The following post about airports going mobile appeared on The Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog.
It’s the hippest trend in airport fashion: going mobile via airport-specific apps or mobile-optimized websites.
Already, many of the United States’ larger airports—including Dallas Fort Worth International, Des Moines International, Pittsburgh International, and San Francisco International—have begun providing travelers with mobile content via native apps or mobile-optimized websites, while many other U.S. airports plan to follow suit.
Meanwhile, a survey by air transport communications company SITA found that 91 percent of airports around the world are planning to develop an app that helps passengers navigate terminals, while another 83 percent plan to use a mobile app to share real-time updates for local traffic and airport wait times.
Why all the clamor for mobile content? It turns out going mobile can benefit both the airports themselves and the travelers who pass through them. Here’s what this trend means for you.
For the Benefit of the Traveler
As travelers continue to adopt mobile technologies, they expect more from the customer experience in virtually all aspects of travel, particularly in the form of native apps and mobile-optimized websites—and this is certainly true of the airport. Around 77 percent of frequent business travelers and 67 percent of all passengers report toting along smartphones every time they fly, while 51 percent of business travelers with smartphones report using their phones to check their flight status. As more and more travelers adopt mobile technologies, the demand for personalized, up-to-date, and mobile-friendly communications will only continue to grow.
While airlines and trip planning sites have taken the lead on developing travel-specific apps and allowing travelers to book tickets, file complaints, and receive updates via mobile technologies like smartphones and tablets, airports are now starting to take notice.
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, for example, has introduced more than 40 mobile apps in the past two years alone, reports USA Today. The airport (the world’s fourth busiest) has made it a priority to streamline the traveler experience by developing apps that allow users to do everything from finding out which parking garages are full to navigating the airport terminals via mobile maps, accessing or changing flight information, locating the nearest airport shops or cafés, and determining wait times for food lines within the airport.
San Francisco International Airport has adopted a similar approach to mobile communications by thinking about how mobile tech can ease the travel experience. In July of last year, the airport launched an app that makes it easier for visually impaired travelers to navigate the terminals by providing audio directions, and it plans to expand these services to a wider range of travelers.
Other mobile initiatives at airports around the world include real-time flight information (including notifications about arrivals, departures, delays, cancellations, gates, and baggage), calendar integration, destination weather forecasts, information regarding ground transportation and hotels, airline contact information, and the option to interact with and save mobile-friendly travel itineraries.
All told, the goal is to minimize the stresses of travel and make the process of navigating the airport more pleasant for all travelers (and that’s good news for anyone who’s worried about making it through security or finding their gate). So far, it seems like this approach is working: Airports that have utilized mobile-optimized websites and native apps are already seeing improvements in customer satisfaction.
For the Benefit of the Airport
Of course, the impetus for airports to go mobile isn’t purely philanthropic. Airports that utilize mobile technologies enjoy a competitive advantage over their non-mobile counterparts as they earn reputations for ease of travel. Mobile content also promises to reduce airports’ customer service costs as travelers help themselves instead of needing to be helped (Self-service check-in and bag tagging are prime examples).
Going mobile also allows airports to operate more efficiently at all levels, as employee-specific apps can empower airport workers to perform their jobs more quickly and effectively. Case in point: At Dallas Fort Worth International, developing apps for employees to use on the job has resulted in over 43,000 previously manual functions being completed electronically (yes, 43 thousand).
These apps can assist workers in performing a wide variety of tasks ranging from issuing repair tickets to inputting reports during airfield inspections, to creating work orders for problems that need to be addressed. They also make it easier for employees to communicate with each other and respond to issues—such as a broken luggage conveyor belt or a bathroom spill—in real time.
Even these airport-specific benefits can extend to travelers. If airports are operating more efficiently and issues are dealt with more promptly, that’s good news for the millions of people who pass through airports on a daily basis. All told, the increasing mobilization of airports should spell good news for the world’s travelers.