The rise of smart air­ports has given op­er­a­tors and airlines alike, new op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­hance the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence. AVB reached out to SAP and VChain Tech­nol­ogy to share how dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy is trans­form­ing the jour­ney

Aviation Business - - CONTENTS -


Back in the tail end of 2018, the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA) unveiled its 20-Year Air Pas­sen­ger Fore­cast, a re­port that high­lighted the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pro­jec­tions for the global air trans­port mar­ket.

According to the or­gan­i­sa­tion that to­day rep­re­sents roughly 290 airlines and 82% of the to­tal air traf­fic, the sec­tor is set to ex­pe­ri­ence a com­pound an­nual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% for the next 20 years. This, in turn, is ex­pected to dou­ble the num­ber of trav­ellers fly­ing to­day, reach­ing an im­pos­ing 8.2 bil­lion pas­sen­gers by 2037.

IATA’s re­port also noted that the Mid­dle East, in par­tic­u­lar, would see a CAGR of 4.4% over this pe­riod, along with an ex­tra 290 mil­lion pas­sen­gers on routes to, from and within the re­gion. The to­tal mar­ket size for the Mid­dle East is pro­jected to reach 501 mil­lion pas­sen­gers by 2037.

While a num­ber of air­port op­er­a­tors from across the world have be­gun to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­pand­ing their in­fra­struc­ture to meet fu­ture de­mand, oth­ers have in­stead opted to max­imise the ef­fi­ciency of ex­ist­ing op­er­a­tions.

Driven to in­tro­duce en­hance­ments across all func­tions of an air­port and op­ti­mise ca­pac­ity, as well as de­vis­ing a more seam­less and en­joy­able travel ex­pe­ri­ence for pas­sen­gers, op­er­a­tors have be­gun to turn to tech­nol­ogy to achieve their goals. This, in turn, has given rise to the ad­vent of smart air­ports.

En­ter­ing this new arena of aviation are com­pa­nies such as global en­ter­prise tech­nol­ogy provider SAP. To date, the com­pany’s dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion so­lu­tions, which in­cludes the SAP HANA in-mem­ory plat­form, SAP S/4HANA real-time busi­ness suite, and the SAP Leonardo dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion plat­form, have been adopted by over 65 air­port op­er­a­tors across the world.

Serv­ing as the bridge to link tech­nolo­gies, such as AI and ma­chine learn­ing, blockchain, cloud, and IoT, SAP’s so­lu­tions are present in more than 365 air­ports, who com­bined over­see the trans­port of over 1.7 bil­lion pas­sen­gers each year.

“Air­ports are large and com­plex opera

By analysing data from cam­eras and sen­sors on the roads, or­ga­niz­ers can re­duce traf­fic con­ges­tion and en­hance safety by re-rout­ing traf­fic to park­ing ar­eas. In­side of the air­port, cam­eras and im­age recog­ni­tion can cre­ate heat maps for or­gan­is­ers.” Gergi Ab­boud

tions that need to op­ti­mise pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ences. Smart air­ports can use real-time and pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics to op­ti­mise op­er­a­tions — with one of the big­gest busi­ness ben­e­fits com­ing from real-time mon­i­tor­ing of as­sets and pre­dic­tive main­te­nance with ma­chine learn­ing. For ex­am­ple, air­ports can en­sure that bag­gage sys­tems, es­ca­la­tors and el­e­va­tors, and cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion fa­cil­i­ties are all op­er­at­ing smoothly.,” says Gergi Ab­boud, SVP and GM, SAP Mid­dle East South.

Ab­boud went on to add that there is an emerg­ing trend that is in favour, par­tic­u­larly with smart air­ports in the Mid­dle East, which is fo­cused on en­hanc­ing the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence “on the edge of the air­port”.

“For ex­am­ple, by analysing data from

cam­eras and sen­sors on the roads, or­gan­is­ers can re­duce traf­fic con­ges­tion and en­hance safety by re-rout­ing traf­fic to park­ing ar­eas. In­side of the air­port, cam­eras and im­age recog­ni­tion can cre­ate heat maps for or­gan­is­ers to de­ploy staff or re­sources to as­sess and ad­dress over­crowded ar­eas,” he ex­plains.

