Passenger self-service in airports has been around for a quarter-century now, but has it had a democratizing effect on all the stakeholders in the industry?
The promise of self-service has always been better operational efficiency and empowering the passenger experience. Although a lot of progress has been made over the past quarter-century, there are blind spots in the solutions deployed globally. Self-service is not synonymous with ease of use for all passengers – and it should be. Passengers of all demographics, especially passengers with reduced mobility, are still daunted by the thought of moving through an airport terminal, and self-service should be part of the solution. To achieve this, we need to take advantage of technologies like gesture control, voice recognition, computer vision and self-tagging bag drops, to eliminate restrictive interfaces and the cumbersome need to tag bags. Increasing levels of automation are used to make our daily lives more approachable; to achieve democratization in our industry we need to deploy it correctly rather than resting on the decades-old self-service model.
We understand the issue for some of the passengers, but surely self-service is only positive for industry players?
There are many positive aspects in implementing self-service equipment, which is why we see it being rolled out across airports of all sizes. However, there are still efficiencies to be made. From the airport point of view, the process of getting your airline partners onto the common-use platform is still cumbersome and for some carriers can take weeks of certification. Airlines often do not have the data to see whether they are getting the best use of the kiosks that have been installed and billed by an airport. What we seem to be missing is a transparent data platform for the airports and airlines to maximize their ROI from the kiosks. For passengers, passenger interaction with the devices should be natural, providing a far more usable experience.
What do you mean by saying that the design of your equipment is made with 100% of passengers in mind?>
Elenium aims to provide self-service options to all passengers who are interested, regardless of ability. And although our solutions are completely modular, designed to work with hardware and software from other industry players, it is a combination of Elenium hardware and software that provides our customers, and their customers, with the best experience. Our kiosks are portable, meaning they can be positioned for passenger convenience; the flexibility of our software makes the process less threatening by minimizing the number of screens to read and go through during a potentially stressful time. The usability also pleases frequent flyers, as they move through more swiftly.
At last year’s Passenger Terminal EXPO you presented the Elenium version of the tagless bag drop. How has your thinking evolved since then?
We will be introducing an automated bag-tagging robot, which will take over the task and remove the confusion passengers often feel when self bag tagging, while still ensuring the essential baggage identification process exists in the near term. Although the goal for the industry should still be paperless and tagless travel, this would be an intermediate step toward that.
Where do you think the industry will be three to five years from now?
We foresee an airport environment where solutions are flexible and deliver a positive experience to all travelers, regardless of age or ability – solutions that are driven by the cultures and languages of local passengers. Natural speech recognition and gesture control using a combination of human and machine interaction will facilitate this environment. And of course, in our industry many things should and can be standardized but one size will not fit all.
What are you planning to show at Passenger Terminal EXPO in Paris?
We will be presenting our vision of what this future airport terminal can look like, with kiosks for all travelers, which can sense who is talking to them, recognize hand gestures and guide them through the airport. Look out for our friendly bag drop that will tag your bags and ensure you are comfortable throughout the entire process.