The Air Travel Industry has seen multiple changes in its market throughout the past century. With the digital revolution currently underway actors in this sector need to embrace emerging technologies. Nowadays, one of its major challenges is the catastrophic passenger experience, which is critically impacting profit per passenger. Airlines and airports are turning towards Artificial Intelligence to solve this issue.


Smarter Airports

An Airport’s mission is to offer travellers personalized care from arrival at the airport to take off. This starts at the very moment a customer parks their car. Airport parking is very expensive and it is a nightmare to find a spot. Startups are leveraging Artificial Intelligence to optimize airport parking. For instance, Stanley Robotics, a French company offers autonomous parking valet for airports. These robots can park cars closer to each other enabling airports to offer cheaper parking. Automating the burden of parking makes passengers’ trips more comfortable.

Airports also aim at enhancing the travel experience by reducing wait time. To do so startups like Zensors use Artificial Intelligence to analyse CCTV footage and suggest how to optimise an airport’s operation in real time. For instance, when wait time is too long at security checkpoints, Zensors’ platform suggests opening an extra lane. Also, this smart video analytics solution can indicate if a section of the airport needs immediate cleaning or how to optimise the flow of passengers in restaurants and shops. By turning cameras into smart IoT sensors, airports can predict passengers’ complaints and respond to them in advance.


Enhanced Security

In addition to a smoother journey at airports, security is also an important aspect of passenger experience. New York University Professor Harvey Molotch observed that if people are anxious it is complicated for a human agent to detect a threat. It is unclear whether an anxious passenger is hiding something or whether he is anxious because of all the attention that is paid to him. Also, airports are using old fashion metal detectors and 2D X-Ray that are not suitable to deal with the recent increases in passenger traffic (Papiomytis, 2019). This is why there is a need for improved security to make airports safer and reassure passengers.


Using image recognition, an algorithm can scan baggages much faster than a human checkpoint operator and with more precision. Also, facial recognition is slowly becoming a prefered way to ensure airport safety. For instance, Anbot, a police officer robot uses facial recognition to uncover potential threats when patrolling the airport of Shenzen in China.


of airlines will acquire an AI-powered chatbot in 2020

Customer Service

With fierce competition, increasing customer support costs, and shrinking margins, airlines are being forced to rethink their traditional customer service methods. It is therefore a priority for airlines to improve customer service to enhance passenger experience. AI-powered chatbots are leading this transformation. According to SITA, it is expected that 68% of airlines will acquire an AI-powered chatbot in 2020. The reason for this predicted success is driven by two factors. Firstly, airlines are using chatbots in response to a change in demand. The prevailing demographic in the market is now led by tech-savvy consumers who have different communication habits and expectations. Customers avoid contacting companies by email or phone. They prefer to use social media communication channels and expect a reply instantly. In fact, according to a study by Nuance Entreprise, 67% of airline passengers prefer an automated communication channel over speaking to a human customer service agent. Therefore, if airlines want to stay competitive and please their current customers, they should use an AI-powered chatbot.

Airline now turn towards chatbots also because of the massive customer support sayings. The leader of chatbot in the air travel industry, Mindsay, claims that this technology helps companies reduce processing costs per call by up to 60%. Juniper has predicted that chatbots will save businesses over $8 billion per year by 2022. In addition to cutting costs customers are now better served and offered even more personalized assistance. Indeed, by spending less time on basic requests that a chatbot can handle, operators now spend more time with customers on the phone. During that time, agents can drive ancillary revenues upward by selling for instance, more leg room.


$8 billion

saved per year by 2022

Next Step  

Airlines and airports need to have a strong strategy to embrace this digital revolution. Firstly, an education and training strategy is essential to gain a competitive advantage. Secondly, Air Travel actors should be ready to face any challenges that arise while implementing such disruptive technologies. In other words, it should define clear strategies and systems to manage change faster than new entrants. Lastly, to achieve such excellence in passenger experience requires a strong implementation strategy. This includes prioritising resources efficiently, for instance, by allocating a larger proportion of its retained earnings in Research and Development. They should be able to execute AI projects quickly and accumulate up-to-date in-house expertise to stay ahead of new entrants. This will enable airlines and airports to become initiators of the next Air Travel digital revolution.


Written by Vincent Marotte


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