While much of the com­pany’s en­gage­ment with op­er­a­tors has been on dig­i­tal­is­ing air­port op­er­a­tions, a sig­nif­i­cant part of the con­ver­sa­tion around smart air­ports has been fo­cused on im­prov­ing the end-toend jour­ney for pas­sen­gers.

Be­gin­ning from the mo­ment trav­ellers book their flight, to when they de­part the ar­rivals at their des­ti­na­tion, the idea is to pro­vide pas­sen­gers with en­joy­able and per­son­alised travel ex­pe­ri­ence. This could be de­liv­ered in the form of lux­u­ri­ous trans­porta­tion op­tions, re­tail and food & bev­er­age op­por­tu­ni­ties at the ter­mi­nal, as well as spe­cial of­fers for leisure ac­tiv­i­ties.

Aim­ing to iden­tify a vi­able tech­nol­ogy to fill this de­mand, SAP re­cently com­pleted the ac­qui­si­tion of Qualtrics In­ter­na­tional back in Jan­uary of this year. In­cor­po­rat­ing its Qualtrics XM tech­nol­ogy into its own port­fo­lio of aviation so­lu­tions, SAP is now able to pro­vide its air­port cus­tomers with a new of­fer­ing that en­ables them to mon­i­tor and re­spond to cus­tomer feed­back in real-time.

The so­lu­tion has thus far proven quite ef­fec­tive in manag­ing dis­rup­tions. For ex­am­ple, in the case of a flight de­lay, the air­port or the air­line would be able to use the plat­form to share per­son­alised of­fers for pas­sen­gers to take ad­van­tage of in the ter­mi­nal.

“Qualtrics XM al­lows air­ports to com­bine operationa­l data with ex­pe­ri­en­tial data to move from what the data shows, to why the data shows this and what the im­pact is on cus­tomers,” ex­plains Ab­boud.

Users of the plat­form will be able to man­age their operationa­l re­search, which con­sists of cus­tomer feed­back on in­di­vid­ual touch­points, along with their strate­gic re­search that cov­ers prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and brand health track­ing. The so­lu­tion also ties in em­ployee re­search that en­com­passes the en­tirety of the em­ployee life­cy­cle.

Il­lus­trat­ing with an ex­am­ple, Ab­boud points out the adop­tion of Qualtrics so­lu­tions by US car­rier, JetBlue Airways.

“JetBlue wanted to un­der­stand cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and turn feed­back from 30 mil­lion an­nual trav­ellers into real, im­pact­ful changes for the trav­ellers and em­ploy­ees across more than 80 air­ports. JetBlue uses Qualtrics Re­search Suite to iden­tify trav­eller ex­pe­ri­ence is­sues with cus­tomer feed­back and stud­ies, gather cus­tomer in­sights across mul­ti­ple chan­nels and trans­form into ac­tion­able in­sights, and link em­ployee goals to cus­tomer jour­neys,” ex­plains Ab­boud.

“As a re­sult, JetBlue has em­pow­ered its Cus­tomer In­sight team to im­prove trav­eller ex­pe­ri­ences, up­hold in­dus­try-lead­ing Net Pro­moter Scores, and iden­tify an ac­tion for spe­cific pro­cess im­prove­ments and em­ployee ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives.”

Another fo­cus area for smart air­ports is on achiev­ing a seam­less travel ex­pe­ri­ence for pas­sen­gers. The goal is to reach a point where one can travel to the air­port, pass through im­mi­gra­tion and se­cu­rity, fly, tran­sit, and ar­rive at their des­ti­na­tion, all with­out hav­ing to show their pass­port even once.

It is a re­al­ity that com­pa­nies such as VChain Tech­nol­ogy are in­vested in achiev­ing. Founded back in 2014, VChain to­day of­fers a blockchain-pow­ered, soft­ware-asa-ser­vice (SaaS) ver­i­fi­ca­tion so­lu­tion for strate­gic data shar­ing.

“What VChain does is with­out see­ing any of your data, it can con­nect the vari

If you can con­nect these data sets be­tween airlines, gov­ern­ments and se­cu­rity agen­cies, what you then can do is re­duce the need for phys­i­cal pas­sen­ger ID checks.” Irra Ariella Khi

ous data si­los sets that we cur­rently have be­tween airlines and gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity agen­cies … all of these have to come to­gether to iden­tify you as a pas­sen­ger that has ac­cess to ei­ther a seat on a plane or who can en­ter an in­ter­na­tional bor­der,” says Irra Ariella Khi, CEO of VChain.

