In case you haven’t heard, global airport traffic is going up, up, up. According to the Airports Council International (ACI) World Airport Traffic Forecasts, global traffic surpassed the 8.2 billion passenger mark in 2017 and is expected to double by 2034 and even further to increase to 20.9 billion by 2040.
While these figures present good (and let’s face it, challenging) news for the airport industry, ACI warns that surging demand “threatens to outstrip current and planned airport infrastructure in many regions around the world.” Airports are being called into action to invest in infrastructure that will be necessary to maintain a positive passenger experience and smooth airport operations.
When it comes to dealing with increasing demand in the airport environment, you have to consider wait times for everything from check-ins and security to boarding and even food service. Waiting is the demise of customer experience in any industry, let alone in travel. People just hate to wait. When looking at the impact more foot traffic will have on the length of waiting lines, we consider this from three key points of view: Passengers, airport operations, and the technology airports will inevitably use to manage both.
Known wait times feel shorter than unknown wait times. This is just one example of how passenger expectations fuel their perception of the experience. 42% of airports now have wait-time monitoring technology, up from 31% in 2017, according to SITA. With this technology, passengers can see real-time wait times for each queue. This visibility is shown to help reduce anxiety about the wait, but also helps to keep expectations in check and reassure people that their wait time will not be longer than they might think. Wait-time monitoring can go even further to alert passengers of alternate queues that might offer shorter wait times--another boon to the passenger experience.
From the passenger point of view, technology such as wait-time monitoring will serve them well as airport traffic continues to grow. We’re seeing airports embrace technology even deeper within the queues to facilitate passenger flow, call-forwarding, and service efficiency in order to keep the passenger experience at the forefront.
Looking at the future of airport traffic growth, it’s clear that technology has a large role to play. From this standpoint, technology in and around airport queues is helping to automate key tasks that impact both passengers and airport managers. Examples include sensors that detect passengers entering queues and displaying wait times on public displays and via management dashboards; sensors detecting when agents are available; and functions that automatically direct passengers to under-utilized queues or available agents.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic and under-appreciated benefits of technology in today’s airport environment is the impact it can have on airport operations--the ‘boots on the ground’ managing passengers as they go from one place to another. Whether it’s a line of agents at a customer service counter or a staff of security agents trying to move people safely and quickly through to their gates, today’s queuing technology can deliver real-time data into the hands of agents and managers alike. We’re seeing airports take hold of queue monitoring technology to maintain KPIs around wait times and align foot traffic trends with staffing to ensure wait times stay within acceptable range.
Airport travel is showing no signs of letting up. And that means waiting lines are bound to be an ongoing concern. Keeping in mind passengers, operations, and the ever-increasing capabilities of technology will give airports the perspective they need to develop a winning strategy.