BLOG: TECHNOLOGY IS TAKING THE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE SKY HIGH
Millennials are one of the most travel-savvy demographics, with many having been well-seasoned travellers since childhood, writes Andy Besant.
In fact, 61% of 25 to 34 year olds first flew by the age of 10, according to research from airport lounge provider, Club Aspire.
Coupled with an ever-expanding list of destinations and increasingly affordable flights, it’s the norm for younger people to take to the skies several times a year. Especially with social media driving awareness of unique destinations around the world.
Indeed, a new wave of wanderlust is seeing millennials and Generation Zers increasingly travel off the beaten track – aided by modern technologies to plan, enhance, capture and share every aspect of their journey.
Technology has well and truly changed the face of travel, from researching trips via millions of online reviews, to making a booking using voice commands and navigating destinations through augmented reality (AR).
Innovation is geared towards wowing even the most tech and travel-savvy with a great experience. Young travellers see perfection on social media and, when it comes to booking their own holidays, want to guarantee trips of a lifetime, with wonderful experiences – ones they can share online themselves.
But let’s not forget that their all-round great experience needs to begin from the moment their booking is made.
Some savvy operators within the airport ecosystem are already tapping into this and delivering great options to flyers, allowing them to manage the airport experience almost entirely from their phones.
Here are a few ways they’re doing this:
• Did someone order a delivery? We’ve been able to order delicious food straight to our door using just an app for some time now – in fact, one in five millennials is estimated to use home food delivery services.
And now, this convenience is extending to the airport. Food ordering services, such as Grab, allow hungry travellers to pre-order their meals and pick them up from the restaurant before heading to their departure gate, offering a convenient way to refuel for those who are short of time in the terminal.
• Wayfinding apps: With many airport terminals offering shops and restaurants galore, there’s a lot of options out there for travellers to pick up forgotten items or indulge in some pre-flight spending.
Having a way to get from A to B as quickly as possible is therefore an attractive proposition for many.
Technology companies such as LocusLabs use beacons to underpin wayfinding apps in airport terminals, offering passengers a helpful, real-time way of navigating to nearby restaurants, airport facilities and their departure gate.
Priority Pass in app airport maps uses this technology to help members locate available lounges and other airport amenities, providing a hassle free travel experience – useful for those who might be facing a short layover.
These capabilities particularly cater to the younger generation for whom digital navigation is key; millennials have been found to use mobile-based maps on at least a weekly basis.
• Paperless boarding and virtual loyalty cards:A well-established feature, mobile boarding passes that slot easily into travellers’ virtual wallets and smartwatches, make getting through security or making a purchase a far more streamlined experience.
Tech-savvy passengers no longer face rifling through their carry-on luggage for their boarding pass and can instead breeze through boarding gates with a turn of the wrist.
Advances in technology mean that biometrics could soon do away with the traditional boarding pass entirely, with passengers’ faces becoming their ticket to travel.
As well as this, the rise of the virtual loyalty card also results in one less thing to pack before going away and means that travellers won’t miss out on valuable points when they make in-airport purchases.
These developments mean passengers can do everything from getting through security, making purchases, collecting loyalty points at their favourite shop or restaurant and accessing services such as lounges or spa deals all from their phone.
• Personalised shopping: Some airports and vendors are tapping into the data we generate online to personalise the shopping experience.
It’s not unusual for a pre-flight email to land in travellers’ inboxes days before travel, offering great discounts at airport shops. And as data insights advance, flyers will increasingly find that these are pinged straight to their phone as they move through the terminal – with retailers and outlets using customer data to generate push notifications that deliver the most relevant offers to them.
And getting purchases home has never been easier either thanks to automated pick-up options, which allow shoppers to collect their items on departure or return.
While this can be done directly through the retailer or Duty Free, companies such as Inflyter offer flyers access to smart lockers via QR codes, helping them to avoid queues and pick up their purchase quickly.
Futureproofing the airport
There’s also increasing investment in the broader airport eco-system to enhance people’s experience and meet the rising expectation for technology-filled journeys among the younger generations.
These could be anything from robot concierges to touch-screen shopping, and with technology advancing at a rapid rate, we can look forward to even more innovation in the future.
While we’re now using our voices to control our phones, tech giants such as Facebook are looking at the next evolution – using our minds to control technology.
One day we could book a flight on our devices, simply through the power of thought. Other advances could also see us using our devices to project holograms of destinations that we’re traveling to for a sneak peek.
Or, pressing a button at the airport terminal to pull up a virtual assistant that speaks to us in our native language and can help with navigation.
The innovation possibilities in travel and at the airport are endless and exciting developments are just on the horizon.
• Author, Andy Besant, is director of travel experiences at Collinson, the operator of Priority Pass.