Personalisation and a new proximity with the modern passenger

Just how important is personalisation for an improved passenger experience in the modern airport world?

International Airport Review interviews CHRISTINE FALZON, Business Development manager at ICON and discusses personalisation, technological solutions and how the aviation industry can better embrace new technologies. It’s no longer passenger experience… it’s now seamless travel.

The more we work with airports in Europe, the more we realise the necessity of crafting a solid passenger experience based on consistent and repeatable processes. In fact, we strive to place passenger experience at the very heart of the operating models we develop.

Making the experience personal is the element of differentiation which allows some airports to shine over others. Digital is undoubtedly transforming this sector and we can personalise messages, services and products in a way that was not possible only five years ago. We know that passengers take seconds to digest and decide on marketing messages or informational items. Personalisation allows us to increase relevance of the message and thus increase the propensity to convert the passenger into a customer within those very precious few seconds.

Done correctly, personalisation improves the customer’s engagement and builds loyalty with the airport while reducing acquisition cost.


How might digital solutions be essential to achieve this?

Digital gives us three new dimensions: scale, depth and reach. Scale since we can process huge volumes of data in real-time and provide instant personalised recommendations to all passengers at once. Depth since social media or previous use-patterns allows us to understand the inherent interest patterns that each passenger displays – subsequently we can craft experiences that suit them. Reach since with the plethora of digital channels available today we can touch our passengers wherever they are in a human way and can take decisions based on their location, emotional state or other factors.

At a very basic level digital also helps us understand what matters to our passengers and what doesn’t. Through advanced customer analytics we can track each step in the funnel and re-engineer it to be more effective and offer more value. Indeed, innovation in this section is achieved through a better and deeper understanding of the passenger’s feedback.

More specifically, what is ICON doing at present in this respect?

Our mission is to re-connect, in a meaningful way, the airport and its passengers. There is no single way to do this however the approach often consists of these clear steps:

  • We gather as much behavioural data as possible to provide us with “digital signals” about the present consumer behaviour. This allows us to identify any gaps between the activity and the desired positioning.
  • We articulate needs and the appropriate digital response to them. We think of needs as triggers and responses as messages. Thus, we develop libraries of messages matched with triggers and understand that messages may be personalised – on the fly.
  • We link the digital activity to operational processes within the airport to ensure that our activities are repeatable, sustainable – and most importantly – drive value.
  • We implement advanced analytics to ensure we’re checking the inputs and outputs of our service in real-time and can tweak when necessary. And we automate all business processes which can be re-designed to rely on artificial intelligence rather than human management.

Through these steps we have engineered multiple service lines including apps for wearable devices, way-finding systems, personalised flight-updates, better crisis management tools, fully automated smart parking systems, indoor gesture-managed screens, micro-location sensors, artificial-intelligence bots to take part in the customer service process and better buy-before-you-fly systems.


On a more general note, do you feel the airport and aviation industry is slow to keep up with new technologies?

Airports offer a great opportunity for innovation and digitisation. However, this should not be seen as a single task-layer but rather as a tool to gain strategic advantage. “Digital” therefore cuts through all the vertical processes of the airport and lifts them to a new level. Unfortunately, most airports still don’t have a digital vision and take daily disconnected decisions which treat specific operational requirements rather than create new cross-functional digital solutions.

There are exceptions. Some smaller airports are more agile and innovate more boldly. They are not complacent and experiment with digital. Often airport Boards need more exposure to digital transformation to understand its strategic importance. Likewise, digital skills are often missing at executive level, which make it critical to choose the right partners to assist in this process.


How might this reticence be resolved?

When the digital agenda is not deeply part of the airport’s culture, transformation is slow and often painful. We live in a world with reducing margins and soaring customer expectations thus airports which are rooted in the analogue world tend to create a deep chasm between themselves and their passengers.

