During your long transatlantic journey, your mobile phone runs out of charge. You rush to the airport's charging station only to find all ports occupied. How often have you faced this exasperating situation?

Helsinki and Chicago airports are now trialling inductive charging stations, which wirelessly transfer electric charge to a device.

Welcome to the airport of the Future – recognising the passengers increasing need to charge devices during transit, airports are putting in place systems. Not just devices but electric vehicles could be inductively charged as Lufthansa is now experimenting at Frankfurt Airport.

A new report by global travel technology firm Amadeus, called “Reinventing the Airport Ecosystem” has a whole chapter devoted to how technological advances – especially in the mobile apps area – could change the future of air travel.

As the report points out, citing an Ericsson study, in 2011, 85 per cent of the Earth's population already had mobile coverage and 1 billion had broadband access. Nimble footed companies have been quick to use apps and cloud-based services to be in synch with the digital operating environment of today's consumers. Similarly, airports and airlines are spotting the opportunity in how they can drive down their fixed asset costs, by making use of the customer's portable infrastructure, points out the report. To give an example - airlines and airports can easily ‘monetise' the mobile channel by getting passengers to purchase additional goods and services such as pre-boarding flight upgrades, suggests the report.

But before trying to monetise the mobile relationship, the Amadeus report recommends that airlines and airports should focus their attention on delivering relevant, time-critical procedural information on events impacting their journey to passengers over the mobile channel. Based on passenger surveys, the report highlights how for passengers it is important to get essential airport and flight information, notification of gate opening and flight boarding, offering alternate routings on flight cancellations and compensation offers and coupons.

It also points out how social media has been embraced by airlines and airports alike with 69 per cent of airlines selling or planning to sell tickets via social media networks by 2014. Already, social media is being leveraged to pass on valuable information feeds such as was seen during the volcanic ash disturbance over Europe that disrupted airline schedules.

There are other e-innovations taking place. Airports such as Singapore Changi and Dubai are using touch-screens for airport navigation and passenger entertainment with games and media. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport have adopted an application that utilises data mining and predictive analytics to help forecast landing fees and optimise their collection.

“Tomorrow's airport will become a data-rich environment, populated by a range of devices that enable us to interact with literally every object present,” says the report. By mining this data and tracking consumer behaviour, the report suggests, that airports and airlines can offer personalised and destination relevant offers.

(This article was published on June 10, 2012)
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