It would appear the Fasten Seatbelts sign has finally been switched off and the worst of the turbulent conditions appear to be behind the air travel industry, as pandemic lockdowns and restrictions ease
With red zone limitations, vaccine passports, social distancing and uncertainties around passenger volume to overcome, it had seemed challenges were here to stay. In fact, a McKinsey report found that the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in airlines haemorrhaging $168 billion in economic losses in 2020. But, there is hope as the leisure air travel market is now showing signs of recovery, and whilst slower, the once-lucrative business travel sector is starting to come back too.
As restrictions have eased across the globe, the industry is working hard to build back confidence but also meet changed customer expectations around frictionless journeys. To achieve this, revive growth and ensure continued profitability, air travel operators are looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage that captures more of the available market while also minimising their costs.
Technological innovations are at the heart of improving efficiency and productivity for customer-facing airline operations. Automating processes on smart devices can enhance customer experience at every touchpoint, while actively reducing costs.
Winning the hearts of passengers
After two years of disruption, a smooth, frictionless journey is highly desirable for passengers, and offering this experience differentiates an airline. When facing unpredictable passenger volumes and changing safety requirements – which, let’s be honest, might return at any point – airlines need flexible and easy-to-implement solutions.
Using smart data capture on mobile devices has multiple benefits. Unlike fixed scanners, it enables customer service agents to perform multiple tasks anywhere in the airport. Airlines can automate processes such as check-in, security queues, lounge access, and luggage management, providing a modern, sleek impression from the first moment a passenger enters the terminal.
Compared with the old approach of using rugged devices at fixed stations, smart data capture on mobile devices delivers significant customer benefits and staff efficiencies. Airport queues have been big news recently, but with staff equipped with smart mobile devices, waiting times can be cut as they can patrol queues and scan IDs, passports and QR codes to speed passengers through check-in and deliver a more personalised experience – accessing details about a passenger’s seat preferences or dietary requirements, for example.
Customer service agents using smart mobile devices can easily manage oversized luggage presented at the gate and quickly check it into the hold. They can instantly issue vouchers to delayed or inconvenienced passengers by scanning boarding cards or codes, and provide smarter assistance when it comes to lost luggage. Giving an agent the power of mobility during check-in ensures that passengers who require assistance can be served at their seats, rather than requiring them to come to a podium.
Reducing operational costs with multifunctional devices
Managing the bottom line is critical, post-Covid. Replacing fixed hardware, like boarding gate readers, with scanning-enabled apps that work on mobile devices reduces the total cost of ownership by between 35% and 50%.
In the airport, efficiency is of the utmost importance. Freed from bulky hardware, agents can ensure faster flight boarding avoiding costly delays. Should a flight transfer from one gate to another, it’s a quick and easy task for customer service agents to pick up their mobile devices and walk to the new gate.
Using smart data capture solutions allows air travel operators to provide passengers with cost-efficient self-service options. By integrating smart scanning into a customer app or website, passengers can check in online, confirm their COVID certification or vaccination status, check in their bags and receive flight information. This helps to reduce congestion in the airport, ensuring a seamless experience and reducing costs incurred by delays or time-consuming procedures.
Employee onboarding and training is also improved when using a single smart device. The intuitive experience from a mobile app that employees are already familiar with eases acceptance and minimises the training required.
Smart scanning also provides opportunities for more upsells and cross-sells. More passenger insights are captured from the scans, and are available instantly, while the transaction can be easily completed with mobile point of sale.
Predicting the unpredictable
The global COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of future-proofing air travel operations. With customers flocking to airport gates in a post-pandemic world plus the risk of sudden changes in travel rules, having a scalable, flexible and cost-effective solution is the key to managing unpredictable passenger numbers in the coming months.
Scalability and flexibility are two significant advantages of smart data capture. Every staff member with a smart device can become a mobile agent delivering passenger services, so handling fluctuating passenger numbers and new operational demands is easy. It eliminates the need to have extra bespoke and expensive equipment to cope with peaks in demand.
So, with the worst of the turbulence behind the industry, passenger experiences can now be taken to new heights. By incorporating smart data capture technology, businesses can create seamless, cost-effective travel experiences through reduced costs, increased efficiencies and employees transformed into customer service superheroes.
About the Author
Christian Floerkemeier is CTO at Scandit. Scandit is the leader in smart data capture giving superpowers to workers, customers and businesses by providing actionable insights and automating end-to-end processes. Our Smart Data Capture platform enables smart devices, such as smartphones, drones, digital eyewear and robots to interact with physical items by capturing data from barcodes, text, IDs and objects with unmatched speed, accuracy and intelligence.
Featured image: ©Wong-Yu-Liang