Committed to digital innovation, airports across Europe are introducing breakthrough technologies to create a better travel experience for all passengers. Report by Marta Dimitrova
Heathrow Airport using Aira app to support visually impaired passengers
London Heathrow Airport has partnered with technology company Aira to offer visually impaired passengers on-demand, personalised assistance via the Aira app.
Access to the app and its established network allows passengers to enhance their independence throughout their journey at Heathrow and forms part of the airport’s multi-million pound investment to improve the journeys of all passengers regardless of their requirements.
The free-to-use app connects passengers directly to a trained professional agent for advice on navigating through Heathrow and assists with finding specific locations – including gates, special assistance facilities, retail outlets and restaurants. It will also provide live information on news affecting their journey.
The app can be accessed by pre-loading it on mobile phones and an agent is available to provide guided assistance on demand upon arrival at Heathrow. Alternatively, passengers can also pre-book special assistance through their airline and seek information on the app at the same time.
Jonathan Coen, Director of Customer Relations and Service, Heathrow Airport, comments: “We are transforming the assistance service we provide to our passengers and empowering them to be as independent as possible when they are travelling through Heathrow. We have already invested £23 million in an upgraded contract with our special assistance partner, OmniServ, and introducing new equipment, training and technology to help improve our service. Aira takes us one step further – and will deliver a better travel experience for the 6,000 passengers each year that would otherwise feel less independent and less prepared when they begin their journey via Heathrow.”
Manchester Airport becomes first UK airport to trial 5G network
Manchester Airport has become the first UK airport to offer 5G network access as part of a trial by Vodafone. Vodafone has installed a dedicated 5G-enabled ‘blast pod’ at Manchester’s Terminal 1 that allows travellers to test the new super-fast network for downloading films or TV boxsets on their mobile devices up to four times faster than 4G.
During the trial passengers can visit Vodafone’s special 5G ‘blast pod’ and are given a free Entertainment Pass on streaming service Now TV. Travellers can download an episode of the new series of Tin Star in 45 seconds and the whole series in six minutes and seven seconds – up to four times faster than 4G, which took 26 minutes and eight seconds.
“We are delighted to support Vodafone’s 5G trial at Manchester Airport,” says Brad Miller, Chief Operating Officer, Manchester Airport. “As we progress with the design and delivery of our £1 billion transformation programme, we are constantly exploring how new innovations and technology can be applied to improve the airport experience. As a business with a strong presence in our surrounding community, Vodafone was a natural partner for a trial project like this and we look forward to collaborating with them again in the future.”
Nick Jeffery, CEO Vodafone UK, adds: “5G, with its fast speeds and quick response times, will make that quick and easy, even in busy locations. We are proud to be the first provider to bring 5G to an airport and will be adding more major travel hot-spots to our 5G network throughout the year.”
KLM installs live hologram to connect passengers at Amsterdam, Oslo and Rio de Janeiro airports
KLM has launched a new ‘Take-Off Tips’ campaign, allowing passengers to exchange tips face-to-face through a live hologram. Using a live connection, customers can chat with a hologram of their counterparts, looking at each other directly.
Passengers at airports in Amsterdam, Oslo and Rio de Janeiro can use the service to share local travel tips and cultural insights. “In our industry it is such a joy to be able to bring people together time and time again, we rejoice this in our latest campaign themes and ‘Take-Off Tips’ is no exception,” says Natascha van Roode, Head of KLM Marketing Communication. “We continuously strive to find means to enable contact between customers, including new technologies to create memorable experiences.”
The hologram bar connects people in real time by projecting them into the airport on the other side of the world.
Munich Airport trials pop-up business cabin in Terminal 2
Munich Airport has started a trial of an innovative MeetingCab in Terminal 2, providing passengers with the opportunity to have a quiet business meeting. Located in the north of the terminal on the Schengen level, near Gate G 06, the soundproof MeetingCab offers passengers seclusion for confidential discussions or phone calls. The cabin can be accessed quickly and easily via a credit card and has space for four people to sit around a meeting table.
Users can access network connections and several electric power outlets, and can draw the curtains for privacy. Use of the cabin costs €15 for the first 30 minutes and €5 for every additional half-hour. The MeetingCab concept was developed by NapCabs, and will be tested for a one-year pilot phase.
Nice Côte d’Azur becomes first French airport to bring detailed terminal maps to Apple Maps
Nice Côte d’Azur Airport has become the first airport in France to bring detailed terminal maps to Apple Maps, providing the airport’s 14 million annual passengers with a powerful new tool to navigate through the airport.
Using Apple Maps on their iPhone or iPad, passengers can plan their journey through the airport in advance of their flight, including finding nearby restaurants, shops, baggage claim, security checkpoints, and restrooms.
Indoor positioning gives passengers an instant view of where they are within the terminal, which helps them get to where they need to go next.
The Nice Côte d’Azur Airport terminal maps in Apple Maps will be updated regularly to ensure accuracy, including when new stores and locations open.
“We are not only proud to be the first airport in France to offer this live, multilingual geolocation solution to our passengers – we are also convinced that it is essential to provide an increasingly seamless and effortless digital experience for connected travellers who want it,” says Dominique Thillaud, Chairman of the Board, Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur.