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Opinion: How technology is changing the way we think about air travel

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Written by: Hannah Baker | Posted 03 November 2017 16:17

Opinion: How technology is changing the way we think about air travel

Nigel Scott, Business Development Director at Bristol Airport, explains how technology is changing the way we think about air travel

Air travel has helped to shape the world we live in.  Sights, experiences, opportunities and connections that would have been closed to most only a few decades ago are now accessible for millions of people. 

Families and friends separated by great distances can remain close, businesses can reach customers thousands of mile away and students can experience new and different learning environments.

We have come a long way since the early days of commercial air travel, but the pace of change in our globalised world shows no sign of slowing.

Whether through new aircraft design, automation of passenger processes or changes to established business models, advances in technology present opportunities for airports.

Airports of the future will need to incorporate the latest technology, speeding up journeys, reducing queues and ultimately giving people more freedom over their journey.

Take the first step in air travel: booking. Dutch airline KLM has introduced a simple but innovative way of blending social media into the payment process.

Read more: Flybe appoints Bristol firm as new marketing agency

The airline can send messages direct to customers’ Facebook or Twitter profiles enabling them to click through to pay online.

Another example is easyJet’s app, which sends passengers a notification as soon as boarding begins.

On the day of travel, the airport process can begin before the passenger sets foot in the terminal.

Picture Bristol Temple Meads having a Bristol Airport drop off section on the platform for the direct train to the Airport, resulting in more space and comfort for passengers on the train. No more struggling with luggage on buses or in car boots.

While this may still be some years away, other changes to the travel experience are happening here and now. 

Bristol Airport saw self-bag-drop kiosks introduced earlier this year for passengers flying with easyJet, and this could be rolled out for all airlines by 2018.

Bristol Airport can also monitor the signals from bluetooth and wifi-enabled devices to track journey times between key points across the site such as the bus transfer from our Silver Zone car park to the terminal.

We can also monitor the performance of individual security search lanes and apply learnings from those which are performing the most effectively.

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This helps to build a picture of the total passenger journey ‘from kerb to gate’, identifying any bottlenecks and enabling prompt action to be taken. 

Digital technology is also changing the way people shop at airports, with traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers now offering online ‘click and collect’ options.

For example, World Duty Free lets customers browse online and reserve the items they want up to a month ahead of travel, collecting their items on departure.

But technology is not just changing the way we operate within the terminal. Advances in aircraft design and manufacturing could herald exciting opportunities for new routes from regional airports like Bristol, bringing new destinations within reach while reducing noise and emissions impacts on the local community and environment.

And there is a huge opportunity to improve the efficiency of the airspace these aircraft operate in by bringing UK airspace – which was designed in the 1960s – into the 21 century by fully utilising the latest precision navigation systems. 

These are just a few examples of the airport experience is changing.

How we prosper from these new technologies and platforms will be led by airports, airlines, tour operators and others, but it is ultimately you - the passenger - who will benefit.

As part of the development of a new Master Plan setting out its vision for 2050, Bristol Airport will be seeking views later this year on initial concepts for meeting the growing demand for air travel over the next three decades.

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