Recently the innovative potential of airports sparked some media interest as Google’s Larry Page announced his plan to start a new innovation hub named Google Y to tackle large societal problems and develop a model city and the world’s most efficient airport.
Looking back at your last airport experience, this may seem a substantial task. But nevertheless airports are improving and developing in recent years with a strong push towards economic efficiency. Research by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver indicates how highly efficient airports generate a large part of their revenue from auxiliary income sources such as real estate rentals, retail in terminal buildings, parking as well as outsourcing terminal activities to third party providers. Among the most efficient airports are Copenhagen Kastrup International or Zurich Airport.
However this drive towards economic efficiency and the large scale of airport costs which need to be counterbalanced often result in a lopsided effort to make money from about anywhere creating meandering shopping malls instead of welcoming airport terminals. A recent example of this shopping mall trend can be seen at Stansted Airport which just upgraded its terminal in a million-pound transformation aiming to increase customer revenue by 10%. But by blatantly increasing the amount of high scale shopping opportunities, huge potential for disruptive innovation and creative design thinking is left untapped.
Building up on current tech and marketing trends, the following innovative approaches give an overview of potential service innovations that could help shape future-proof airports that take efficiency beyond economic perspectives.
Seamless connection for a premium
Take a traveller who is departing from Stansted and is in a hurry. To save time there is the Stansted Express, fast lane security, and the opportunity for priority boarding. Currently these amenities are only offered as separate options. But how about incorporating them into a single exclusive offer directly connected to a ticket. Giving some guarantees like a maximum transfer time from the city railway station to your seat. Or even better from door-to-door. Partnering with Hailo, Uber, local transfer operators and airlines along with airports could result in dedicated offers bookable ahead. And building up on the democratization of air travel this should be available to everybody albeit for a premium. It’s time for offline offers to follow integrated solutions such as tripit.
Turn waiting time into relaxation
Instead of rushing through an over-the-top shopping mall snaking through the airport and limited seating options along with overpriced wireless, why not make the time between security and boarding a pleasant experience where users are in a mood to sample regional specialties and stock up on souvenirs. Take an example from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, which offers a free library and a museum featuring Rembrandt.
Instead of plastering the airport with billboards, allow visitors to interact with a brand. Waiting time could be spent at a Netflix Cinema or preparing your tablet for the flight in the Google Play Offline Store. Or build up on the fact that many travellers are returning from a trip to visit family members and would love to go back right away. Leverage this urge and set up a travel agency booth in corporation with the tourism board, a major airline and AirBnB.
Work together with the arrival airport and offer tickets for ground transportation or fast lane immigration. Arriving to an empty fridge? Why not work with Just-Eat (or the regional equivalent) and have pizza waiting when you come home. You could even inform the pizza company if your flight is delayed.
Allowing third party providers to create apps and services based on information about security waiting times, bus schedules, flight trackers or retail coupon codes could spark additional innovation and a streamlined experience, all by simply creating a dedicated airport API.
At the bottom-line, the airports economic situation relies on the generated revenue. But by branching out and offering genuine service innovations along with a well-orchestrated marketing and retail platforms taking customers into account, efficiency can increase overall.