The customer is king in the airline industry, and it’s a fierce race to win over the throne. Airlines are competing on price, service and geography, yet they must do more to offer hassle-free travel for customers who want to move seamlessly from point A to point B.
Airlines have explored self-service options to provide customers speed, convenience and control. The goal? Offer 80 percent of global passengers a complete, self-service suite by 2020—improvements that could potentially unlock $2.1 billion in savings.1 Strides were made in improving the customer experience by leveraging mobile technology in areas such as check-in, flight rebooking and baggage recovery. Yet the end-to-end experience is still not smooth.
Near-field communication (NFC) can remove some of the turbulence. NFC is a wireless technology that can assist in a number of transactions across ticketing, baggage, security and more. Customers want such improvements: 90 percent want to be checked-in and know their seat, 68 percent want travel documents to be validated and 34 percent want their bags tagged while checking in.2
Multiple use cases. NFC can help make an airline traveler’s experience more enjoyable while reducing costs and enhancing security for airlines. Ongoing innovations offer several opportunities to speed up the entire process at the airport, reducing queues and enabling airlines to increase capacity—and revenue.
Booking. With NFC, an electronic ticket can be downloaded securely to a mobile device and stored on the phone's chip. Reducing the need for printing boarding passes reduces associated costs.
Check-in. NFC readers within the airport can enable immediate local check-in, triggering issue and delivery of the boarding pass.
Boarding. NFC readers can automatically admit passengers who have valid boarding passes on their phones, thereby minimizing the need to staff the gate.
Security. Similarly, unmanned security gates equipped with readers automatically admit passengers who have valid boarding passes stored on their phones.
Payload. Using NFC, airlines can track the weight of passengers, cargo and food to help ensure maximum utilization and cost-efficiency.
Customer service. NFC readers can facilitate airport or in flight purchases and allow travelers to earn loyalty points or cash in frequent flyer rewards.
Slow to take off. With so many benefits for companies and customers, why is it taking so long to get NFC off the ground? First, airlines have traditionally given priority to service, looking to offer better entertainment or onboard perks that would improve the travel experience.
Second, most airlines are using outdated, siloed technology. To truly improve the customer journey, digitization must be end-to-end with technology transformation happening at an enterprise level.
Third, transformation is not easy to implement in some countries. Adding complexity is the fact that requirements differ all over the globe.
Fast forward. In the future, connected aircraft will empower customers to craft their own experience, from the entertainment to the meal to the seat location. NFC can help airlines get one step closer to achieving this heightened customer experience.
1 International Air Transport Association (IATA), Fast Travel Program Strategy, January 2015
2 International Air Transport Association (IATA), Global Passenger Survey, https://www.iata.org/publications/Pages/global-passenger-survey.aspx