alison-fitzgerald.jpgGood customer service is delivering an experience that inspires positive sentiment.  It’s making your product stand out from your competitors, making adjustments and creating solutions to problems before they are encountered.

In an airport, the main problems people face are all to do with time.  Time spent at check-in, the time it takes to get though security, having time to relax once airside, not having to rush to find their gate, and taking off on time. On arrival, it’s the time it takes to get through passport control, the wait at baggage reclaim, and how easy it is to get to their onward destination. 

With record numbers of passengers travelling through London City Airport (LCY), the airport must create solutions to these time-related issues that could present problems not addressed.  The solution is technology.

Automation of processes empowers the customer to take control of their own journey.  Online check-in is not new, but with the proportion of passengers downloading their boarding pass to their mobile phone increasing from 12% to 19%[1] in the last 12 months, it is certainly a growth area.

LCY has introduced new self-service check-in kiosks that serve multiple airlines. So rather than having to go to the airline’s designated area and use one of their designated kiosks, any kiosk in any location can be used to check in and print boarding passes. 

Two of LCY’s airlines are using Phase 5 kiosks, which enable passengers to weigh and tag their own luggage, as well as paying any excess charges.  The passenger then takes the tagged luggage to the bag drop podium, cutting queuing time to under a minute.  The airport is working towards enrolling all of its airlines in this system.

Combined with the improved functionality of airline online check-in, the latest research shows that 74% of passengers now check themselves in – a kind of Digital DIY – whether printing a boarding pass at home, downloading it to a mobile phone or using a self-service kiosk. Just one in five now visit a manned check-in desk.

After check-in, the next stage of the journey is getting through security.  LCY has worked with a company called Crowd Vision to develop technology that enables the monitoring of crowd flow through the airport.  A traffic light dashboard shows potential bottlenecks building in any area so action can be taken – dispensing more staff to manage queues or opening up extra security lanes, for example.  The airport is in the process of reconfiguring its security search area, with longer lanes and improved technology, which is significantly improving passenger throughput.

In London City Airport’s departure lounge, passengers can take advantage of unlimited free wifi, and the free-to-use Bloomberg Hub, with bespoke news feeds, universal charging points, Bloomberg terminals and built-in tablets preloaded with Bloomberg apps.

Passengers can get the latest information on flights without leaving their seats, by tweeting @LCYflightinfo.  The automated feed will send gate numbers and timing updates, in a service not offered by any other airport in Europe.

Meanwhile, the airport operational teams are busy preparing the aircraft for departure.  New technology has been introduced on the airfield to aid communication between teams involved in the aircraft turnaround process, such as marshalling staff and baggage handlers.  At the touch of a button, each party can see when tasks have been completed and where each element needs to be at what time to fulfil its role. LCY has a target of 30 minutes for aircraft turnaround, from arriving to departing again.   

For arriving passengers, the introduction of ePassport gates in the last 12 months has doubled capacity at passport control, helping to keep the airport’s promise of a tarmac to train journey of less than 15 minutes.

These are just a few examples of the important role technology can play in improving the customer experience.  It will continue to evolve in the future, with burgeoning Smart cities demanding Smart airports – airports that are part of joined-up transport, service and information networks, providing a ‘front door to final destination’ experience for the passenger.

The location of London City Airport in the heart of the technology hub of East London, it is fitting that the airport is leading the way in Europe.  The next technological breakthrough that will transform customer service has probably not yet been invented.  We will continue to work with local and international tech developers to find it and make it reality.