Technology comes centre stage

March 27, 2019

Pierre Charbonneau, director passenger experience & facilitation for International Air Transport Association (IATA), the supporting organisation of the forthcoming Passenger Experience Week 2019, understands the important role collaboration and knowledge sharing plays in delivering new solutions that can enhance the passenger journey. Supporting this year’s inaugural PAX TECH HACK, here he tells Onboard Hospitality about the importance of industry partnerships, and reveals how airlines and airports can improve operations through the advancement of new technologies.

What do you think of the new PAX TECH HACK at PTS?
I believe this industry has a unique edge over many others in the fact that most people do travel for business or pleasure, and everyone has their own view of what could be improved. The next generation of aviation professionals are increasingly immersed in technology, and by working with technology suppliers and software developers, the pool for which new ideas can be facilitated is unlimited. Initiatives like the PAX TECH HACK is crucial in helping to stimulate innovation for the industry.

As the official supporting organisation for Passenger Experience Week, we’re happy to participate and support the inaugural PTS hackathon and look forward to seeing solutions created live on the show floor, before crowning the winners on Thursday, 4 April.

Which are the technologies to watch?
There are many technologies being used for different purposes; open API’s, airline apps, the use of beacons and Bluetooth for passenger flow, chat bots in customer service areas like call centres, biometrics, RFID for baggage tracking – are just a few examples. Onboard connectivity is also quickly becoming a technology that airlines will not be able to avoid for long, as customers expect to be connected at all times.

How can biometrics and services such as IATA’s One ID improve the passenger experience?
The main benefit for the passenger is that all of their travel credentials (identity, travel authorisations) can be transmitted to the relevant stakeholders before and during the journey, so that the passenger does not have to stay in line at every touchpoint and can go through all the journey at walking pace, without being interrupted unless one stakeholder has a valid reason to intercept the passenger. This is a huge improvement over today’s experience!

For airlines, the main benefits will come from process efficiencies, enabling ground staff to deal with exceptions, or people requiring special attention. Accurate passenger information will also reduce the costs of transporting inadmissible passengers. A significant benefit for airports will come from having the ability to process the increasing volumes of passengers without necessarily having to invest capital in larger infrastructures. This in turn should reflect a better customer experience, where passengers can enjoy the airport offering be it the lounge, a restaurant or the duty-free retail for longer before they board for their flight.

The use of biometrics can also help governments, border control agencies and security agencies to process more customers because they will have a better knowledge and assurance of the traveller’s identity, increasing the level of security and therefore allowing their agents to spend more time questioning the customers as needed, instead of being pressured to validate the travel documents and then perform the questioning.

What are the wider opportunities for biometrics?
In addition to the operational considerations described above, the interoperable use of biometrics by the industry can be extended to other modes of transportation from cruises, taxis and trains, to connect with hotels and allow for payments of products and services. If the industry finds a way to use passenger’s biometrics in a standardised and harmonised fashion, this can potentially transform the customer journey in an amazing way! This will be the focus of a panel discussion that I look forward to joining at this year’s Passenger Technology Solutions event.

The session, taking place in the PTS Seminar Theatre on Tuesday, 2 April at 11:45 – will offer attendees a chance to learn from early adopters of biometric identification technologies. I’ll also be sharing insights from IATA’s visionary concept, One ID, which is designed to eliminate repetitive ID checks at security, border control and the gate, helping to create a more seamless, connected journey.

What other technologies are having an impact?
Right now, we see that augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are being trialled for training purposes and for the onboard experience. Before too long, hopefully all passenger baggage will be equipped with tracking devices so customers will know where they are at all times. Big data will allow for a lot more personalisation of the travel experience and quantum computing may also bring innovative ways to handle customers, to name a few.