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Airport Apps: How Airports Can Leverage Mobile to Provide A Better Visitor Experience

February 15, 2017

In 2017, 3.9 billion passengers are expected to visit airports around the world. Airport management authorities are busy looking for ways to handle such unprecedented traffic. While expanding your airport’s capacity and building better infrastructure may sound like the logical thing to do, it may not be immediately achievable. Adding another runway, opening a new terminal — such things are not only time-consuming but are also likely to cause disruption.


Expansion is not always an easy and viable solution. Even if it was, it wouldn’t be enough. Because you also need to find ways to take the stress out of your passengers’ traveling experience. Seen passengers getting lost at airports? Trying to locate the nearest Panda Express but can’t seem to find it? You can start by changing the things you can immediately influence. Addressing these seemingly minor challenges can go a long way into elevating the guest experience at your airports.

Airports are slowly beginning to catch on to mobile technologies to create a holistic and interactive experience for the visitors. Strategically placed beacons around airports can transmit real-time information to a user’s phone via bluetooth. This information can be crucial to a passenger running late or convenient to someone wanting to know when their bags are going to be ready for pick up.

Here are some of the most useful features on mobile that can help airports transform the visitor experience:

  • Navigation

Passengers could just be hungry, or really need to go the bathroom. The last thing you want to do is have an already hassled passenger trying to navigate through airport looking to use the facilities. Navigation/wayfinding is one of the main features that airport apps can offer to help improve the airport experience. But many airports are already catching on to this feature. Today more than 33% of airports have a navigational feature in an app, and it is projected that by 2018 that number will rise to more than 90% according to Business Insider.

Being able to make decisions about where to spend your 5 hour layover at the touch of your fingertips has greatly improved customer service at some of the airports. With location-based technology, they can not only navigate to their favorite restaurant, bar or shop, but know exactly how long it will take them to get there.

Convenience aside, this feature could be a game saver for people running late who need to find their gate, and fast. Some airports are small and this feature won’t come in handy, but for those who love to travel, they’ll enjoy being able to navigate foreign airports on their own smartphone. The stress that alleviates is enormous.

  • Airport Status

Before your passengers make a choice on where to dine, have them check in through security, or decide whether to get on the taxi stand line or call an Uber. The airport status feature of your app can tell them where the wait times are the shortest. San Diego International is one of the latest airports to adopt this technology. Customer engagement platforms can be used to relay real-time flight status updates and other pertinent information such as gate changes to customers. says that this is the new way for airports to directly connect with its consumers. Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL), has integrated this technology to make the traveler’s experience smoother, convenient and more personalized. At BIAL, Google Indoor Maps are employed to create one of the best interactive navigational tools around. Imagine having a Google Maps of the inside of the airport. Talk about driving up a user’s experience!

  • Commercial Deals and Coupons

Long have retail stores connected to customer’s cellphones when their in-store WiFi or beacons sense they are near to offer special promotions. Airport retail stores can benefit from this technology in obvious ways, but there are some secondary and maybe even tertiary positive effects as well.

Consider this; if an airport retail shop has the capability of tracking customer’s buying behaviors (by 2018, 79% of airports around the world will employ this technology) they could easily offer brand loyalty rewards, driving up sales.

Airports are a place of waiting. When we wait and we are notified of real time promotions from our favorite shops, we can easily navigate to them. And if we are informed of any changes in our flight’s status, we could potentially even shop for longer. With so many convenient options, what are we to do!? We are only human and many of us love to shop. Mobile apps or captive portals connected to airport WiFi can offer airport retail shops a real shot in the arm.

  • Advertising

This one is for the retail side again. Location-based technology can offer data to advertisers to better target consumers based on their location. At Heathrow Airport in England, the Heathrow Airport App can do it all. The app will send you offers from the nearest shops and places to eat. It can guide you there, track your purchases for rewards and make exclusive promotional deals to you based on your brand loyalty purchases.

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Airports around the world are really cashing in on mobile technologies to offer a better and more interactive experience to passengers.

I can recall many times being stuck at airports around the world — in countries whose languages I do not speak — and all I wanted was a Coke and a bathroom. But some airport halls are so long (I’m looking at you, GIG in Rio de Janeiro! :)), you can’t possibly make it from your gate to the food court and back in time for your flight.

This technology can offer a sense of calm in an often stressful situation. Real-time updates based on your flight and location are a thing of the present. Gone are the days of missing a flight because of a last minute gate change. Airports who don’t employ this technology now seem antiquated.

They call it comfort food and impulse shopping for a reason. People buy things at airports. Let’s make it easy for them to find what they really want, while giving them real-time flight information so that they can rest assured and explore all that your airport has to offer without fear of missing their flight.

Have you had any harrowing experience at airports? What could have helped improve your experience? Let us know in the comments.