports are using social media technology to keep passengers in the loop, offering status updates, promotions and news. The use of social media has helped airports with customer loyalty, as well as creating a new generation of revenue and a greater experience for passengers. There are approximately 30% of airports using customer relations via media currently, with a 40% increase in participation by 2017. The whole idea of staying up-to-date with flights, changes and possible problems is an excellent way to better prepare passengers, thereby making the flying process that much smoother for everyone.
Another new feature for passengers is the in-flight offered Wi-Fi, which for a price can be purchased via credit card. Prices vary, and not all flights offer it quite yet, but many airlines are in the process of offering it. Although I didn’t use it this time around, it is extremely comforting to know that if necessary, I can always pay a small fee to let someone know my flight is delayed or get some work done if needed. By 2017, 60% of airports plan to invest in a Bluetooth program, with 52% of all airports planning to offer Wi-Fi services. Over 70% of the top airports are also investing in cloud and geo-location technologies to be completed by 2017. No doubt within the next two years, technology will have passengers feeling as informed as the pilots themselves.
It is safe to say that this was my best airport experience to date. After breezing through check-in and flying through kiosks and security, I found myself in a waiting lobby that basically looked like a huge restaurant. Every seat had its own plugged in iPad, individual outlets for charging your toys and a personal debit machine should you choose to order from the menu.
Here’s to hoping that most airports will hop on this technology train in the coming years; this is some of the most helpful technology I’ve experienced yet.1