Reticence is reduced by vision. A well-thought digital vision provides a compelling landscape which a Board can understand and endorse. It needs to be realistic and grounded in commercial requirements that rely on establishing quantitative metrics of growth.

Reticence is reducing by championing small, interactive projects which return immediate value. Innovation needn’t be inherently risky. It can be practical and process driven with clear governance rules and parameters. Successes are celebrated and any failures are considered as an opportunity to improve. This agile approach ensures that there’s an evolution of the business and technical model selected which will generally require dynamic adaptation due to the constant shifting of the value chain.

Reticence is reduced by simplification. Airports often revel in unnecessary complexity. It’s focused on the “easy” – how can an experience be simplified, clicks reduced, steps shortened? While the burden of legacy IT systems is perhaps the most common airport spectre, it is a mountain worth climbing.

Airports don’t easily reinvent themselves; however, their ability to do so, at least in the digital sphere, will greatly affect their chances of driving value. Our experience suggests that understanding the great potential which digital has to offer and positioning the customer at the centre of the journey is a sure way to start.

The interview was originally seen on the International Airport Review site. 

Christine Falzon

Christine Falzon is the Business Development manager at ICON – a Software Development and Digital Marketing company focusing on digital transformation solutions for the airport and aviation industry. With over 15 years combined experience within the travel, hospitality and technology industry, Christine’s key focus is to identify business requirements, put forward creative ideas that add tangible business value to customers and ultimately, guide customers to the right technology solution that can improve passenger experiences, increase productivity and efficiency, while remaining focused on achieving a consistent high return on investment and growth.

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Aeromexico enhances AI chatbot with additional features

Aeromexico has added new features to its Facebook Messenger chatbot,

which is proving to be an effective communication tool for the carrier.

At the Facebook F8 Conference this week, Aeromexico revealed that in the six months since the launch of the Aerobot chatbot, automation in the customer service department has increased from 0% to 96%. In addition, the average customer service resolution time via chat has dropped from 16 minutes to two minutes.

The artificial intelligence (AI) powered bot has been used by passengers for tasks such as buying tickets, checking flight statuses and finding destination-based recommendations. A new group booking feature has now been added to simplify the booking process for families and groups of travellers.

Stan Chudnovsky, Vice President of Product for Messenger, explained: “This feature will allow groups to plan a trip together from within Messenger with the help of the AI customer service chatbot and split payments.”

Up until now, users have been able to pose questions to Aerobot in Spanish only, but English language functionality will soon be added.

Brian Gross, Vice President of Digital Innovation at Aeromexico, said: “Mexicans are some of the most avid users of social chat platforms, such as Facebook Messenger and we saw a definite gap in what was being done to ease ongoing traveller pain points.”

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Qatar Airways achieves IATA Resolution 753 compliance at Doha hub

Qatar Airways has achieved compliance with IATA Resolution 753

at its Hamad International Airport hub in Doha.

Resolution 753 requires airlines to maintain an accurate inventory of baggage by monitoring the acquisition and delivery of baggage throughout the journey.

Qatar Airways has achieved the certification following investment in its “HAQIBA” baggage management system, as well as its integration with the Qatar Airways website and mobile app.

The airline offers real time updates on checked baggage through the “Track My Bags” feature on its website and app. The mobile app also provides real time baggage-related notifications to passengers.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar Al Baker said: “Our careful attention to our passengers’ baggage, from the beginning of their journey all the way through to its finish, is yet another indication of the importance we place on customer experience. We have proactively taken steps to align our baggage management systems with IATA’s requirements. As a result, we are delighted that the association has declared Qatar Airways the first airline worldwide to become certified for end-to-end tracking for our hub at Hamad International Airport.”

Nick Careen, Senior Vice President, Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security for IATA, added: “Qatar Airways’ efforts over the past year to comply with IATA Resolution 753 on baggage tracking have paid off. We congratulate the airline on becoming the first in the world to achieve full compliance of the resolution at their hub in Doha. Qatar Airways’ ability to track baggage at every stage of its journey will allow the airline full visibility to manage its baggage operations and to more easily trace, retrieve and deliver missing or delayed bags, leading to a better experience for passengers.”

