Take Offs & Land­ings

i, Air­port – Au­tomat­ing the art of fly­ing. Best air­port mass tran­sit con­nec­tions. Sky Team lounge opens in Syd­ney. SAS gate­side cafes com­ing this spring. Hous­ton and Mu­nich both post records. Plus new route news.

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS -

Over the past sev­eral years, air­ports have been un­der­go­ing a shift of tec­tonic pro­por­tions as the pas­sen­ger’s ex­pe­ri­ence is mov­ing re­lent­lessly to­ward au­to­ma­tion and a self-ser­vice en­vi­ron­ment. To­day it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble at many air­ports to get from curb­side to the gate with­out any in­ter­ac­tion with any air­line em­ployee. At some ter­mi­nals, you can even make it all the way to your as­signed seat aboard the plane – if you’re lucky and the tech­nol­ogy works right.

Much of avi­a­tion’s tra­di­tional model was drawn from the days of sea­far­ing pas­sen­ger ships – right down to call­ing the pi­lot a cap­tain and the cabin at­ten­dant a stew­ard. When it came to such mat­ters as tick­ets and board­ing passes, pass­ports and visas, many of the same rules and pro­cesses were con­ve­niently adapted.

But as avi­a­tion grew, the sheer mul­ti­tude of hun­dreds of mil­lions of pas­sen­gers … ren­dered those time-con­sum­ing, pa­per-con­sum­ing, face-to-face pro­ce­dures just too cum­ber­some. For­tu­nately as avi­a­tion has de­vel­oped, so has the tech­nol­ogy to han­dle all th­ese peo­ple.

To­day, trav­el­ers check in on­line or at air­port kiosks. Car­ri­ers have traded in the old multi-part tick­ets and pa­per board­ing passes for ones that ex­ist only in the dig­i­tal domain. Now tech­nol­ogy en­ables pas­sen­gers to tag their own bags and, in nearly 200 air­ports around the world, even by­pass the gate agent.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search from SITA, the global avi­a­tion IT com­pany, it’s a trend that pas­sen­gers find ap­peal­ing; the sur­vey said self-board­ing is a ser­vice that 70 per­cent would like to see, and al­most as many would like to have the op­tion to tag their own bags.

Pick­ing up on the con­sumer trend to­ward fewer hu­man in­ter­ac­tions at the rou­tine‘ touch points’ of fly­ing, the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion, launched an ini­tia­tive in 2009 called Fast Travel. The pro­gram is aimed at co­or­di­nat­ing and uni­fy­ing the au­to­mated air­port of the fu­ture.

Un­der the Fast Travel pro­gram, air­ports are de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy for six key pas­sen­ger in­ter­ac­tions: Check-in, self-tag­ging bags (which IATA calls‘bags ready-to-go’), travel doc­u­ment scan­ning at kiosks to avoid ID checks at check-in desks or gates, self-ser­vice flight re-book­ing, self­board­ing and re­port­ing of miss­ing lug­gage through a self-ser­vice chan­nel, such as web, mo­bile or kiosk.

The move­ment to­ward the au­to­mated air­port is be­ing pushed ahead by the air­lines and air­ports and their re­spec­tive in­dus­try groups. And it seems to be

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