If airlines and airports come together to share their data, they can turn the dial on personalisation by delivering the hyper-relevant experiences that passengers demand.

You’ve just reached your destination. Down in baggage reclaim, everyone else has collected their luggage and headed off. But your bags still haven’t appeared on the conveyor belt. And the helpdesk can’t help. Sounds familiar?

Even the best trips can be spoiled by incidents like these. It’s just one example of the disconnects that get in the way of seamless travel experiences. And, of course, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In the situation I’ve just described, collaborative data-sharing between the airport, the airline and the baggage handlers would result in a very different outcome: the passenger would instantly be able to get an update on where their bag was and when it would reappear.

Amazing steps forward…

We’re seeing some amazing innovations in what airports have to offer in APAC as well. Take Jewel Changi Airport. After S$1.7 billion in investment and four years of construction, it’s significantly augmenting Changi’s stature as a leading air hub and boosting its appeal as a stopover destination for travellers from around the world.

Jewel has taken what airports can offer to the next level, no question. The next transformational opportunity for airports and airlines in the APAC region? Providing hyper-relevant, seamless passenger experiences that really take the drag out of travel. The technologies needed to deliver these experiences are already available. All that’s needed to put them to work is more collaboration.

Who owns the customer?

Up to now, friction between airports and airlines has stood in the way of broader collaboration. It’s easy to see why. These are complex relationships, after all. Although airports supply services to the airlines that use them, both sides are in ongoing competition for a share of the customer wallet.

The core of the issue? Ownership of the passenger relationship. Because airports own the wifi networks, there’s been an assumption that they also own the data flowing through those channels. And that’s meant that airlines have had very limited opportunities to communicate with their passengers in most airports.

That needs to change. Better communication and more collaborative data-sharing between airports and airlines would have transformational benefits. By supporting truly seamless passenger experiences, this would boost loyalty and open out a whole new range of commercial opportunities, with airlines and airports sharing in the overall increase in spending.

Collaborative data-sharing in action

It’s not just the baggage reclaim experience that could be transformed. With a collaborative approach, the average passenger journey time through an airport could be cut by a third. Data-sharing between airport, airlines and border control can be used to support biometric-enabled self-service – from couch to gate (through a mobile app) and/or from kerb to gate (via self-check-in kiosks).

This is already being rolled out at Heathrow Airport while, in Canada, the ‘Known Traveller Digital Identity’ system is being trialed as a way 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 ahead of travel.

Or what about turnaround management automation? Between them, airlines, airports, ground handlers and air traffic control handle a mass of operational data. If it was all brought together and accessible in real time, it would be possible to predict an event’s on-time performance with real accuracy.

A great example is Gatwick Airport’s ‘AirTurn’ collaboration tool which manages aircraft turnaround times and enables parties including handling and ramp agents, air traffic controllers and airlines to share information seamlessly during a turn.

Predictive security screening, reduced risk of delays, and faster, smoother passenger connections would all be possible. Dublin Airport is one of the pioneers in this field, using integrated data and advanced analytics to vastly improve forecast accuracy.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Airport recently introduced an integrated airport operations system, using predictive analytics model to plan for the impacts of flight delays on end-to-end passenger flows and allocate border control, check-in and baggage handling resources accordingly. Over time, the system will incorporate third-party data, including weather events and traffic information, to expand the real-time data available for analysis. Once again, the technology is available. All that’s needed to take advantage is more collaboration.

Other initiatives show how it’s possible to turn the dial on personalisation. easyJet’s collaboration with Gatwick Airport provides a great example. Their Mobile Host app combines live data from Gatwick’s information systems with the passenger’s flight itinerary and maps of the terminal to provide passengers with personalised instruction and updates.

It’s already possible…time to take advantage

And all of this is just the start. Once data-sharing becomes the norm, there’s massive breadth of potential for new services that will reinvent the passenger experience. Smooth, free-flowing personalised journeys through airports will become the norm, not the exception.

Dynamic airlines and airports are already creating frictionless, hyper-relevant travel experiences, investing in digitalizing operations and, crucially, collaborating with partners across the travel ecosystem to create new value for the customer. For APAC’s airlines and airports, there is everything to gain from doing the same. I’d love to hear your views on this, so please get in touch. Meanwhile, thanks for reading.

Mike Tansey

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, Travel, Growth Markets

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