The world’s first “cashless” airport

Hangzhou International Airport in China to become the world’s first “cashless” Airport.

Hangzhou International Airport in China to become the world’s first “cashless” airport

Representational image

China’s Hangzhou International Airport plans to become the world’s first “cashless” airport by applying cutting-edge digital technologies to its services and will use artificial intelligence to make security checks faster, the media reported on Saturday.

According to a media report, the airport in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, will co-operate with internet firms, such as Alipay, to allow travellers to make cashless payments for services including accommodation, flights and car rentals, the Global Times reported.

The airport will also work with service providers to combine cloud computing and big data so it can offer passengers door-to-door services including ticket bookings, transportation, smart parking, shopping and catering as well as hotel bookings.

It will also introduce artificial intelligence and image recognition technologies into security checks so as to increase the safety and efficiency of the process as well as reduce passenger wait times, according to the report.

A Hangzhou resident told the Global Times on Friday that she welcomes the airport experimenting with big data and cashless services.

She said that with the spread of mobile payment, offering cashless services is unlikely to pose much of a challenge. She said that reducing wait times is likely to be the real test.

Online payment already has a particularly high level of penetration in Hangzhou, which is home to tech giant Alibaba Group Holding, which pioneered China’s most popular online payment tool, Alipay.

Separately, Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Financial announced plans to spend 3 billion yuan ($435 million) each year for the next two years to create a cashless society.

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UAE drone users must register themselves and their device under strict new rules

DUBAI // Customers buying drones will soon be unable to take them from shops until they register them and complete a training course.


The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is planning to introduce registration cards for hobbyists and professionals, under rules to be brought in after Ramadan. A customs release letter will be needed for drones bought online.

“Each registration will be vetted for security and their skill level will also be tested by approved bodies,” said Michael Rudolph, head of the authority’s airspace safety section.

When buying a drone, a customer will be given a receipt and leaflet explaining the registration process. They then must enrol in an approved training course and submit the certificate to the authority.

Once this and a security clearance is complete, the customer can receive the card and return to the retailer to collect the drone.

A “Sky Commander” tracking device must also be attached to any drone cleared to fly in approved zones. The device records the area, height and speed of flight and the authority automatically checks for offences.

In case of an alert, Dubai aviation officials can contact the operator to ask about a violation or order an end to the flight. All information will be stored in the operator’s records.

Officials are working with the Government, the Ministry of Defence and Dubai Police on registration and the live-tracking device, said Khaled Al Arif, the authority’s executive director of safety.

Airspace in Dubai has been closed four times because of intrusion by drones, causing flight cancellations that cost the economy millions of dirhams.

“While the closures are not due to registered drones, we feel that people need to become aware of the regulations and about the consequences,” Mr Al Arif said at the World Aviation Safety Summit in Dubai on Tuesday.

Stiff fines of up to Dh20,000 for unregistered drone users come into effect next month, following regulations approved by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

Fifty-seven commercial drone operators and about 1,000 hobbyists are registered with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.

Registration cards for commercial operators will be marked with a red stripe and hobbyists with blue. A white temporary card will be issued to operators visiting for a specified time period.The type of drone will be listed on the back of the card.

“If Dubai Police or any authority sees this, they have been briefed about the stripes and know you are registered, so unless you are creating a menace or operating where you shouldn’t be, you will not be bothered,” Mr Rudolph said.

The authority requires users to obtain approval in advance before flying drones. Operators can file applications online, providing information about the area, parameters and altitude where the drone will be used. The highest altitude permitted is 400 feet (about 120 metres).

The plans include efforts to educate people about drone use. Last year, the authority demarcated no-fly zones for drones includingairports, military installations, sensitive locations and palaces.

