While today's airline travellers have things easier than those before them - ie. those who weren't able to rely on smartphones, apps and the internet - they still have to deal with a number of hurdles and siloed processes that cause frustration and dissatisfaction. But a range of new technologies look set to transform the choices available, providing an enhanced travel experience.
As the Future Travel Experience website recently reported, the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) - a collective of the word's leading airlines, suppliers and related companies - is shifting its sights from the in-flight experience (IFE) to the wider air travel process.
Speaking to the publication, APEX CEO Joe Leader explained that because IFE is now "offered in airline lounges and downloaded in 30 seconds from kiosks before the aircraft takes off," it was a "natural evolution" for the company to explore every aspect of the traveller's journey.
Now, APEX's goal is to encourage airlines to also shift their thinking to the future of the passenger aircraft experience, as well as "the holistic view of airline passenger experience in the airport and on the ground."
For Leader, the most crucial issue that needs to be addressed is making the process more logical, seamless and streamlined. Rather than passengers having to log in through different methods and applications, passengers should be remembered from the moment they book to when they check in, right through to after they have landed. This includes providing them with flight updates, directions to their gate, automated onboard purchases and even baggage claims.
Technology will, of course, play a major role in boosting the passenger experience. Joe Leader and Brian Richardson - President of APEX and director of Aircraft Interiors, IFE and Connectivity for American Airlines - summarised the most prevalent trends we are likely to see in the years to come:
Mobiles and wearables
A growing number of passengers are booking flights and travel options through their mobile device. According to Leader, they have seen mobile adoption reach over 50% in most locations around the world - which they expect to surpass 80% in the near future. As he stresses, when a passenger is looking for an immediate answer or solution, they'll turn to their mobile or wearable device.
"The use of in-flight Wi-Fi for operational purposes is happening today, and the introduction of larger pipes and faster speeds to the aircraft only expands those opportunities," said Richardson. "Weather, medical, customer service and payment processing will all benefit from that bandwidth."
We will also see a continuing shift towards the customer device, as well as greater personalisation, predicts Richardson. But he doesn't think this means the end of embedded systems; "the customer device can be a great complement to the existing systems. Customers already multi-task, and this will continue," he stated.
Leader concluded that the growing adoption of mobile and wearable devices, along with improved connectivity systems and increased personalisation, will "wildly" enhance the passenger experience by 2025. Watch this space!
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