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Processing passengers through the terminal is a carefully orchestrated sequence, but as technologies evolve, so does the process, as Ian Putzger discovers

Caribbean Airlines is making a move to upgrade its passenger service system. To that end, it signed an agreement with Amadeus in July calling for a combined reservations, airport check-in, ticketing and inventory management system, as well as e-commerce functionality. By unifying these systems, every customer touchpoint will be consolidated with the ability to provide comprehensive real-time information, at a lower cost, meaning passengers should be able to manage their travel experience better. According to the carrier, this will usher in a new era as part of its overall customer-centric strategy.


This customer-centric mantra is beginning to extend right along the traveller’s journey through the airport, starting well before they set foot inside a terminal and continuing until they land.


 ”The overall premise is the passenger experience,” notes Terry Hartman, Vice President for Transportation, North America, at Unisys. ”It is a digital passenger experience through the journey.”


At the focal point is the ”connected passenger”, who is virtually always open to communication with the stakeholders around their journey. ”Millennials account for 20% of today's business travel. This will increase by 50% over the next five years,” remarks Mark Gallagher, Vice President of Business Development at SITA. ”They want self-service, and they want the full range. They want to personalise their experience. Passengers not only want this but are going to demand it. It is the way they want to be engaged.”


Unisys is currently in the process of a complete modernisation of its Airport Passenger Facilitation Suite. On top of the required functionality – in-line with IATA requirements for comprehensive coverage of the various distribution channels – the new system aims to help users build relationships with passengers that will allow them to inform ground crew of the travellers' choices and preferences, says Hartman.


His vision of a connected passenger's journey has the traveller receive instructions about available parking spaces as they get to the airport, followed by a welcoming message that shows the estimated time to reach the gate, as well as wait times at security checkpoints. At a later point, prompted by stored information about the passenger's inclination to relax in the airport with a beverage, the system displays the appropriate venues and directions for getting there.


The entire process through the airport unfolds without interaction with another person in the terminal, entirely on a self-serve basis with prompts and choices based on stored information about the passenger.


Gallagher sees promise in research around beacon technology, which has been in the crosshairs of some large retailers. In some trials, objects have been equipped with beacons to transmit information about the products when people move within range. Coupled with bluetooth, beacon technology can collect and distribute information in real time, Gallagher notes, predicting: ”We will see more applications of beacon technology."


At this point, kiosks play a significant role in passengers' progress towards their flight, but over time this will diminish in the check-in and bag drop processes. At the immigration and customs checkpoints, on the other hand, kiosks are on the rise – Copenhagen airport, for example, will introduce automated border control next year, a spokesman for the airport says.


Automated border control gates already installed at Rome Fiumicino airport have accelerated data collection to under 60 seconds, notes Gallagher, adding that this frees up immigration officers to focus on other questions.


Increasingly, passport kiosks in airports will include things like biometrics and declarations, Gallagher says. ”We will see biometrics became much more prominent," he predicts.


Singapore Changi airport is pushing in that direction. ”For the first time, facial recognition technology will be introduced at Terminal Four,” a spokeswoman for Changi Airport Group remarks on the new building set to open in 2017.


”For Terminal Four, to further enhance the efficacy at each touchpoint, we will be deploying new biometric technology across check-in, immigration and boarding for identity verification, so as to achieve higher efficiency, better passenger experience and also lower manpower needs. We believe this will be a game-changer to processing passengers through airport terminals in the future,” she continues.  >>

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