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It’s a depressingly familiar scenario. You’ve endured the long-haul flight surrounded by screaming children and nervous fliers, you’ve survived the long queue at passport control and you’re finally heading out of the airport. All you need to do is grab your bags…
After staring in confusion at a screen listing dozens of flights (who actually remembers their flight number?) you’ve figured out which baggage carousel you need, but when you arrive there there’s no sign of movement. So you wait. And wait.
The frustration at being so close to the exit can make the wait for the luggage feel longer than the actual flight. And of course there is no guarantee that your bags will turn up at all.
For an airport that can be disastrous. Not only is the arrivals hall the first impression a visitor has of a country; in the Gulf, where a significant number of travellers are in transit, it can mean the difference between a repeat customer and someone who chooses to change planes in future in London or Singapore.
Now let’s imagine another scenario. You step off the plane and turn on your smartphone to be greeted with a message telling you exactly where and when your bag will be delivered: carousel 10 in 16 minutes, for example.
The same message also tells you that if you shop in the duty free, conveniently located nearby, anything you buy in the next 15 minutes will be discounted by 10 per cent.
The possibilities don’t stop there. If you don’t feel like waiting for your bags, simply press a button on your smartphone to have them automatically delivered to your hotel, office or conference centre, or enter a new location of your choice.
It’s not difficult to see how this results in a dramatically better experience for the passenger. Stress and wait times are reduced, improving the reputation of the airport and increasing the likelihood that a passenger will choose to use it again. The scrum that often exists around baggage carousels is minimised as passengers know exactly when their bag will be available, and are encouraged to use the shops and other facilities in the meantime. There is also the possibility for operators of financial gain, both through streamlining the baggage handling process and by boosting revenues from airport shops and offsite baggage delivery.
All this will soon be a reality – in fact much of it already is – through work being carried out by COFELY Airports & Logistics Services.
We are already working with airports around the world to implement the first stage of the Inbound Baggage Management System (IBMS), which involves using a variety of technologies, including RFID, to collect and display information about baggage delivery in real-time. That not only benefits customers by providing them with extra serves, it also enables airports to plan more effectively. So far the most advanced project in this phase is at Montreal airport, where we collect all the data for the arrival of the bags by scanning the bag tags.
As those processes are perfected and the data are proven to be accurate and consistent we can move onto the second phase, which represents more a revolution than an evolution.
It relies on a central database, run either by us or by the airport, through which stakeholders share information. Customs, security, airlines, airport shops and baggage handling will all be linked, enabling the kind of integrated experience described above.
That information can be shared between airports too, enabling a seamless transition between departure and arrival destinations. This phase is expected to be rolled out within two years.
Ultimately our aim is to continue to be at the forefront of technology, and to help airports provide a seamless passenger experience in order to become a world-class airport.