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Future Travel Experience Europe 2018 in Review

June 21, 2018

I’ve just returned from the Future Travel Experience Europe 2018 once again energized over the rapidly growing role new and evolving technologies are playing for airports. I sat down with a colleague for a quick Q&A about the role I see technology playing in the future travel experience.

Q: What does the air travel market look like right now?

A: The air travel market is growing faster than ever. Airports not only must compete with others in the market, but they must continue to expand their own scale and services to meet the growing number of airline passengers. Global air traffic passenger demand has grown steadily every year since 2010, with a minimum of 5.3 percent growth each year. In 2017, the air traffic passenger demand made the biggest leap yet and jumped by 8 percent. With air travel more accessible than ever, the industry shows no sign of slowing any time soon. Technology now must keep up.

Q: What technology or technologies do you think airports are most in need of right now?

A: There is an incredible need for analytics in the airport industry. As airports rise to meet the challenges of this growing passenger base, they need to understand how well their operations are working and where they can make improvements. The goal of every airport is to have passengers move from curb to gate within 20 minutes. It is a failure of proper operational planning each time that 20-minute goal is not met. You can only discover what and why if you have the data.

Q: Don’t airports already have digital systems collecting passenger experience data?

A: Yes. But that’s part of the problem. Each stakeholder in an airport has their own digital system capturing data. There’s retail, food and beverage, security, baggage, flight status, all with their own data collection and storage systems. These systems usually do not communicate with each other and managers in one airport sector lack any insight into data from another. The entire passenger experience can only be examined via individual departments. But the real value lies in connecting the dots to be able to gain insight and lessons from the complete picture.

Q: How do analytics improve the passenger experience?

A: 

Consider the worst part of flying—it’s the waiting, right? Waiting is the number one cause for dissatisfaction at an airport. Waiting to get through security, waiting for your flight, waiting for your bag, if it even shows up at all. Analytics help airports pinpoint precisely where a breakdown is occurring that is causing those delays in real-time so airport managers can fix it instantly and plan better for the next time. A comprehensive analytics system breaks down passenger volume by the minute so managers can create a seamless passenger experience. Terminals and security check-points are staffed more appropriately during busy times. Employees have instant access to data on the whereabouts of baggage. Users can even check to see how many cars are sitting in the carpark at any given time. One of the best cases I’ve seen of an airport continuously improving their operations is Dublin Airport. You can read their story here.


Q: How do airports get started with analytics?

A: Airports are already dealing with such an overwhelming amount of data that most people assume they would have to hire an entire new team of people to deal with all of it. That’s absolutely not the case. Let’s just use TARGIT as an example here. TARGIT has automatic notification agents, dashboards that are incredibly user-friendly and easy to read, and reports and analytics delivered straight to any desktop, mobile, or tablet device. This type of tool delivers the full picture of airport operations to even the least technically minded employee.

Q:
Any other key takeaways from Future Travel Experience Europe 2018?

A: 
One of the most interesting takeaways from FTE came from the number of visitors I had from system providers. They all realized the need for BI and analytics on top of their data, and those who had already tried this concept out had also realized that there is a far bigger need for consolidated information across many data sources. The demand is just exploding. And since BI and analytics is not currently a part of their DNA, it’s a real challenge for them to meet the data demand. It is because of this that we guide our customers to start small by first identifying personas and business cases before launching into advanced analytics with tables and databases.

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