The new reality
Our world has become smaller and more accessible with the rapid expansion of the airline industry. Nowadays, airlines can connect 500+ people between two cities 8600 miles apart with a single nonstop 17-hour flight. These journeys have not only become more frequent but also more affordable for a higher percentage of our population resulting in an increase in number of travelers.
Total passenger numbers from 1970-2015
Travelers are expected to reach 4 billion by 2017.
Asia’s rapid business development has positioned the continent as the fastest growing in the world. As a result, some airports in the region are now operating over their capacity causing flight delays and constantly disrupting the service to its customers. While upgrades in infrastructure are certainly needed, the lead times for those types of constructions can be very long and expensive. Hence airports are relying on technology to find clever ways to cope with the rapid growth of the industry while achieving operational excellence. Singapore’s Changi airport, voted best airport in the world in a 2014 Skytrax survey of travelers from over 160 countries2, is a perfect example of how the right use of digitalization can yield wonderful results.
The new experience
With 148,000 passengers on a daily basis, Changi airport has implement a number of initiatives to both improve its passenger experience and maximize its productivity3.
- Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) project: The airport is installing self-service kiosks at the check-in counters in order to reduce waiting times and improve efficiency. These kiosks can assist passengers with or without bags, helping them to check-in into the flight, select seats and print both boarding passes and bag tags4.
Self-service kiosks at Changi Airport.
- Instant Feedback Systems (IFS): These automated systems installed throughout the airport (immigration, food court, bathrooms etc.) function through a simple touch screen interface allowing customers to immediately rate their experience. By implementing this, the airport collects 1.5 million responses a month and uses the feedback to improve its operations2.
Traveler rates her experience while using one of the airports bathrooms.
- Service Workforce Empowerment and Experience Transformation (Sweet) initiative: This project aims at improving communication among the airport’s staff. Through an Ipad application, employees can access real-time operational data and coordinate tasks with their peers without having to be near a computer. It provides versatility and control to the workforce5.
- Smart Apron Initiative: The airport plans to install a Wi-Fi network to get internet coverage in 4 different terminals. The objective of this initiative is twofold; first, provide passengers with internet access and second, improve the airport’s flow of information. Through the use of mobile devices, the airport staff will have visibility over the location of different resources such as vehicles and equipment. It is estimated that 5,000 employees will benefit from this project6.
These are only a few examples of successful projects at the Changi Airport that have allowed the airport to differentiate its services from the rest and cope with the growing number of travelers. Changi Airport has done an outstanding job since it not only focused on how to improve their customer experience but also actively invested in their staff and operations to support the process.
As the airport continues its mission of accomplishing operational excellence, there is one additional “pain-point” that I believe they should address; the security experience. The latter, tends to be one of the most time-consuming and uncomfortable for travelers. With the use of technology, airports can reach customers through their cellphones, redirecting them to security checkpoints with lower queue times (not necessarily the closest to your check-in counter). In addition, security teams should install self-service mechanisms such as fingerprint and facial recognition devices to fast-track the process during peak hours. Improving the airport security experience while protecting the welfare of the people is not an easy task. Nevertheless, there are small steps that airports can take to alleviate the friction of this process.
By integrating digital technologies to its operating model, Changi Airport has achieved the perfect combination of high productivity and extraordinary service. Its initiatives have yielded groundbreaking results allowing the airport to be rated as the best in the world for 3 years in a row. Its thrive for continuous improvements through the mechanisms that it has in place has attracted customers not only looking to fly but also non-travelers arriving to eat and shop7. (Word count: 729)
- “Airport Infrastructure in Asia – PricewaterhouseCoopers.” Airport Infrastructure in Asia Coping with the Demand Surge. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
- “Technology the Backbone of World’s Best Airport.” CNBC. CNBC, 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
- “Exploring Digital at Singapore’s Changi Airport – IMD.” N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
- “Top 10 Trends That Will Change Air Travel Forever – Part Two.” Future Travel Experience. N.p., 2013. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
5 .”How IT Helps Changi Airport to Be Smart, Sweet and Swift.” The Business Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
- “Productivity Initiatives at Changi Airport to Reduce Reliance on Manpower.” Channel NewsAsia. N.p., 1 July 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
- “Airport Transformation through Digital Passenger Experience.” AviationPros.com. N.p., 6 Apr. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.