Friday, 30 October 2015

FORUM: SITA's Europe Aviation ICT Forum 2015

Leaving Athens
Following on from my last trip to the SITA Summit in 2014  this year's SITA Forum in Athens had similar themes, but with a more airport focused audience. I think my biggest take away is that self-service is important; not just as a method in cutting costs but also in improving the passenger experience (#PaxEx) via two main factors - control and information.

Control

To pick out the two salient illustrations of this, for control I'll turn to Patrice About from AirFrance. He made the point that consumer bag tracking devices now available for about $50, and these aren't under airline control or put in baggage with their knowledge. So the industry faces a choice - either find a way to work with passengers bring their own device or bury head in sand and have pax that are better informed than airline agents when a bag has been put on the wrong aircraft. This trend is happening now, the good news for airlines is that bag tag devices are GPS/sim based and most bag losses happen in a hub's bag room ... Where cellular networks and GPS don't work ;) (note that it is in the hubs that bags are lost, not smaller outstations. So hub bag rooms need the bag tracking)

Later in the Q&A session Patrice also made the point that there no such thing as one option anymore, need to offer multiple channels for achieving solutions (e.g. home printing might not have colour needed for green strip). so there may still be a place in the future for home printing, kiosks and human agents. My personal spin is that I wonder how long people will have printers at home? Will the trend of tablets replacing printers mean we have less of them in future? I know that I haven't had a printer at home for a while and prefer Passbook boarding passes.


Information

For information there are two main issues, giving the airlines, airports and government agencies the information they require - and minimising the stress of doing so on the passenger - and giving the passenger information during their journey.

Chris Annetts from Heathrow airport summed up the passenger requirements best with this slide




there was lots of discussion about how to deliver this and who is best placed to do so. There seemed to be a broad consensus that different stakeholders needed to collaborate more. For example some airport apps are great but people tend to use airline apps or if they do use the airport mobile
apps then the experience drops off as soon as they leave where the mobile apps covers.

There was a lot of talk around the "Passenger journey is an emotional one". Overall from a SITA survey they found an average 80% happiness across the journey. Making the booking, just before boarding and on plane are the happiest times. Queueing in security is unhappiest time (down to 64% positive) with the baggage claim step of journey also poor. 



People are moving beyond smartphones ..
Again there seemed to be a broad consensus among the speakers that there is a need to integrate multiple touch points, like kiosk check-in or agent check-in and BagDrop. The question was posed "Can collect biometric data (photo taken at check-in) then use to allow access to restricted zone using facial recognition?" - this simplifies a lot of the current process with security and boarding passes - and again at gate. 

There were some good points made by both Krum Garkov, when talking about the EU safe borders programme, and Todd Frew, when sharing his experience in the Australian Immigration department, that advanced passenger information schemes help push the border to the point of departure; which in turn allows more time for government agencies to process the people requiring entry. Todd also shared that since introducing the electronic visas in Australia the number of fines to airlines for transporting undocumented or "undesirable" passengers that were then refused entry had fallen dramatically, so a win-win for the government and the airline industry there.

What next?

I'll leave you with this final thought - the current process of getting travellers through to their destination is a lot of separate steps, using data with no real connection to previous step .... Could we collect this in one go? (so physical security checks, indentity checks, validity to travel etc.) Could our biometrics be our boarding pass? This could be win-win, less overhead on airports, fewer queues and a seamless journey means fewer anxious passengers.

I think that we can, a definte trend I've noticed in my work at 15below in the past few years is that good customer experience and operational efficiency can often go hand-in-hand.

Further reading