When travelers enter an airport, they have their mobile devices in hand. They may be texting, updating their social media accounts, emailing their itinerary to loved ones, or accessing their boarding passes through an airline app. It’s the way of the world now. We’ve all become habitual multi-taskers, and the aviation industry, like many others, is scrambling to align itself with the evolving needs of its customers.
With an estimated 90 million passengers passing through its terminals each year, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. In a high traffic hub such as this, the task of keeping millions of passengers satisfied at any given time can be challenging. For some, the time spent in transition from point A to point B can be stressful, and the need for convenience is more pressing than ever before. Today’s savvy travelers are seeking solitude in technology, and aviation companies are working to keep up with the advancements. Here are five technological trends that are making the air travel experience a lot less cumbersome for today’s passengers.
1. Reliable Wi-Fi
Today, 97% of air passengers travel with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, making Wi-Fi connectivity an essential component of the air travel experience. Not only do passengers want to remain connected in the airport, but they also want in-flight Wi-Fi connections. For passengers, few things are more frustrating than having to track down a Wi-Fi password or reconfigure their wireless settings just to get connected. Today’s passengers expect public connections to be just as quick and easy to use as in their home or office.
To meet the demand for constant connectivity, high traffic airports are now leveraging all of the latest technology to ensure passengers have sufficient Wi-Fi coverage. While this may overwhelm some aviation professionals, the good news here is that passengers are not necessarily biased with regard to their Wi-Fi. They simply want reliable connections that allow unlimited access to the information they crave, and ensuring that there are reliable Wi-Fi connections - both in the airport and onboard the aircraft - can go a long way in boosting passenger satisfaction.
2. Airline Apps
In recent years, airline apps have become a valuable resource for passengers and have, in many ways, streamlined air travel. Travelers now have the ability to check in from their phones, get boarding passes, check stand-by lists, change seats, flight status, and, in some cases, have access to inflight entertainment.
A recent study conducted by Phocusgroup found that 40% of frequent travelers used an app to check in, up from 24% the previous year, and 31% of travelers said they had used a mobile boarding pass, up from 18% the previous year. [i]
According to SITA, the world’s leading specialist in air transport communications and information technology, smartphone apps are now the second most common way passengers book flights, and that number is expected to increase within the next year. While online booking from a personal computer or laptop is still the dominant avenue for air travel purchases, SITA predicts it will decrease from 62% to 53% as more travelers move toward app usage.[ii] Passengers seem to be more satisfied when they are in control and can rely on their own technology, and with the help of airline apps and home/office computer check in, they can by-pass the check-in desk and streamline their journey before even reaching the airport.
3. Social Media Engagement
Social media is positioned in virtually every industry as a leading platform for customer engagement. Instead of being placed on hold with waiting times of 30 minutes or more on toll-free customer service lines, customers are using social media to ask questions and resolve issues. Aviation organizations are beginning to see the power in social media, not only in marketing, but also in customer service. In a JD Power survey conducted on 23,0000 participants, 67% of consumers reported having contacted a company via social media for support. [iii]
Through social media, airlines can respond to customer complaints within a shorter period of time. It also encourages and facilitates dialogue so that airlines can keep track of customer concerns and continue to improve on customer service in the long run.
One of the most groundbreaking innovations being used to boost the air travel experience for passengers is beacon technology. Beacon technology is a protocol that relies on Bluetooth 4.0 low energy to trigger the display of location-relevant information on smartphones and tablets[iv]. By placing beacons in key areas throughout the airport, passengers can receive information about boarding alerts, walk time to gates, lounge access, concessions, and retail offerings. In addition to keeping passengers informed, beacons allow airport staff to monitor passengers’ mobile devices and use the data to identify any potential delays before they escalate.
Beacon technology is also being implemented in bagging, one of the major stress areas for airports and travelers alike. In effort to cut back on loss baggage claims, 44% of airports expect to incorporate beacons into their baggage areas by 2018.[v] The incorporation of beacon technology will allow airlines to deliver any baggage location updates to passengers and send alerts directly to their mobile devices.[vi]
5. Enabling Flight Attendants with Technology
Traditionally, flight attendants have had to haul around a thick stack of papers in order to keep track of flight connections, passenger meal preferences, and seat assignments, but with the incorporation of technology on the aircraft, this process is changing. Today’s flight attendants are now equipped with digital devices that allow them to address passengers in a relevant way. Airlines are replacing those bulky stacks of paper with iPads and tablets, allowing flight attendants to obtain real-time information on passenger seat assignments, determine which passengers are facing tight flight connections, and even reward travelers who have earned complimentary drinks. With these operational enhancements, flight attendants will soon be able to do things like send happy birthday messages to passenger seatback screens, and engage passengers with more customized travel experiences.
Currently, two-dozen airlines around the world have equipped flight attendants with onboard technology. It is estimated that 55% of airline personnel use a smartphone for work tasks, 29% use a laptop, and 19.5% use a tablet. These numbers are expected to increase by 2018.[vii] By equipping staff with innovative technology, airlines can take customer service to the next level.
During these times, technology is virtually inescapable, and companies wanting to remain competitive must keep up with the constant evolution in order to maintain and grow customer loyalty.
What other aviation innovations are in the works in your firm? In what ways has technology enhanced air travel or air logistics for you? Please share your stories in the comments section below.
[i] McCartney, Scott. "Which Airline Apps Make Flying Easier?" Wall Street Journal. Web. 2015.
[ii] Karp, Aaron. "Passengers in Control Airlines Can Give Technologically Savvy Passengers More End-to-end Control over Their Journey." Atwonline.com June 2015: 30-35. Online.
[iii] J.D. Power. North American Airline Satisfaction Climbs to 10-Year High on Improved In-Flight Services and Growing Customer Acceptance of Extra Fees, Says J.D. Power Survey. J.D. Power. 11 May 2016. Web.
[iv] Kelly, Emma. "Improving the Process." Asian Aviation Apr. 2016: 30-33. Print.
[v] "The Internet of Things." Airline Business July 2015: 53. Print.
[vii] Kelly, Emma. "Ready for the Connected Traveler." Asian Aviation June 2015: 28-31. Print.
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).