Airports go mobile to improve operations
Airports go mobile to improve operations
At Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, there’s an app for – well – just about everything.
To ease passengers on their way, and resolve problems that pop up more quickly, the world's fourth busiest airport (ranked by flights per day) has introduced over 40 mobile applications during the last two years. That means airport employees can find out that a parking garage is full, and then redirect passengers, simply by checking their mobile devices. And fliers can find the nearest gourmet café - and whether they have enough time to eat there - by downloading an app.
“We’re bigger than the island of Manhattan, from tip to tail, so the way we can be efficient is with mobility,’’ says Stephen Shaffer, DFW’s chief information officer. “The vision and mission is ‘let’s enable the employees to do their job anytime, anywhere.’’
A survey released last week by SITA, an air transport communications and IT solutions company, found that globally, 91% of airports are planning to offer a mobile app to help passengers navigate their terminals, while 83% said they would use such a platform to push out real-time notifications regarding local traffic and wait times in line.
But when it comes to mobile apps in the U.S. air travel space, it's airlines who have taken the lead.
“There is no doubt the airlines have quickly figured out their passengers were moving to smartphones, to pads, and the app was a way to give passengers that opportunity to book tickets, file complaints, (and) get updates,’’ says Blaise Waguespack, who teaches airport marketing at the Daytona Beach, Fla. Campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Still, Waguespack says that many of the nation’s biggest airports want to get on board. “It is a discussion that is ongoing,’’ he says. An airport app could steer fliers to shops, services and eateries, for instance. And apps can be particularly useful to airport workers.
“You think about the size of a DFW, and others of that size, like an LAX, (or) Orlando'' airport, Waguespack says. "As you’re trying to help employees keep the physical plant up and (deal with) safety and risk issues, (apps) would be a great help.’’
The massive rollout of apps at DFW has resulted in over 43,000 previously manual functions now being performed electronically, Shaffer says.
An asset management mobile app, for instance, allows a worker who finds a broken light on a taxiway to open a repair ticket on their mobile device, and pinpoint the spot for the technician dispatched to fix it. Similarly, an employee who finds a problem during an airfield inspection can input their report in the app, instead of having to take notes and then head back to their desktop computer.
Another app, one of DFW's first, helps passengers find their way around the airport. The next version, going live around Thanksgiving, will give even more specific information, such as “there’s a TGIFriday’s on the other side . . and you’ve got enough time to sit down for a meal,’’ Shaffer says, The app already provides flight information and push notifications about available parking spots.
San Francisco International Airport is making similar moves. In July 2014, it began piloting a navigation app to help the visually impaired in one of its terminals. Hundreds of Bluetooth beacons correlate to points of interest, from stores to restrooms, airport spokesman Doug Yakel says.
The app will audibly direct the visually impaired passenger, telling them the distance to their destination, he says. The goal is to eventually have such an app available to all passengers, throughout the airport. Separately, SFO is looking into developing an app that would enable employees to create work orders for problems that need fixing.
"We're a region all about innovation and technology,'' Yakel explains, "and also, we want to use what's available to really make the travel process easier and more pleasant for our guests.''
Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian, a business software company that provided the platform for 36 of DFW’s apps, says that in the end, the passenger is the winner. "Behind the scenes, the airport is buzzing, making everything go right for them,'' he says. "It could be a broken luggage conveyor, or there's a spill in the bathroom making the facility unusable. (Airport workers) react quickly . .. because they have this instant awareness through this one central system.''http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2015/11/01/airports-mobile-apps-service/74751680/