“If you can con­nect these data sets be­tween airlines, gov­ern­ments and se­cu­rity agen­cies, what you then can do is re­duce the need for phys­i­cal pas­sen­ger ID checks and we can re­duce them up to 90% us­ing our soft­ware-as-a-ser­vice plat­form.”

Last month it was re­vealed that VChain was se­lected as one of seven com­pa­nies to par­tic­i­pate in the Dubai Fu­ture Ac­cel­er­a­tors pro­gramme. Work­ing closely with Emi­rates Air­line and the Gen­eral Direc­torate of Res­i­dency and For­eign­ers (GDRFA) in Dubai, the com­pany will work with lo­cal part­ners to de­ploy its GDPR­com­pli­ant iden­tity so­lu­tion to as­sist in en­hanc­ing the travel ex­pe­ri­ence for tran­sit pas­sen­gers vis­it­ing Dubai In­ter­na­tional.

When asked about the chal­lenges ham­per­ing the de­vel­op­ment of a seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence from start to fin­ish, VChain’s CEO ex­plains that while a shared data en­vi­ron­ment can be set up to fol­low a pas­sen­ger as they move through a ter­mi­nal, that track­ing ends once they leave the air­port or cross na­tional bor­ders.

“You might be go­ing through three dif­fer­ent air­ports if you’re con­nect­ing or go­ing through four dif­fer­ent ju­ris­dic­tions … one of the big­gest chal­lenges is that all of them run dif­fer­ent sys­tems. They have dif­fer­ent laws, lim­i­ta­tions and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. And they are all man­aged man­u­ally,” ex­plains Khi.

“The un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity is that you’re lim­ited by the hu­man er­ror and the mul­ti­plic­ity of those touch points means there is such a huge po­ten­tial for in­cor­rect or vari­a­tion of the data. Ul­ti­mately, it should just be your data and it should be cor­rect and trusted across all par­ties. No matter who they are and who they are manned by.”

She adds that the cur­rent pro­cess en­cour­ages pas­sen­gers to ar­rive at the air­port ter­mi­nal early, not to en­joy what the air­port has on of­fer, but rather to leave am­ple time to nav­i­gate im­mi­gra­tion and se­cu­rity. The CEO as­serts that the ap­proach needs to change, in or­der to af­ford trav­ellers the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy what the ter­mi­nal has to of­fer.

Out­side of en­abling a smooth jour­ney through an air­port, VChain is also ex­plor­ing how its plat­form can be utilised to pro­vide ser­vices for pas­sen­gers.

“If you’re hir­ing any­thing for your on­ward travel ex­pe­ri­ence, such as a car or book­ing a hotel, to­day, all of those do de­pend on you pro­vid­ing your data again in the same way — a pass­port to check in, ID to hire a car, etc,” says Khi.

“In­stead, if you have that data that is trusted, you can share it in ad­vance with the rel­e­vant travel stake­hold­ers and par­ties. You could then be is­sued dig­i­tal cre­den­tials on your mo­bile de­vice, which is se­cured with your bio­met­rics and used to un­lock a rental car with your phone, for ex­am­ple.

“Or you can go to the hotel and you don’t need a plas­tic key to en­ter — you have a dig­i­tal one. There are no fric­tion points where you are stopped and asked to iden­tify your­self.”

The tech­nol­ogy ex­ist to track the pas­sen­ger jour­ney but of­ten lim­ited by na­tional ju­ris­dic­tions.

According to IATA, the num­ber of pas­sen­gers fly­ing will reach 8.2 bil­lion by 2037.

Gergi Ab­boud, SVP and GM of SAP Mid­dle East South.

Khi: Pas­sen­gers should ar­rive early to air­ports to en­joy what ter­mi­nals of­fer, not just for se­cu­rity sake.

JetBlue’s Cus­tomer In­sight team utilised Qualtrics plat­form to iden­tify ways to im­prove the travel ex­pe­ri­ence for its cus­tomers.

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