A few months ago, the Airports Council International (ACI) released its list of the world’s 20 busiest airport as of 2016. It’s notable that the traffic of these hubs increased by 4.7 percent in 2016, totaling over 1.4 billion passengers, and globally the number of people traveling by air grew 5.6 percent.
These figures help us understand that airports and airlines have huge opportunities sitting in front of them to offer better services and become part of the journey of each traveler and to have the possibility to monetize and increase their revenue. The daily flow of passengers are like mature cherries on a tree ready to be picked—it would be a total waste to leave them untouched.
Historically, an airport is regarded as a place where we spend time before our flight. But this attitude will change as soon as airports are considered as being part of the passenger’s journey. By 2024, most major airports will offer more than just a place to wait to catch your flight; they will offer you a gym class, invite you to attend an exhibition of masterpieces, or even let you sip a cocktail at the swimming pool while looking at the airplanes taking off.
Most of the airports have already started to offer their passengers a mostly free service: WiFi. But there is a hidden reason behind it; it allows them to track travelers, understand and learn from the walking paths, and measure how much time they spend in one area. From the arrival at the airport entrance, it is possible to track passengers’ time spent at the check-in desk, the time it takes them to go through security, how much time they spend eating at restaurants, and how long it takes them to reach the departure gate before finally taking off. This gives the airport a considerable amount of data to analyze to discover insights from passengers’ behaviors.
Tracking and optimizing the passenger dwell time is a fundamental part as recent airport studies have discovered that an extra 10 minutes at the security gate reduces the average passenger spend by a considerable 30 percent.
With the rise of IoT, more products and devices are connected to the internet and to each other, allowing devices to exchange informations through APIs. Just to cite one example, digital luggage tags and suitcases will include all flight details and destination information, which allows travelers or holidaymakers to track their their bags throughout their journey.
Another limitless opportunity comes from proximity marketing. Knowing in each instant where passengers are going and by combining information about their interests, it is possible to trigger marketing offers. Retailers would benefit by having more customers, and customers would benefit by getting only relevant offers.
Being able to track passengers in real time also gives the advantage to instantly visualize passenger density in different areas of the airport. For security and operational purposes, this allows airports to measure passenger throughput from one area to another in the case of exceeded thresholds to take countermeasures.
With the support of AI and machine learning algorithms, it is possible to learn and predict in real time what could happen when many passengers arrive at the airport, causing a delay, and what needs to be done to speed up operations. With dynamic check-in and security staff allocation, it is possible to optimize operations.
By gathering all this data from multiple connected devices and analyzing them, it is possible to understand traveler’s needs to plan the future of airports and offer a greater experience for a win-win situation.