5 things that annoy most at airports & how top destinations are fixing them for your convenience

Juha Mattsson

Enough for those sad, airport security related news of recent weeks. Let’s focus on airport convenience for a change. 

Almost every time I visit an airport there’s a few ‘usual suspects’ - things that almost every time make my travel less pleasant. To check whether you agree, I decided to list my TOP five airport annoyances below. 

However, to be solution centric rather than problem centric, I also added short descriptions of how top airports are getting ready to fix these problems with modern in-store analytics and location technology.

1.   Where should I go next, and how to get there?

“Where’s the check-in desk? How to get to the security & departure halls? Where’s my gate? Lounge, ohoy, lounge, where are you? For transfer flights, turn left, right? And my baggage arrives.. where exactly?”

Most of these questions arise from the fact that airports are large, complex structures, and it’s difficult for an individual to navigate. Especially so under a time pressure and multiple simultaneous things to deal with.

However, most of us have Wi-Fi enabled smartphones which means airports are able to use indoor positioning technology to let our devices know our location with a few metre accuracy - of course given we first opt-in for such location based services. With this location information, the airport app on our smartphones is able to suggest and show wayfinding instructions to places where we want or need to go.

The same technology can also be used by airport operators to analyse aggregate level passenger flows at the airport, detecting queues and crowding, and then using that information to optimise layouts for best possible fluency.

2.   Oh my goodness, look at that queue!

This is the moment you’d like to stretch your tongue over your head all the way to the neck, and swallow. You were just standing 15 mins on the line and here we go again.

Here we come to using indoor location and analytics technology to count how many people we have standing in queues, and also determining waiting and throughput times for everyone’s knowledge.

What makes this more sexy, though, is the ability to estimate queue formation based on understanding how much footfall can we observe arriving at other areas such as train and bus terminals, parking, and airport entrances. With such information, airports are able to react and allocate staff to critical locations, ensuring fluency.

Passengers using airport apps may also be notified of alternative security points and routes, especially if their travel & gate information is known.

3.   Hungryyy! And hurryyy! Where can I get a proper burger?

Should I grab my nutrition from this kiosk, or maybe there are still further points for culinary enjoyment down the way? You know the drill. Casinos are more fun for gambling.

We already spoke of wayfinding, but what if your smartphone could get even smarter? Just by knowing your location, flight schedule and a few personal preferences, with a simple logic the app could give you some quick suggestions of places to eat, and how to get there.

With people flow analytics, real-time information of restaurant occupancy (i.e. the count of people in a given restaurant) could affect the selection, too!

4.   What the heck will I bring home from the shops? Any ideas? Any offers?

Connected to Wi-Fi, past security, and stomach full -- that’s good progress through Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs! So next there’s the need to satisfy some social demands, and maybe even some hedonistic purchases for your own enjoyment.

Here we come to the retail side of things, and how retailers are presently using indoor people flow analytics and people counting to optimise layouts, shopper marketing and store location, based on actual customer behaviour. Airports, just like shopping malls, use indoor customer movement patterns to develop their store mix & layouts to ensure best possible shopping experiences.

And just like the restaurant example above, smartphone engagement can be used in association with any service to trigger location based notifications for special and personalised offers offers, recommended services, and so on.

Finally, the contents on airport signage and ad displays can be modified based on detailed analytics on the surrounding people flow patterns, to maximise their relevancy at any given time.

5.   Give me that baggage cart!

You know the carts are somewhere out there, but they are not here where a few dozen of passengers would need them right now. If only the carts would know their location and alert someone to reorganise them.. Hey, wait a minute!

Yes, baggage carts, shopping trolleys, indoor vehicles, accessibility equipment, all can be equipped with so called asset tags, i.e. small battery operated Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices that allow easy monitoring of the location of those items throughout every corner of the airport. And if it’s a wrong place, alerts can be sent to the right person.

Getting someone to actually collect and assemble them is another story, though.

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Walkbase provides a retail analytics solution for improving the impact of marketing on physical stores and personalising in-store shopping experience.