Biometrics :The Checkpoint of the future.

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If you have recently travelled from any airport in the world, you would have noticed an obvious change in the entire security and boarding process. I’m talking about Biometrics here.

During the past few months, it has become clearer than ever before that biometrics technology will be at the heart of the airport of tomorrow.

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A number of international airports, including the likes of Changi Airport, SingaporeKempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru and Hong Kong International Airport, have emerged as front-runners in Asia, with all three committing to major biometrics-related projects that will play a crucial role in shaping the passenger experience.

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And not just for the travellers, biometric solutions have begun revolutionizing the airport experience for all its stakeholders involved – airlines, airport operations, vendors, government, and law enforcement agencies.

Up until about five years ago, biometrics was what we used in our mobile devices. Remember using your fingerprints to unlock your phones?

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Well today biometrics and facial recognition is bent on creating a seamless digital transformation in the aviation environment. This will enable a paperless, biometric-enabled passenger journey from registration to boarding. Facial recognition technology will identify passengers as they move through the different airport touch points, removing the need to present boarding passes, travel documents or passports at every stage.

And the focus on making travellers safer and the customer experience more convenient throughout the aviation journey – everything from check-in, bag-checks and security to airport shopping is taking shape.

Security is, of course, of the utmost importance, and rightly so – given the times we live in today.

Airport Security Groups along with Customs and Border Protection personnel are working daily (and nightly) to keep our skies safe, which is why biometrics is so important to the security process.

Having the ability to instantly verify that documents are valid and to match the identity and confirmed reservation of the traveller ensures that only genuine passengers move towards the boarding gates on the other side of the security line.

Biometric security enhancements are more accurate at screening individuals as well as quicker to get the lines moving faster through security.

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With the ability to predict wait times, passengers are able to spend more time doing what they choose, from relaxing in the lounge, to visiting duty-free shops.

Big change cannot be driven solely by the technology alone. More collaboration among industry stakeholders is critical to the success of the digital revolution in commercial aviation, for a better customer experience, improved commerce, cost and time-savings, optimized security and smoother airport operations.

Next time you’re at the airport, think about how biometrics could be improving airport operations, and making your life more secure.

 

 

 

 

 

OS:NEC Today; FTE
PC:Changi Airport; CondeNestTraveller; ABC News; CNA; APEA; CNN

Qantas ‘Project Sunrise’

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There is a palpable excitement in the air. The clock is ticking on, following the announcement that Qantas has put out on for testing an extremely long haul flight from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

Both Boeing and Airbus are working on providing an aircraft with ultra-long-range capabilities. The chosen plane needs to be capable of flying 10,573 miles nonstop, a journey which is pegged to take in the range of 21 hours in total.

Qantas will select the aircraft by end of this year. Till then the global attention is on the airline and speculation about its choice of aircraft is mounting.

‘Project Sunrise’ is Qantas’ goal to operate long haul research flights to gather data about both passenger and crew health on flying such a long journey. Three flights will be conducted in October, November and December and the data gathered will be used to track the health and well-being of passengers and crew members on board the approximately 19-hour long flight.

The Australian airline will carry 40 passengers and crew on two flights from New York to Sydney and another from London to Sydney.

The test passengers on the flights will mainly be Qantas employees, as well as scientists. Passengers and crew will be fitted with wearable technology devices to monitor sleep patterns and food and drink consumption, and to see how lighting, physical movement and in-flight entertainment impact their health.

For passengers the key will be in minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight.

For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximize rest during these flights.

Long-haul travel takes its toll on the body. Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that can form particularly in the legs, is one peril. Nausea, Jet Lag and back pain from sitting for too long are another.   Airlines like Qantas will have to consider allowing more space for passengers to move if it goes ahead with its ambitious plan of across the world non- stop flight..

If all goes well, Qantas aims to operate regular, non-stop flights to London and New York from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as soon as 2022/23.

Frankly for business travellers this could be a time saver but I have my doubts whether any family with kids would be keen on taking this flight. It would be an absolute nightmare keeping the kids cooped up in such a long flight. The lack of space, boredom and sheer monotony of air travel would be such a bother even with business class seats –read flat beds.

What about you? Would you be sold to the idea of flying non- stop from Sydney to New York for 21 hours straight? Please share your views in the comments.