“If you know your details and the drone serial number are in a database, the chances of you operating outside the realm of what constitutes safe and orderly operations can be minimised,” Mr Rudolph said.

“This is how we can further enhance safety and ensure all operators, whether hobbyists or commercial, know what the requirements are when they operate.”​

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Virtual reality game offers Sydney Airport travellers

Fun before flight: oOh!media virtual reality game offers Sydney Airport travellers an immersive Parisian experience.

AUSTRALIA. oOh!media has created an immersive virtual reality (VR) game for users of Sydney Airport’s Qantas Club Lounge as part of a Samsonite activation.

The Australasian advertising specialist’s experiential agency oOh! Edge developed the game, which challenges players to find five Samsonite suitcases as quickly as possible at three famous Paris landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe.

Samsonite VR game played in Sydney Qantas lounge

Travellers must use Oculus Rift VR headsets to enter the immersive virtual locations

The activation is promoting Samsonite’s new range of suitcases with ‘Curv Technology’ and is running at the lounge throughout April. It was created collaboratively with Posterscope and Dentsu Mitchell.

A Samsonite Curv luggage pack is being awarded to the top player each week, while a return trip to Paris for two and a Samsonite Curv luggage pack will be awarded at the end of the activation.

“This VR game is an ideal way for Samsonite to engage with travellers who are in a positive mindset and willing to have fun while they’re waiting for their flight,” said oOh!media Chief Executive Officer Brendon Cook.

Samsonite – Virtual Reality Game - Eiffel Tower - April 2017

Samsonite suitcases must be found at locations such as the Eiffel Tower in order to win prizes in the activation

oOh!media cited research which had shown that Qantas club members spend around 42 minutes before their flight in the Qantas Club Lounge, which it said “provides an ideal environment for activations that engage more deeply with travellers who like premium products”.

Posterscope Managing Director Bryan Magee noted: “We know from our Out-of-Home Consumer Survey insights tool that the Samsonite audience likes to interact in social environments, so the airport provided the perfect opportunity for the added layer of fun and engagement with the VR game.”

Samsonite National Marketing Manager Dara Tang commented: “We wanted to interact and bring our brand identity to life with potential customers. This virtual reality game perfectly represents Samonite’s focus on innovation and cutting-edge technology.”



The rise of the digital airport experience


Airports in the 21st Century

have become some of the most technologically advanced buildings in the world, writes Stephen Simpson, global marketing director for Priority Pass.

It wasn’t too long ago that robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) were seen as wildly futuristic, but such has been the rapid pace of advancement, that these technologies have now become commonplace.

In Geneva and Auckland they are today guiding passengers through foreign airports in a language of their choosing, and even recognising, reading and reacting to their emotions.

From the very moment a passenger enters the terminal doors, to the second their feet touch foreign soil, digital tools and technologies are playing an increasingly important role.

Biometric enabled self-service check-in facilities and bespoke mobile phone applications, designed to help navigate through airport processes, from check-in to boarding, and bag drop to shopping, are testament to this.

The potential of big data and data science is also helping airlines and airports alike to get closer to customers than ever before, establishing patterns in passenger behaviour and better tailoring services to accommodate this.

Functionality from door to plane

This of course isn’t just innovation for the sake of innovation. One of the fundamental catalysts driving change in airports is the rise of the digital traveller.

With a smartphone in every pocket, contactless payments at most stores, and access to the internet from almost any location on earth, travellers have come to expect a level of digital experience in every aspect of their lives – airports are no exception.

It is this context that inspired Priority Pass to carry out research designed to uncover just how technically savvy today’s businesses travellers are. We found that there is a clear demand for digital technologies that enable a seamless travel experience through the various stages of the airport.

When travellers were asked to discuss the innovations that they view as important to the airports of the future, 46% said that they expect to see high levels of automation across areas such as kiosks and check ins.

