Customer Experience Featured Article

Beacon Technology Improves the Air Travel Customer Experience

 
October 22, 2014



To most people, the idea of getting away for a while is appealing. Whether it’s a trip to another country to go sightseeing, enjoy nature or simply do nothing for a couple of days, many vacations can be enjoyable experiences for lifetime, or at least something that allows one to recharge their proverbial batteries.


It’s getting there and coming home that provide the most grief. Flight delays, hassles with security, lost luggage, missed flights and a failure to get the latest flight information can ruin what should have been a great vacation. Fortunately, beacon technology can solve some of those problems.

In an Airport World blog, Donald Stuart, CEO at Brainstorm Mobile Solutions writes about beacon technology playing a larger role in air travel. Its location tracking capability can provide important information to travelers and airline personnel. For example, a beacon detects a passenger leaving the security area after completing TSA screening. The latest flight and gate information is sent to that person’s smartphone. They can also be notified about shops and restaurants and if they walked past their gate. Airline agents will know that this person and others have passed security screening and adjust the boarding process if necessary.

Beacon technology not only takes many of the hassles out of air travel, it can be critical to helping passengers with disabilities. San Francisco International Airport started testing a beacon system last summer that provides audio instructions to help visually impaired travelers find their gate or any other point of interest.

The technology has some logistical challenges that have to be ironed out to ensure smooth operation. SITA Labs worked on a beacon deployment recently at London’s Heathrow Airport and made a major conclusion from the experience: beacons should be a common-use infrastructure provided by a centralized entity like the airport authority. To allow each airline to install a separate beacon system would be chaotic. They could interfere with each other and with existing systems that use radio waves like WiFi (News - Alert).

Beacon technology will never be able to eliminate all the hassles that come with air travel. It can’t do anything about the weather and it won’t eliminate the need for security screening, but it will go a long way in providing travelers and airline staff useful and timely information when it is needed most. 




Edited by Alisen Downey

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