Automating data capture and monitoring services levels means airlines and ground staff can reduce delays and improve passenger satisfaction levels
Improvement in the passenger experience is now key for all elements of air travel, and airlines and airports are implementing technologies, processes and innovations above the wing to enhance this. However, much of the passenger experience is impacted below the wing and beyond the control of the passenger and, in many cases, these services are subcontracted by the airline. Therefore, can the implementation of technology, processes and innovation below the wing have a positive impact on the customer experience?
With such fast turnaround of aircraft nowadays, passengers form an orderly queue at the gate as soon as they see the aircraft approach. But there is a considerable amount of organised chaos below the wing, which, if not efficiently dealt with, will negatively impact on the passenger. Everyone wants to avoid delays and ground handlers in particular
can be liable for significant penalties if delays are down to them. No one wants to board an aircraft that hasn’t been properly cleaned and there is an expectation that the cabin crew will be able to serve the whole selection of meals,
snacks and drinks available on the menu. And without exception, every passenger expects their bags to be at the carousel when they arrive at their destination.
Innovation can now be used in the form of tablet applications and mobile devices that give access to data below the wing to automate traditional paper-based systems. Automated baggage reconciliation systems capable of being deployed ‘in the cloud’ enable accurate matching and loading of passenger bags. This ensures timely departure and process control of ramp turnaround – and should mean that nothing is missed. Accurate recording of activities is essential, and additional services are captured and recorded at the ramp, leading to accurate billing and fewer invoice disputes. For the passenger, it means their aircraft leaves on time, their bags travel on the same flight, and their
expectations are met
Dependent on the size of the aircraft, turnarounds can vary between 20 minutes and 2 hours, and typically 20% of all the additional services delivered to successfully prepare an aircraft don’t get billed. They are lost in the organised chaos below the wing. Even when the aircraft is ‘off blocks’, payment for what has been delivered is not necessarily guaranteed. Tasks, often measured against agreed service levels, are regularly recorded inaccurately.
For example, if the crew can’t board the aircraft until the cleaning has been completed, and late boarding of passengers is regarded as the reason for the delay, it must be clear who or what is responsible. Disputes mean delayed payment, and delayed payment impacts on profitability and growth, and stifles innovation. However, automating data capture, monitoring service levels at the ramp while tasks are being completed, and offering an automated audit service to the customer – as soon as the service has been delivered – reduces (and possibly eliminates) these kinds of disputes and results in faster payment and profitability.
These types of innovation are available today. ‘Big data’ is being used by airports and airlines to access passenger information,preferences and travel history in order to offer tailored services for the passenger, but the deployment of technology below the wing offers enormous benefits to the ground handler.
Whatever the cloud and mobilisation brings in the future – either above or below the wing – the passenger remains king.