 

 

 

OS:SimpleFlying; AustralianAviation; Business Insider
PC: Qantas

 

 

Show them you care.

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After spending years training newbie entrants in Automated Ticketing, Tourism and Soft skills in the field of Aviation, Travel and Tourism, I can’t help but notice the customer service delivered to me everywhere I go, whether I am shopping, dining, or even travelling. I guess the trainer in me still has that ‘Hawk Eye’ when it comes to service.

Great customer service is the holy grail of any business. Competition in the marketplace has made it crucial for businesses to spruce up on not only their hardware but more importantly their software – aka employees.

Having said that, customer service training is and should always be the top priority in organizations having multiple customer touch-points.

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In fact service approach needs to be in the DNA of the organisation. Only if product, policies and strategies are designed keeping customer’s wellbeing in mind that a good service experience can truly be delivered by customer interfacing teams.

Today travellers are more demanding than ever. They have more power than they used to. They are smarter and have higher expectations than ever before. They are more up-to-date and better informed today, as technology has made it easier for them to do their homework.

Smart travellers – empowered travellers – know what options they want hence airlines, travel companies and hotels must be equipped to meet customers on their terms, when, where and how they want.

In the Aviation industry good customer experiences are of great significance. Customer demand is about meeting and exceeding expectations and making the customer feel special with a more personalized experience.

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For example; Emirates, provides the so called ‘Knowledge-driven Inflight Service’, which enables cabin crew to operate with greater efficiency and provide a more heightened level of service to the airline’s customers. This technology enables the crew to know the customer’s preferences and issues that might have occurred during their previous travels thereby enabling the carrier to offer personalized service, unrivalled within the industry and for which the airline prides itself upon.

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Closer home, SpiceJet provides a host of offers like ‘Hot Meals’ on board which is a paradigm shift for Low Cost Airlines. It is a great delight to customers, and a differentiator for the airline. ‘SpiceBiz’ the new Business Class offering at affordable fares, and a premium product called SpiceMax which has spacious seats with extra leg space, complimentary meal, Priority Check In, Bags out first, etc. – all at a nominal charge.

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Eventually the best way to retain your customer is knowing what they need. Courteous staff, ease at checkin /boarding, inflight service, are just few of the ways you can keep your customers happy. Airline Loyalty programs and club memberships offer exclusive benefits such as a complimentary pick up service to the airport and also at the final destination, or a Lounge access card at departing airports to its First or Business class passengers.

Unfortunately, complaining passengers are on the rise. They have complaints, sometimes frivolous, about their journey. A delayed flight for instance has the twitterati in a twist. Passengers start abusing and condemning the airline not realising the reason could be genuine for such delays.

Aircrafts are not supposed to be standing on the tarmac forever. They are supposed to ferry passengers in the air. Most airlines have a tight turnaround time and if the aircraft is delayed from the originating airport for some reason such as inclement weather or offloading the baggage of a gate-no-show passenger, this cartwheels into delays at further sectors.

But people have no clue about the intricacies such as time slots, availability of runways, crew rest coming into effect, and many other factors involved. Passenger safety is of utmost importance to any carrier. And delays are as much a part of air travel as on time performance.

In the past, when customers had a complaint, they’d speak to a gate agent or call the airline. Today, they’re more likely to post about their problem on social media, including Twitter and Facebook — which means the world is watching to see how the airlines react.

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Furthermore today the impact of social media trolls influences the passenger’s choice a great deal. It has therefore become crucially important to have a knowledgeable team at the helm of all Social media platforms, to capture the Voice of the Customer and provide quick, helpful, understanding and encouraging response and support, in a timely manner.

Airlines always keep trying their best to keep their customers happy. For instance, incase of a delayed flight of more than 12 hours, most airlines would offer a hotel stay until the next flight becomes available or rebook/transfer passengers to another airline, space permitting.

Air travel can be a confusing experience for a first time traveler. The customer service team must be able to convey timely and useful information to the passengers through their Apps, emails, WhatsApp, SMS, and other social media channels.

Keeping all customers happy at all times is as elusive as finding a unicorn. Providing flawless service, however, is not always easy.No matter how many customer service surveys are conducted, much of the customer psyche will forever remain of ‘yeh dil mange more’ !.

