Ex­plor­ing how tech­nol­ogy plays an im­por­tant role in fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

A fre­quent flyer tells us how tech­nol­ogy plays a role in pro­vid­ing trav­ellers with a pos­i­tive and en­joy­able fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS - WORDS JANAKIRAMAN S R

Glob­ally the de­mand for air travel is grow­ing con­tin­u­ously. Not only is the num­ber of peo­ple fly­ing in­creas­ing, their de­mands and ex­pec­ta­tions too are chang­ing. In­creas­ingly, Pas­sen­gers are ex­pect­ing greater com­fort and space, per­son­alised ser­vices, in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity and zero-com­pro­mise on timely ar­rival and de­par­ture. This is be­ing driven by ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy, the ex­plo­sive growth in so­cial me­dia as well as the rapid rise of smart­phones us­age. So, whether a first-time trav­eller or a fre­quent trav­eller, the ex­pec­ta­tions are for tech­nol­ogy to as­sist and en­hance the over­all jour­ney, as more peo­ple are get­ting ac­cus­tomed to ter­act­ing with tech­nol­ogy in their day-to­day lives.

To cater to these chang­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, air­ports around the world are in­vest­ing in new tech­nolo­gies and in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions. Air­lines too are in­tro­duc­ing new and in­no­va­tive meth­ods such as self-check-in by phone apps, self-print­ing of board­ing passes at the air­port, real-time flight up­dates, in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity and per­son­alised menu choices for bet­ter com­fort and a hassle-free travel.

With the tech­nol­ogy land­scape evolv­ing in In­dia, it is an op­por­tune time for air­ports and air­lines to lever­age fresh and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies to be fu­ture ready. The rea­son will also pro­vide fly­ers with an in­no­va­tive and de­light­ful ex­pe­ri­ence; and ul­ti­mately to cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.


Tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions hold the key to cre­at­ing more ef­fi­cient oper­a­tional pro­cesses that trans­form over­all pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ences; both on the ground to in-flight. From au­to­mated drop ser­vices, food and drink

de­liv­ery at the gate to Chat­bots and air­port Wayfind­ing apps, var­i­ous pro­cesses in a pas­sen­ger’s jour­ney are be­ing trans­formed for easy trav­els.

Glob­ally, the civil avi­a­tion ecosys­tem is ben­e­fit­ing from more ef­fec­tive data gath­er­ing and real-time up­dates and is be­gin­ning to em­brace trans­for­ma­tive tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing: In­ter­net of Things (IoT), au­to­ma­tion, big data, robots, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI), aug­mented re­al­ity (AR), vir­tual re­al­ity (VR) and mixed re­al­ity (MR).

For ex­am­ple, hu­manoid robots are ap­pear­ing at some ma­jor air­port hubs, in­clud­ing at Seoul's In­cheon air­port, where they carry out tasks in­clud­ing clean­ing and car­ry­ing lug­gage; while Mu­nich air­port’s ro­bot di­rects peo­ple to their gate and pro­vides in­for­ma­tion to trav­ellers about restau­rants and shops.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the ever-in­creas­ing adop­tion of mo­bile and wear­able de­vices, cou­pled with the in­creas­ing num­ber of air­craft of­fer­ing in-flight con­nec­tiv­ity, are cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for im­prov­ing the travel ex­pe­ri­ence. Gatwick Air­port uses AR Wayfind­ing, which al­lows pas­sen­gers to view AR di­rec­tions to wher­ever they need to go within the ter­mi­nal. Sev­eral air­lines in Europe have al­ready started test­ing the use of VR head­sets that are pre-loaded with movies, des­ti­na­tion in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing sight­see­ing tours and shop­ping to show­case a range of en­ter­tain­ment op­tions for pas­sen­gers. Emi­rates and Eti­had Air­ways are the lat­est air­lines to an­nounce tri­als of VR head­sets in its lounges. VR is even used by a num­ber of air­lines, in­clud­ing Amer­i­can Air­lines, Ja­pan Air­lines and KLM for en­hanc­ing train­ing and op­er­a­tions.

Lever­ag­ing tech­nol­ogy, data shar­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion to cre­ate a more ef­fi­cient and pos­i­tive pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence will be the key dif­fer­en­tia­tor. How­ever, stay­ing on top of these emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies as well as fight­ing against cy­ber threats will be cru­cial for air­lines, air­ports and govern­ment.


Each one of us is now used to ac­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion at the swipe of a fin­ger and be­ing kept con­stantly up-to-date by so­cial me­dia. Air­ports and air­lines can use the ac­ces­si­ble data ecosys­tem more in­tel­li­gently to empower pas­sen­gers with in­for­ma­tion at all stages of their jour­ney, from the time they ar­rive at the air­port to take-off and ar­rivals. This would mean cre­at­ing a has­sle­free pas­sage through check-in and se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures, pro­vid­ing real-time tai­lored flight in­for­ma­tion on de­lays, can­cel­la­tions or gate changes and bag­gage sta­tus.

