Improving the passenger experience: key focus on day one of the Amadeus Airport IT Conference

Iyad Hindiyeh

Global Head of Solutions and Business Development, Airport IT, Amadeus IT Group

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Drive-thrus and chat bots were just a couple of the surprises on day one of the Amadeus Airport IT Conference 2016. What unites both concepts is the application of technology to transform and improve the way passengers are handled at airports, and therefore the overall experience travellers receive.

Amadeus Airport IT Conference

Rowan Chalmers, Perth Airport’s Executive General Manager of Operations and Customer Experience explained how the airport is revolutionising check-in with Amadeus’ Common Use System (ACUS). According to Chalmers, “With ACUS’ cloud-based nature we can take check-in anywhere.” And that’s just what Perth has done. As Chalmers went on to explain, for the major Liquefied Natural Gas convention held in Perth during April the check-in and bag-drop process was conducted on-site at the event, catering to 10,000 guests. Such flexibility has meant Perth Airport can continue to innovate with plans including construction of the world’s first drive-thru lane at an airport, allowing check-in and bag drop processes to be completed outside of the terminal. Chalmers summed up the logic, “90% of our passengers arrive by car and the drive-thru means we can free up terminal space with a relatively low-investment construction. It wouldn’t be possible without ACUS being in the cloud”.

A key question throughout the day was “who owns the customer, the airline or the airport?” AENA’s Chairman and President Jose Manuel Vargas believes it isn’t a question of one party or another owning the traveller relationship “the traveller is on a journey and we are all part of that journey at different stages”. Vargas continued by explaining how AENA, the world’s largest airport group by most measures, has undergone a successful business turnaround culminating in a doubling of its share price since the IPO last year. Plans for the future include an increased focus on ‘virtual infrastructure’ and the role digital can play for an airport “We recognise we should be more technology focused and as the commercial element becomes more important for airports we should be looking to digital technology”.

In terms of the future passenger experience chat bots could soon be transforming how travellers interact with airlines and airports according to Amadeus’ Head of Airport IT Product Management, Holger Mattig, “Chat bots are an interface for travellers to pose questions to a machine empowered by Artificial Intelligence. Bots can return a relevant response and customers can swipe a card to pay for a service. It’s automation in action.” Mattig continued to explain that such innovation is a focus for Amadeus over the next 12 months and that select airlines in Asia have already deployed the technology.

John Jarrell

John Jarrell, Head of Airport IT, Amadeus IT Group

During the opening Q&A session John Jarrell, Head of Airport IT at Amadeus shared his view that common systems are a critical foundation for enhancing the passenger experience - helping airports to standardise, whilst maintaining the flexibility to adjust their own processes based on customisable business rules. Jarrell also revealed that Amadeus’ Airport IT division is now working with over 230 customers worldwide “It’s been a tremendous three years and we are now pleased to be working with 230 customers. Yes around half of those customers have come via acquisition, but the remainder have joined organically, and that’s a great vote of confidence in our approach.”