All said and done, in today’s world of competitiveness, service industry must invoke technology to couple training and fine-tuned SoP’s to deliver top notch, proactive and personalised customer service to keep their customers loyal.

 

Madhavi

 

 

 

PC: Twitter;Bloomberg;SmartCitiesWorld;Emirates;Spicejet;Future Travel Experience;AfroMum

 

A photo walk through the TWA flight center

 

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The last time the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at Kennedy International Airport saw a weary traveler was in 2001.

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The flight centre has since been closed until May 2019 , when it reopened and transformed into the lobby of the new TWA hotel , the only on site airport hotel.
Offering an homage to a past era of aviation, today the terminal’s twin corridors lead you to the TWA hotel with 512 rooms.

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What was once an ‘Arrivals hall’ , is now the reception area of the hotel . The check in desks of the terminal serve as the reception desk .

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Lining the walls are the many pictures of the cities TWA  once flew to.

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Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.

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Walking into the Flight Center, you are greeted first by a vintage Lincoln in the porch. As you enter you see a ticking departures board and a hostess dressed in a purple polyester TWA uniform. Moving on the graceful staircase, the Sunken Lounge, huge window panes, and a view of a restored TWA plane on the long-abandoned runway..

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A cocktail lounge in a repurposed Lockheed Constellation L-1649A from the 1950s stands outside the new hotel. Four large sofas and eight vintage airplane seats reupholstered with a retro pink and orange plaid seat the guests .

 

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The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.

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There are multiple places to eat throughout the TWA Hotel, such as the Paris Cafe, located on the mezzanine level of the historic building. The 200-seat restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves food inspired by in-flight menus from TWA.

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For quick meals, what was once the ‘Departures Hall ‘ now has a mini food-court style offerings and coffee carts.

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Located through the terminal are the multiple memorabilia reminding you of the aviation era gone by.

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Whether you’re an avid plane spotter or just love rooftop bars , the Pool Bar at the TWA Hotel is worth visiting . Looking out over JFK’s Runway 4, you can watch JetBlue and Delta planes take off while sipping a cocktail at the bar or while swimming in the infinity edge pool.

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The TWA hotel at JFK Terminal 5 takes you down memory lane with a marketable “story” and some absolutely wonderful ‘Instagrammable’ photos.

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Personal;TWA Hotel;

 

 

 

Amazon.in goes beyond being just a marketplace.

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I am such an online shopping kinda person. Be it apparel, FMCG, books, personal items or electronics, I just love seeing and usually end up buying  some of them on Amazon.in

Imagine my surprise when yesterday I noticed that Amazon India  has also included flight bookings.

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Available only in India at the moment on domestic sectors, customers can now also do flight bookings and avail rewards and cashbacks in addition to shopping, money transfers, utility bill payments, mobile recharges – all of this in one single app.

How cool is that?

Does this mean that having started selling flights, this behemoth seems getting ready to devour all the large OTAs (Online Travel Agents ) globally?

Sample this: As per Forbes, 2019, Amazon.com transacted goods and services worth USD 916 Billion, as against only 160.5 Billion transacted by Delta, United, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Southwest, Expedia and Cleartrip – put together ! This makes Amazon 5.7 times larger than the 5 top airlines and 2 largest OTAs combined.

 By partnering with Cleartrip in creating best in class travel experiences, Amazon.in is enabling the existing customers to do more with their app and their Prime members can now avail more value from their membership.

Despite the abundance of meta search engines, like Kayak, and Google Flights, and OTAs, finding the lowest-priced airfare is still a tedious process. Amazon hopes to change all that by offering the lowest possible price. Amazon potentially has a large impact in travel, both from a booking and advertising perspective.

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Airlines such as Vistara UK, GoAir, SpiceJet, and Indigo were among the carriers offering flights through the service.

Amazon.com is the world’s largest eCommerce marketplace till now focusing on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming and artificial intelligence. And is one of the Big Four technology companies along with Google, Apple and Facebook.

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Amazon Prime Air, is a cargo airline brand name for Amazon’s freight delivery service based in Ohio. And we have also heard that Amazon is building an airport outside of Cincinnati to have greater control over their shipping by air and remove the need to use third parties like FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

Now that Amazon is expanding its footprint in travel, do you think we will soon see a commercial “Amazon Air” flying the skies anytime soon?

