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The airport comfort zone

It’s pretty obvious that nowadays, almost all passengers that pass through an airport are “connected”. This might be either with a laptop or tablet, or perhaps via a mobile phone, but it’s a certainty that they will be able to interact with any information available to them if they wish.

As far as the airport operators are concerned, their mission is to make sure that all flight operations are in compliance with all the established schedules, while also making sure that the passengers get to their destination without any issues, and in as much comfort as possible. Additionally, regarding their relationship with their passengers, the airports must also make sure that they correctly manage time and information.

Emotional management is becoming increasingly important to successfully improve the passenger experience.

In fact, time is one of the airport’s most fundamental business tools. I’m not referring, however, to the way airlines manage their time to reduce their operational costs, but to every single minute that each passenger spends in an airport terminal. This is time that could be spent consuming (in the shops, restaurants and other services), while also being an indirect cost while they occupy the space (cleaning, customer service, maintenance, security). This constant movement of people while they wait for their flights is often seen as a type of balance sheet, in which the number of minutes spent by each passenger is directly related to income and expenses.

That said, habits have changed considerably in recent times. The way people manage their time is evolving, and nowadays there seems to be a trend towards personalisation and individualism in pretty much every aspect of life. The mobile phone has become an information and leisure hub and, in turn, is now one of the protagonists during waiting times.

Conversely, adequate administration of the information available to passengers is the key to managing them at an emotional level. The decisions that people make at any given moment have an important emotional element to them, which can result in a person acting in one way or another without the circumstances surrounding the decision having changed at all. Furthermore, when you not only have to move large volumes of people, but also have to manage extreme aspects, such as emergency plans or the commercialisation of the different areas of an airport, this factor becomes even more important.

Are airports making the most of this small detail that could greatly improve their relationship with all those people that use their facilities on a daily basis? Are they aware of the immense possibilities that today’s technology offers to provide personalised and, above all, useful information?

It is quite common to see different types of systems and applications being introduced to provide airport passengers with information. The majority of these projects however seem to be based on what the airport believes to be correct (too traditional?) instead of evaluating what the 21st century passenger might actually need.

With such a large amount of mobile devices around, all equipped with every type of local connectivity (essentially Bluetooth and wifi), numerous different initiatives could be launched to provide the passengers with an individual leisure and information space, giving them personalised content based around their airport experience.

It’s not all about creating apps, which are conditioned by one operating system or another, it’s about offering content. All mobile devices are equipped with the right tools to be able to access it in one way or another.

During their waiting time, what a passenger wants is to spend their time in the best way possible until their flight leaves. They want to be able to access a range of leisure content from their own device (music, films, games, news etc), that will send them a personal note when it’s time for them to board, let them make a reservation at one of the airport’s restaurants, or perhaps have a look at the menu. But let me repeat: We’re talking about content, not tools.

The secret to success when it comes to the relationship between passengers and airport operators is in the capability to create a personalised environment in the airport that stimulates the senses, helping the passenger to feel like they are in their own comfort zone. A few years ago, this might have seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream, but today it is something that could be within the reach of any airport operator with enough imagination and that wants everybody passing through their facility to have a positive experience.

There is however another alternative that mustn’t be forgotten about; the airport operator would also easily be able to provide the passengers with a series of guidelines and indications or advice about how to act in the event of any type of incident. And all of this in real time. Consonant with the arguments mentioned earlier, a passenger that is fully informed about all the specifics of the airport they are in will be closer to their comfort zone.

We mustn’t ever forget that a satisfied passenger is an objective achieved.

 

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09/02/2014

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