We would expect these numbers to continue to rise over the coming years as airport features like the robots who greet passengers at Tokyo Airport and the airport luggage check-in robot at Geneva Airport, become more commonplace.

The research also found that 50% of European travellers believe that digital boarding passes and e-tickets make the airport experience much easier, with 41% of frequent business fliers regularly using airport mobile apps when passing through an airport.

The findings of our study confirm the strong appetite that we know frequent flyers have for digital.

Since our brand refresh, we have seen a dramatic increase in the use of our new Priority Pass app across all – iOS up over 50%, Android up by 10% and downloads of our BlackBerry app up by over 1,000%.

We also polled our members in a recent Digital Pulse Survey and saw a 90% rating on digital initiatives such as the Digital Membership Card and new mobile app (86%).

There is clearly a growing impetus to deliver a seamless digital experience at airports, driving new levels of 21st Century customer service, while taking the stress out of travel and providing a more personalised and intuitive passenger experience.

The beautiful thing with technology is that there is no limit to what can be achieved, so it will be exciting to see what new developments the coming years bring.

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Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Installs Drone Detection

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Installs Drone Detection.

Panama City Beach, Fla. – Since drones are now a new threat to airline safety, a company called DeTect has expanded their technology and taken it to a new height. DeTect officials told us their past technology could detect bird’s interactions with planes. Much like that, their new technology can now detect drones.

“We have an Android cell phone device, so it can turn your phone into a mini drone detection system. We kind of crowd source in a mesh network all of those systems. And then we have the DroneWatcher RF (radio frequency) technology and that is on top of the control tower here at Panama City Beach and that picks up on the communication’s between the drone and the controller itself,” said Jesse Lewis, DeTect General Manager.

“Today, we have their drone detection system and we use that in partnership with them as a test bed so that we can see when there is drone activity around the airport. So, we can make sure we have and insure the safe arrival and departure coming to and from the airport,” said Parker McClellan, Executive Director of Northwest Florida International Airport.

DeTect says it gives them a vantage point that they didn’t have before being on the ground.

“We’re able to detect out much further range and then the bird radar and drone radar testing that we did or interference with the equipment,” said Lewis.

When fully implemented, the system technologies will provide a multi-layers drone detection and defense system.

“The tower gets audio and visual alert if a drone is in the air. We also set up a text message to get alerts to all of the security staff if there is a drone detected at the airport,” said Lewis.

Airport officials told us their partnership with detect is a major asset because of their number of safety products they bring to the table.

“The drone awareness because of the number of drones that are flying around today, we really again go back to that safety factor that we like to know when there’s drone in and around the approach and departure path for the aircraft,” said McClellan.

Detect officials and airport officials told us they’re main goal is the public’s safety.

The next phase they will install is the radar surveillance which they will start installing in May.


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New technology to cut security queues at Luton airport

Luton airport is introducing new technology

to help cut down delays during security checks.

The airport hopes the new cloud-based planning platform will help staff predict the number of passengers using the security area at any given time, helping to ensure that the right number of staff are in place at peak times, avoiding delays.

A similar system has already been implemented at other European airports, including Dublin and Geneva.

The move follows an 18.5% jump in the number of passengers using Luton airport last year to 14.5 million and a major terminal upgrade.

Improvements to the security area are a key part of the £110 million transformation project, to allow the operations team to manage increased passenger numbers, according to the airport.

Operations director, Neil Thompson, said: “This new planning system marks another milestone in the current transformation of the airport.

“Passengers will benefit from a smoother journey through the security area thanks to this innovative system.”

The ‘Better Airport’ system is being supplied by software firm Copenhagen Optimisation.

Managing partner, Kasper Hounsgaard, said: “We are looking forward to making a real difference to London Luton airport’s operations, as well as improving the journeys of the many passengers who travel through every day.

“Being able to access all modules of Better Airport on laptops, tablets, and smart phones, will make the communication and tracking of airport operations more intuitive and hassle-free.”

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