Stay tuned to more information on this exciting news!

-Madhavi

 

 

 

PC: Newsroom Miami Intnl Aiport; Amazon.com;Amazon.in

Technology Trends that facilitate Smart Travel Experiences

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Technology is much like the Joneses- always up to something new. Frankly you just can’t keep up with it however much you try.

But the usage of technology is not new to Aviation. Back in the late 20’s a variety of technological navigation aids such as rotating lights or radio navigation aids would help pilots achieve a smooth and safe landing. Then towards the 40’s Instrument landing systems (ILS) used the best features of both approach lighting and radio beacons with higher frequency transmissions. Over the past few years many airports/pilots are using global positioning system (GPS) in addition to ILS. The GPS has become a primary method for navigation between airports and is exceedingly precise.

It is critical for the aviation, travel and hospitality industry to keep up-to-date with the emerging technology trends so as to nail the (CSQ) customer satisfaction quotient. Nonetheless, with such major breakthroughs in technology, it is playing a very vital role with its capability to increase the effectiveness of business operations and improve the customer experience.

 

Internet of Things (IoT)

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The internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, have the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. (IoT) involves internet-based inter-connectivity between everyday devices, allowing them to both send and receive data.

To explain simply; Smart homes that are equipped with thermostats,  appliances, heating, lighting and other electronic devices can be controlled remotely via computers, Smart phones or other mobile devices, is a example of IoT.

Similarly IoT technology is being used in hotel rooms to provide customers with a device that connects to everything from the lights, to the heaters and air conditioning, allowing all to be controlled from one place. At airports, this may mean using sensors and sending information to passengers Smartphone’s, alerting them when their baggage is nearby and allowing them to locate it faster.

 Recognition Technology

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The technology includes finger print recognition, facial recognition, retina scanning and various other biometric identifiers. Such technology is already being used in some hotels to allow access to rooms via finger prints, or to allow for semi-contactless check-outs.

As the number of travellers grows, airports have started to turn to biometric technology. This speeds up various airport processes by allowing passengers to complete check-in and go through security or passport control without having to deal with a human agent.

 Robots

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One of the most exciting technological developments in recent years has been the increased prevalence of robots in hotels, right from text-based chatbots and robotic assistants, to security robots, being used on the front desk as customer information points. The main benefits are their ability to function 24/7, without needing breaks or motivation, providing greater consistency than humans would be capable of.

With a constant need to improve airport security, robots are being deployed in some locations to assist human security staff, for the purpose of detecting concealed weapons and other hidden items that are not permitted on flights.

Chatbots are used to guide customers through the online booking process, asking intelligent questions along the way for seamless travel bookings 24/7.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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Perhaps the most obvious use is with chatbots possessing the ability to deliver rapid response times to problems or queries.

In fact, one of its most popular and effective uses is for gathering and interpreting huge amounts of data quickly and accurately, in order to draw conclusions about pricing strategies, revenue management, customer feedback from surveys, reviews and online polls, and even intelligently manage inventories, in order to build a clearer picture of current opinion, in real-time.

Blockchain

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Although blockchain technology can sound confusing at first, it is actually pretty simple. Ultimately, it is a list of public records, where transactions between parties are listed or stored.

Despite automation, payments and settlements in the travel industry continue to be challenging and time-consuming. A complex distribution system, frequent cancellations and refunds, add to the operational challenges. Blockchain can bring in the seamless integration, agility and speed required between multiple players.

One of the most crucial aspects of blockchain technology is that data is decentralized and is more secure, traceable and transparent along with being resistant to modification and unwanted tampering. The decentralised nature of the blockchain means that information can never go ‘offline’ or be lost through accidental deletion or a malicious cyber attack, ensuring transactions are always traceable.

The travel industry relies upon different companies passing information between one another. For example, travel agents pass on customer details on to flight companies and hotels by way of overseas payment or loyalty programs. Blockchain makes accessing and storing important information securely and more reliably.

Airports use blockchain technology for tracking the movements of luggage, especially when dealing with international travel especially when the passenger uses multiple carriers and journeys to arrive at a destination. Using a decentralised database makes sharing tracking data between companies a lot easier.