Some of the world’s lead­ing air­ports are al­ready us­ing tech­nol­ogy to man­age ris­ing pas­sen­ger num­bers and to meet the in­creas­ing de­mands of ‘con­nected’ pas­sen­gers, pro­vid­ing a seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence. For ex­am­ple, Abu Dhabi In­ter­na­tional Air­port uses Face­book and Twit­ter to pro­vide pas­sen­gers with real-time flight up­dates, in­clud­ing gate de­par­ture and ar­rival times. Sev­eral air­ports in the USA, Canada, Aus­tralia and the UK are im­ple­ment­ing bio­met­ric fa­cial recog­ni­tion (BFR) tech­nol­ogy to re­duce hu­man fac­tors and en­hance the seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence. John F. Kennedy ( JFK) Air­port in New York is one of the lat­est in the in­dus­try to lever­age VR and MR tech­nol­ogy to let cus­tomers ex­pe­ri­ence des­ti­na­tions, ho­tels, and even tour the air­craft, be­fore the trip be­gins.

In In­dia, the govern­ment is al­ready mak­ing the most of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies through ini­tia­tives like

Aadhaar linked bio­met­ric au­then­ti­ca­tion sys­tem for e-board­ing, and the launch of the Air SEWA mo­bile app to check flight sta­tus. More re­cently, the govern­ment al­lowed phone and in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity while in air, which means pas­sen­gers may use mo­bile phones for both voice and data ser­vices on do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional flights.

Sev­eral In­dian air­lines have wel­comed the de­ci­sion as it cre­ates a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence by en­abling pas­sen­gers to catch up on work or watch their favourite en­ter­tain­ment.


To­day’s new gen­er­a­tion of air­craft gen­er­ate a sig­nif­i­cant amount of data; from en­gine op­er­a­tion, fuel us­age, crew ac­tiv­ity, and even weather sys­tems en­coun­tered dur­ing flight. For in­stance, a sin­gle Air­bus A3501000 has nearly 6,000 sen­sors through­out the air­craft and gen­er­ates an av­er­age of 2.5 TB per day.

Rolls-Royce re­cently launched its pi­o­neer­ing In­tel­li­gen­tEngine vi­sion, which will help peo­ple fly more re­li­ably and ef­fi­ciently than ever be­fore. We see the worlds of prod­uct and ser­vice be­com­ing so closely con­nected that they are in­sep­a­ra­ble; made even stronger by the rev­o­lu­tion in dig­i­tal ca­pa­bil­ity un­der­pin­ning the two. For cus­tomers this means ever greater re­li­a­bil­ity and ef­fi­ciency and op­por­tu­ni­ties to find greater value. En­gines will be able to com­mu­ni­cate with other en­gines, they’ll sense and re­spond to their op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment with­out any need for hu­man in­ter­ven­tion and they’ll learn from their ex­pe­ri­ences and ad­just be­hav­iour to achieve bet­ter per­for­mance.

Sim­i­larly, air­lines and air­ports can use ad­vanced an­a­lyt­ics and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to gather in­for­ma­tion from this vast amount of avail­able data to op­ti­mise op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance on a real-time ba­sis. For ex­am­ple, air­lines can closely mon­i­tor ar­rival and de­par­ture data and cor­re­late it with weather pat­terns to pre­dict pos­si­ble de­lays or can­cel­la­tions. Pas­sen­gers can be up­dated ac­cord­ingly about sched­ules and op­tions from the minute they leave their home for the air­port. The avail­able data could also al­low for more ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tion for main­te­nance and in­form if parts may need re­plac­ing, al­low­ing air­lines to fur­ther op­ti­mise oper­a­tional ef­fi­ciency. This would mean fewer de­lays and a bet­ter pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence.

Emi­rates and Eti­had Air­ways are the lat­est air­lines to an­nounce tri­als of Vir­tual Re­al­ity head­sets in its lounges


Tech­nol­ogy will con­tinue to im­pact the con­stantly evolv­ing avi­a­tion in­dus­try. The key is for air­lines, air­ports and the govern­ments to col­lab­o­ra­tively build the right pro­cesses, guide­lines and so­lu­tions for cre­at­ing a fully-in­te­grated and se­cure ecosys­tem that prom­ises a re­de­fined and seam­less pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence.

In do­ing so, the chal­lenge, will be to fo­cus on pro­tec­tion against cy­ber threats and keep­ing sys­tems se­cure and re­li­able. Another cru­cial area will be to stay on top of the lat­est tech­nolo­gies to make sure pas­sen­gers’ chang­ing ex­pec­ta­tions are met, as these are evolv­ing through their day-to-day in­ter­ac­tions with the new­est tech­nolo­gies.

ABOVE AND BE­LOW: Hu­manoid robots are found at some air­ports and give in­for­ma­tion to pas­sen­gers; and Wayfind­ing appsRIGHT: VR head­sets for trav­ellers

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