Hi-Tech Travel Advances For Travellers
Running airlines and airports have always been hi-tech affairs, but the industry as a whole is now increasingly switching the focus on the passenger experience, whether its ensuring swift entry and exits, staying connected, or simply keeping them safe and secure.
We take a brief global run through of the technology latest which you may just be coming your way very soon:
At Copenhagen Airport, travellers are being quizzed on their ideas of what the airport of the future will look like and what it should have. The best ideas will be voted on by other passengers and the most popular could well be incorporated into the airport.
The airport is one of the most advanced in getting feedback from passengers and evaluating the responses. As the airport's e-commerce director, Karen Bender, put it: "We would like to know more about what they are missing at Copenhagen Airport and to get their ideas for new, odd, fun or different facilities that they have come across in other parts of the world.
“It does not have to be at an airport..... as long as it would contribute to making Copenhagen Airport a more exciting place to travel from.”
Over in the US, border officials are launching a mobile passport control app which enables travellers to provide passport information and a customs declaration form via a smartphone or tablet on arrival.
It has been put on trial at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with the aim for swifter throughput of passengers.
Emirates is reaching out to visually impaired passengers as it becomes the first airline to offer audio description soundtracks on its in-flight movie system. Some 16 Walt Disney movies have been adapted with a voice recording explaining scenes.
Patrick Brannelly, Emirates’ vice president corporate communications product, publishing, digital and events, said: "Making entertainment accessible to our diverse customers is very important to us. It was our motivation to introduce movies that can be enjoyed by customers with visual difficulties."
Emirates will roll out more audio descriptions to in-flight content in the not too distant future.
Meanwhile San José International Airport is looking to cut queues in a hi-tech way, with two global entry kiosks. Passengers can scan their e-passport, provide fingerprints and make a customs declaration, enabling them to whizz past queues to see US border officials.
While the drive to deliver wi-fi is being taken up by most leading airlines, a survey by Honeywell Aerospace seems to confirm what all passengers are thinking: wifi on a plane will trump every time.
The second annual report looking at the importance of in-flight connectivity to travellers, revealed that of 1,000 passengers questioned in the US, in-flight wifi availability influences flight selection for nearly 70 per cent.
While nearly a quarter would switch providers due to wi-fi availability, 85% of those polled said they would use wi-fi on most or all flights if it was offered free.
My Lounge comprising wi-fi, a quiet study area and a games room, has been opened, targeting the more laid back traveller, at Gatwick Airport. It follows on from the opening of business workboxes near departure gates to allow travellers to do last-minute work before boarding.
Meanwhile Qantas is taking the interactive digital concept a step further with QView, linking travellers' personal devices with screens in lounges to display relevant news and flight information. Stories will be beamed together with real-time boarding and gate information.
“We know our customers are turning to their mobile devices to access the latest news and sport content. By integrating this with personalised flight information, including up-to-the-minute boarding times, walking time to their boarding gate and weather at the destination, our customers will be able to find the information they need in the one place,” commented Olivia Wirth, Qantas Group Executive Manager Brand, Marketing and Corporate Affairs.
The list of hi-tech innovations goes on - this time with British Airways trialling a 'happiness blanket'. It uses neuro-sensors to measure the electrical fluctuations in the neurons of passengers’ brains, and changes colour depending on their state of mind.
The aim is to monitor passengers’ sleep and relaxation patterns during a flight, with the results being used to identify which aspects of the onboard experience can be improved.
A group of volunteers onboard British Airways’ Dreamliner service to Newark Liberty International Airport trialled the blankets. They had to wear a headband linked to the blanket, and when they were in a state of relaxation, the fibre optics woven into the blanket turned blue, and they were stressed or anxious, the fibre optics turned red.
Passengers were relaxed when they were able to fall into deep sleep, while moods varied when initially settling in to their seat or when watching movies. Mood improved noticeably when enjoying food and drink.
Monarch Airlines is following up its launch of new seats with built in table holders, with a new wireless in-flight entertainment system linked to passengers’ electronic devices.
Travellers can connect with the onboard wireless network via their tablet and watch movies, programmes and listen to music.
Back on the ground, Etihad Airways has drafted in mobile boarding passes which can be used by travellers from 13 cities. Passengers can check-in using their iPhone and choose to have their boarding pass either sent directly to their device and saved in Apple’s Passbook, or emailed to them as a PDF.
Frankfurt Airport has announced it will become the first airport in Germany to offer unlimited access to free wi-fi in the terminal. With more than 300 wi-fi access points, the new concept is in line with the airport's Great to Have You Here!’ service.
And Chinese low-cost carrier Spring Airlines has become the first airline to equip flight attendants with Google Glass to help them identify specific passengers who had requested food and beverages.
Smart-glasses and smart-watches are the new trend for a host of airlines, so be prepared to see this wearable technology onboard an aircraft soon.
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