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For companies operating in the travel industry, it is essential to keep up with the latest technology trends. Understanding and adopting the trends allows the businesses within the travel industry to provide a better experience for the customers as well as aid in optimizing revenue management and overall business performance.

 

-Madhavi

 

PC-Future Customer; Airport Show; Hotel Technology; Digital Trends.

 

Off the beaten track

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PC:Pexel

Do you remember what your doctor ordered you to do, to keep your body happy and healthy? Err, do apples ring a bell?

Great! So if I ask you what it is that you should do to keep your soul happy? What would you say?

Well in my opinion it has to be travelling.

Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if every couple of months, we would be able  to take short weekend getaways, far away from the hustle and bustle of the daily life.

A chance to stay in a fancy hotel, eat delicious food prepared by top chefs, lie on the beach drinking cocktails and going shopping sounds like the ideal way to de-stress away the daily grind.

Of course there is no doubt that indulging in luxe travel is absolutely fabulous, but sometimes let’s make that adventure junkie in us take over and have us explore new places as they are meant to be seen.

So how about getting off the beaten path and away from sponsored tourism?

If you really want to ‘see’ the place and ‘feel’ the experience rather than just taking a vacation, then here are some ways you can go about it.

Try backpacking

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PC:Unsplash

Rather than staying at five-star hotels or dining in Michelin star restaurants, go away from the glitz and glamour of tourist hot spots. Try Backpacking. It allows you to see a destination in a completely different way. It’s a much more humble way to get around and appreciate a destination for what it really is beyond the conventional tourism.

Of course you’ll mainly be traveling on foot and or by public transport which will enable you to really immerse yourself in the place you’re in, allowing you to see it as the locals would and not simply as a tourist. You’ll be discovering places that you simply wouldn’t come across if you were on package tour. Not only is it an inexpensive way to travel, but it can give you really meaningful experiences. You will leave a place feeling as though you know it, rather than just skimming the surface like you would as a tourist.

Stay somewhere different

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PC:Kerela Tourism

Instead of staying in a hotel, why not look into different accommodation options when you travel? For instance if you are in Kerela, try staying in a houseboat. The experience you will have will be like no other. Or you could choose an AIRBNB rather than an upscale hotel. It’s a lot cheaper and can completely change the feel of your trip. There are plenty of websites which offer home stays and vacation rentals with the entire house if needed.

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I have personally had some amazing stays at Washington DC and Montreal at comfortable and well maintained AIRBNB’s .  Although these were a little further out from the main tourist destinations, it allowed me to stay in a location that I may have never found, had I stayed at a hotel. Or if you are solo traveller you could look into travel hostels, these are cheap and cheerful and can be a great way to meet other travelers.

Once you’ve decided on your destination, do your research and consider different options for where you could stay. Going with something a bit more unique such as Houseboats, or Swiss Tents could add another dimension to your trip and make it extra memorable.

Speak to the locals

Speaking to the locals is one of the best ways to find places that are off the beaten path. There are certain streets that bring out the vibe of a place. And speaking to locals would certainly help in exploring it.

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On my recent trip to Singapore, walking through the streets in Kampong Glam, I was pleasantly surprised to find Haji Lane. It’s fabled to be one of the narrowest streets in Singapore. The street had some quirky and vintage boutiques, funky graffiti on its walls and quaint cafes.

Neal’s Yard in London was another such gems I found on my travels.

Google and travel guides will, of course, tell you all about popular places and the things that you want to see, but there will be so many additional things that you’ll be able to discover by chatting to the people that live there.

Travel off season

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Most destinations will have a peak season and an off season, mainly dictated by the weather. Ideally try going during either on an off peak or shoulder season. Not only will it be less expensive but it will be less busy. Sure, there won’t be as many shops, eateries, clubs and other hot spots open but as a traveler, this won’t be the kind of thing you’re looking for anyway.

On the downside, there might be not so ideal weather conditions during the off season depending on where you go, so do your research and go prepared. For example, many hotels in Goa have excellent packages during the monsoon season between June-September.

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Travel, should not be a break from everyday life. Travel should be the time when you feel the most normal, centered, and at home.

There is no high more intense than being someplace new, and feeling like just a little piece of a vast, vast world.

 

Happy Exploring!!

madhavi