Opportunities & challenges of collecting passenger feedback data at airports.
Aviation is full of tricky acronyms. One of the most obscure is MIDT which stands for Market Information Data Tape, a data source regarding passenger bookings.
In the days before broadband downloads and even CD-ROMs, airports and airlines learnt about how their markets were performing by receiving a spool of magnetic tape which they would whirr through their mainframe to crunch the numbers and figure out their market share.
Airlines were generally interested in how many passengers they were carrying from each airport compared with the others. Airports were keen to learn exactly how each airline was doing in their city and how their business trends compared to other airports in their region.
Today airports and airlines still have the same questions, but all the information is stored in the cloud. The MIDT name remains however. And new technology is appearing on the scene to help aviation operators learn more about their passengers.
This article explains what sort of passenger feedback data airports might like to receive and presents the challenges that airports will need to overcome to make this a reality.
Generating passenger experience data helps airports grow revenue
The ability of airlines and airports to learn about their passengers is always changing. With boarding passes scanned digitally at security and the gate, operators come to know how early people arrive for their flights and how long they spend in the terminal.
What is less clear though is exactly how people spend their time between passing through security and arriving at the gate. Since airport and airline systems are not integrated it is hard to tell when people will want to head straight through security and when some will prefer to spend a little more time landside, perhaps with friends and family before their trip.
This matters because airports who have a great understanding of how their passengers want to spend time can develop services that enhance the passenger’s experience. In some cases these services may be income generating for the airport, their shops and dining venues, or airlines.
Many passengers will visit shops and cafes. Others will take a seat and read a book or newspaper, maybe one they have bought in the airport’s shops. Parents may be delighted to see their children tire themselves out in a play area before it is time to board a flight. Lucky business class travellers might spend time in a lounge.
Airports who are able to generate data about the performance of every specific facility in their terminals will be able to make these better for passengers. Happy passengers with low stress may be more likely to buy plane tickets in the future, leading to extra revenue for both airports and airlines.
Three challenges to generating good passenger feedback data at airports
Generating as much data as possible will help airports make better decisions. At Surveyapp we think that there are three core challenges that airports need to overcome to achieve this in practice.
Challenge 1 – Making customer feedback fun
Ideally passengers will give feedback of their own accord because it is something that they want to do. But this needs to be easy.
Surveyapp does this by making tablet kiosks and QR-code posters that are bright, welcoming and easy to see and use. The first thing that passengers see when they use one of our kiosks or download our surveys is a selection of happy and sad faces like this:
Challenge 2 – Crossing cultural boundaries so every passenger’s opinion matters
Emotive images like the ones we use are easy for people from any culture to understand and foster engagement. No specific language is required for a passenger to engage with the feedback collection process – an important matter for almost all airports.
As our surveys move further into detail it is sometimes necessary to use words to ask questions, but as far as possible we use images and pictograms based on the standard images that airports all over the world use to communicate the travel process to passengers. Here are some examples:
Because we build our kiosks using tablets, when words are necessary to collect feedback we can make it easy for passengers to choose any language they like.
Challenge 3 – Achieving depth and detail regarding exactly why passengers did or did not enjoy their airport experience
People experience different parts of the airport in different ways. Passing security is a different matter to taking your children to a play area. We design different surveys for each part of the airport.
Using the same selection of happy and sad faces in each location ensures that feedback is directly comparable no matter where in the airport a passenger answers a survey. It also inspires passengers who have used a terminal in one location before like security to use one again at another location, like the gate. This way we help airports map out exactly which points in their terminals are performing well and which are not.
As we deliver feedback reports to airport managers in real time, each location’s performance is analysed separately. This helps airports identify specific issues like security snarls before they become a threat to smooth operations.
Following COVID we think there is a fourth challenge too. Many airports will also want to be able to collect feedback without passengers needing to touch any objects that have been used by other passengers. We did this by using our tablets’ touchless and gesture recognition technology in surveys to give passengers confidence to take part in research.
For example, a passenger who holds up one finger selects answer one, two fingers for answer two and so on. It looks like this:
oliver AT surveyapp DOT io
savio AT surveyapp DOT io