September 22, 2020

How Automation Can Drive Business for the Airline Industry

autonomous self check-in kiosks at airport for airline industry

The air travel industry transports billions of passengers each year. In fact, according to statistics, in 2019 “the number of scheduled passengers boarded by the global airline industry reached over 4.54 billion people.”

Shuffling all these people across the globe is no small feat. The airline industry is a 24/7 cycle of take-offs and landings and a balancing act of meeting increased security and consumer demands.

Airports and airlines face many tough challenges especially when it comes to customer satisfaction and continuing to drive business.

To continue to build loyalty and brand recognition airlines have tried to meet customer service demands with lower pricing and increased route offerings; however, research shows that service is the key to increasing business and gaining travelers that will remain loyal to the brand.

According to NATS Aero, “almost a fifth of people would travel further to fly from a specific airport to get better service...” Consumers increasingly want better service and to feel in control of their travel.

Intelligent Automation Can Mean Better Customer Service

Some of the biggest pain points when flying occur in airports due to the number of flights, the organization involved, and even the weather.

Consumers have all but demanded easier check-in processes in addition to more self-service options. Airports have introduced amenities such as e-gates for self-boarding and at checkpoints, pre-check options, and much more. Data increasingly shows consumers want their airport and airline experience streamlined.

Global Example—England

In a recent article on International Airport, Chris Wilson, the Head of Terminal and Capacity at Birmingham Airport in England details the self-serve benefits of using SSBD (self-service bag drop). This automated function allows travelers to print their boarding passes, weigh bags, print luggage tags, and place luggage into the baggage systems all on their own, thus limiting time in lines or working with airport customer service professionals.

Wilson goes on to point out that since “introducing the SSBD system to the airport in January 2018, passengers are being checked in 12-15 minutes quicker in comparison to using the traditional method of check-in desks, and queue times have been reduced by an average of 10 minutes.”

Additionally, over the last two years since adding the SSBD kiosks to their ASQ (Airport Service Quality), scores have consistently gone up for “check-in times” and “airport staff efficiency” showing a direct impact on customer service satisfaction.

Global Example—China

In China, airports are adopting the use of intelligent automation to increase customer experience as well. Much of the data tracking that has been done in China shows that consumers want more automation when it comes to travel.

According to SITA, many airports across the region are planning to expand their intelligent automation amenities with “88%” of airports and airlines planning to implement these by 2022.

These added autonomous additions are a direct response to what travelers have asked for: “SITA’s research of passengers in China shows that 64% of them want a digital travel concierge. Already nearly half (43%) of airlines in China have AI-driven chatbot customer services and the planned investment should see the availability of them rising quickly over the coming years.”

Automating parts of the travel process like these allows passengers to feel in control and frees up airport staff to focus on more serious and pressing issues where having a human involved makes the customer service aspect incredibly important.

Additionally, clients feel happier because they are in control of their travel, the process is more streamlined, and they feel like there is less waiting in lines—thus reducing stress and tension—resulting in the likelihood of using the specified airline or airport more often.

Intelligent Automation Can Help With Visual Aesthetics

Creating a clean and healthy space is more important than ever and allows consumers to feel more relaxed and at ease while traveling.

As we see increasing focus on cleaning for health and well-being it is even more important to show the consumer how and when cleaning is being done and this is especially important to airlines as they work to get air travel back to “normal.”

Supporting airport cleaning staff with autonomous floor cleaning equipment like ICE Cobotics Cobi 18, an autonomous floor scrubber, can free up staff to focus on other high-priority tasks like bathrooms, waiting areas, and any high touch point surfaces.

Staff can set Cobi on its route with a few simple taps and then focus on high-priority cleaning while Cobi cleans the floors.

Cobots can work alongside staff to help make sure quality cleaning is done often while supporting staff with efficiency and productivity.

On top of that, intelligent cleaning equipment with fleet tracking software allows end users a visible representation of confirmed clean (meaning they can track their equipment, including when a job is started and when it is completed).

In addition, reports track performance, routes cleaned, and run times, along with any troubleshooting that needs to be done to improve routes and processes.

Clean environments are important to consumers and using intelligent automation to make the cleaning visible can help drive business and boost customer service.

Data Collection to Make it Personal

In another example, Delta Airlines has also started using data to speak directly to travelers to make the experience more personal.

According to Telus International “Delta impressed a customer when a flight attendant on her return flight took the time to personally apologize for the delay the customer had experienced on the first leg of their trip.” Using data-collecting tools throughout the entire process allows airlines to make a significant difference in their customer service—which travelers are looking for.

Collecting data allows airlines and airports to work ahead of travelers too and to track their patterns—giving customer service agents a heads up with specific customers.

Telus International points out “Knowledge-management bots can improve the accuracy and relevance of agent responses by creating a hierarchy of existing consumer information that enables them to anticipate future requests based on past queries.”

Intelligent automation helps airlines and airports predict their clients' needs giving them a leg up on customer service and thus driving future business.

ICE Cobotics is an industry-leading technology and cleaning equipment company specializing in automation and all-inclusive subscriptions.

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