What are the three most annoying aspects of taking an international flight from pretty much any major airport?
- Occasionally things don’t go the way you have planned, you are late for check-in, airline staff is unsympathetic and you either miss the flight or, at the very least, stress out that you might.
- If you are not familiar with the airport, you often have a choice between arriving at the gate too early and sitting in a cramped space or passing the time in a café or shopping and then sprinting across the longest terminal on earth.
- Already on board, you fancy a drink or a nibble, push an appropriate button and it takes eons for staff to come to you and then another 5-10 minutes to bring you what you want (mostly in Economy, but occasionally in Premium Economy or Business – depending on how busy the route is and how efficient the service is).
Most airlines have developed mobile apps to strengthen the bond with passengers by providing basic assistance (e.g. mobile check-in) and mining the data along the way (hopefully – to design even better experiences).
Many airlines could fundamentally improve customer experience and make their applications actually worth downloading by providing digital infrastructure for additional services.
What if passengers felt airlines to be more sympathetic towards latecomers?
- A passenger could register his departure location (home or hotel) 12 hours prior to the flight and receive helpful tips on how to get to the airport on time.
- When leaving for the airport, the passenger would then signal the airline he is en-route.
- The passenger’s movements would subsequently be tracked via geo-location and should he arrive a little late through no fault of his own (traffic jams, broken trains etc.), the airline would send a member of staff to greet the passenger by name and fast-track him.
- Should the passenger be late through his own negligence, he could still use the same service, but for a premium fee (which could be taken in-app).
What if the app became a helpful, user-friendly airport guide?
- Inside the terminal, the app could follow passenger’s movement and offer the fastest route to the gate, indicating how much time it will take.
- Not in a hurry? The app is a perfect platform for an interactive map, indicating the closest eateries with menus, service speed and distance from the gate.
- Passengers who are after duty free deals could compare what’s offered on the ground with what their airline offers in the air. This could also help airlines run highly focused promotions.
What if the app became a tool to communicate with the crew?
- Passengers would be able to pre-order food and drinks to be served on the plane.
- The app would also contain a full list of products and services available on the plane, so that if a passenger wants another mint tea (Merlot) – he could order it though the app, cutting the service time and conserving the energy of the crew.
What if the app became an entertainment channel?
An obvious application, still not adopted by most. Most people travel with their tablets or laptops, which are usually of superior quality to on-board entertainment systems – let them use those to watch in-flight entertainment programmes via Wi-Fi.
Finally… (and these are basic requirement, really):
- Airlines need to be generous and offer free Wi-Fi inside the airport building as well is on-board.
- Gate areas should offer basic refreshments (at the very least – water), electric chargers and an entertainment programme (again, available through Wi-Fi) to reward and not punish those, who spend time in the airline’s domain and not in a bar.