Reinventing passenger experiences through data-sharing

Mike Tansey, Accenture's managing director and travel & hospitality industry lead for Asia Pacific, Africa, Middle East & Turkey, examines why greater collaboration of data between airports and airlines will provide passengers with a seamless and personalised experience.

Airports and airlines hold enormous amounts of passenger data. By sharing it, they’ll be able to create and deliver the personalised experiences that customers demand.

Jewel Changi Airport’s spectacular opening has been headline news around the world. After four years of construction and S$1.7 billion (US$1.2 billion) in investment, Jewel is designed to make the airport a destination in its own right.

Tansey: airlines and airports need to work together to create a seamless passenger experience

Jewel raises the bar for future passenger experiences. However, to provide truly transformational, hyper-relevant and seamless travel experiences, the biggest challenge (and opportunity) centres on collaboration between airlines and airports.

Moving to the next level
The objective is to connect passengers to relevant experiences, services and information at each step of their journey. However, for this to happen, there needs to be a rethink. Relationships between airlines and airports have been fraught because of their complexity: the airport supplies services to each of the airlines that take off and land there but, at the same time, it’s also competing with them for a share of the customer wallet.

Friction over who “owns” passenger relationships is a key issue. Whether or not passengers consider themselves to be airport customers (and most don’t), that’s what they are from the moment they leave their car, through pre-boarding and on to the departure gate.

All this boils down to a central tension: who owns the data? Up to now, the argument has been that because airports own the Wi-Fi networks, they also own – by association – the data that flows through these channels.

Sharing data: the benefits
As with most complex and contentious relationships, communication is key. If airlines and airports want to create the seamless customer experiences that translate into passenger loyalty, collaborative data-sharing has to be the logical next step. Passengers, airports and airlines will all benefit.

Here are three examples:

• Single-token biometric-enabled self service
By partnering to implement biometric-enabled self service, airport, airlines and border control collaboration could make seamless travel through airports a reality. Whether from kerb to gate (with passengers enrolling at self-check-in kiosks in the terminal), or from couch to gate (enrolment at home through a mobile app), average passenger journey times through participating airport terminals could be cut by up to a third.

Heathrow Airport has launched one of the world’s largest self-service deployments which, when complete, will offer 275 bag drops and 370 boarding gates powered by biometrics. This could potentially mean smoother, faster journeys for 80 million passengers a year.

Meanwhile, Canada is testing the use of blockchain technology under the Known Traveller Digital Identity agreement to improve security and support the seamless flow of people across borders. This uses biometrics, cryptography and distributed ledger technology to enable travellers to share their information with authorities and travel providers ahead of travel to get hyper-personalised services.

• Turnaround management automation
Think about the wealth of operational data held by airlines, airports, ground handlers and the air traffic controller. If this could be integrated and accessed in real time, it would be possible to accurately predict an event’s on-time performance. This would translate to more efficient use of infrastructure and resources, fuel savings for airlines, reduced carbon footprints and an enhanced travel experience for passengers.

Gatwick Airport has launched AirTurn to manage aircraft turnaround times. This enables parties including handling and ramp agents, air traffic controllers and airlines to share information seamlessly during a turn. With intelligent technologies, including voice-activation and collaborative chat, deployed across smart devices, AirTurn works in real-time to coordinate activities and minimise any delays.

• Integrated baggage status tracking
Baggage problems can ruin the best travel experiences. Data sharing could make them a thing of the past. With a common platform integrating baggage data between airlines, the airport operator and its ground handling agents, real-time information would be available on the status of every item of luggage. This would optimise baggage operations and reduce the mishandling of baggage.

Helsinki Airport is pioneering developments in this space through a collaboration between the airport airlines and ground-handling companies. This looks ahead to providing seamless customer experiences and reducing the costs involved in tracing, retrieving and delivering missing or delayed baggage.

It’s all possible today
These examples illustrate that the technologies needed to deliver truly connected customer experiences are already available, together with the governance frameworks that are essential to support secure data-sharing between airlines and airports.

And this is just the beginning, with other initiatives pointing the way to future possibilities. Dubai International now operates a system for supervising operations and visualising aircraft flows in real time. By collecting data from Dubai Airports and its service partners, this will help to enable Airport Collaborative Decision Making and Total Airport Management, supporting smooth operations and improving the customer experience.

Meanwhile, Dublin Airport in Ireland now uses integrated data and advanced analytics to improve forecast accuracy, enable predictive security screening, reduce the risk of delays and help transferring passengers to connect with their flights on time. It also allows partners to plan for demand for their services, adding value for organisations including airlines, Irish Border Control and US Customs and Border Protection.

Airlines and airports can come together to share the data they hold, turning the dial on personalisation by delivering the hyper-relevant travel experiences their customers crave.

The time to collaborate is now.

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