The much-anticipated Aviation Festival Americas has come and gone. The conference rooms were packed with airline and airport executives from all over North and South America. Many sessions were standing room only – a testament to the industry’s collective desire to learn from and exchange ideas with their peers about how to satisfy the needs of their common customer – travelers. Two topics were on everyone’s mind: customer experience and innovation.
I hosted a roundtable on the role of airport IT in keeping digital passengers happy and spending. Joining me for the discussion were senior executives from DFW and Oneworld Alliance. I kicked things off with a warm-up question on the value of the digital passenger to airports, expecting an evenly paced discussion to follow. Yet, it quickly turned into a dynamic and energetic discourse, fueled by the executives’ passion for figuring out the best way to cater to the modern traveler.
Here’s what we uncovered and discussed:
- Airports are still figuring out how to play in the digital realm.
- Digital means control. Digital passengers expect to be in control of their experiences throughout the journey.
- The airport is part of the overall customer journey that begins well before the check-in counters; therefore, it should add value to the passengers throughout their entire time spent there.
- Significant challenges arise when digital expectations meet the airport infrastructure.
- Digital is transforming the industry in ways we cannot even imagine yet. The partnership ecosystem of tomorrow will be redefined by disruptors (think Amazon), when seemingly unrelated companies enter the business of transportation.
- Digital disruption has the potential to reduce airports and airlines to operations only.
- Digital experience is not yet defined in the aviation sector – who is going to define it?
- A word of caution from the early digital adopters – be careful of digital fatigue. Seek to strike the right balance between people and technology.
- Airports need to extend the infrastructure digitally and deliver it as a service.
- Airports need to develop or buy digital competency.
- Who will close the gap between the future digital end-state and now – the airports or the airlines? Today, pieces of the business are being changed, there is no all-at-once change happening.
- Complexity of the U.S. aviation system is a significant factor in digital transformation.
- The perception that some European and Asian airports seem to be ahead of the game is just that. Underneath, they are challenged by the same infrastructure complexity.
- Right now, technology is largely mediating (not innovating) pain points at the airport.
- The primary goal of airport IT should be to focus on the needs of the guest, on bringing the relevant content to the customers, and keeping them happy.
Deciding which priorities to pursue and understanding the related challenges are the important first steps airports must take. The next step is to identify the right partners to work with in pursuit of these goals.
FNT Solutions, the company I represent, is no stranger to helping the world’s largest enterprises untangle the complexities of their IT infrastructure. The air transportation industry is inventing new ways of delivering value to the digital passenger. The airports are becoming the centers for digital data collection and delivery. Holistic, transparent management of the IT and Telecom ecosystems is now a requirement for all transportation hubs. For that reason, FNT is at the heart of some of the largest European and US airports. Curious why Frankfurt Airport considers FNT one of their top priority systems? Click here to find out more.