Passenger Experience

Cloudy, with a chance of data


Resolving the data ownership and sharing issues is necessary… to support the future passenger experience… to realize efficiency in processing … to foster successful retail engagement. As an industry, we should look towards developing global aviation data standards and a distributed, cloud based delivery infrastructure.

The “Airport Terminal of the Future” has been an important topic of discussion at aviation industry conferences in the last few years. Most recently, there has been a convergence of ideas regarding what the future passenger experience will be like. This convergence of stakeholder viewpoints can be attributed to several key trends, including:

  1. The maturation and accessibility of technologies.
  2. A shared need to reduce the cost and time associated with processing passengers through terminal buildings.
  3. A growth in the number of passengers travelling by air each year.

In this talk (AviationIT, London), I present an example of what the future passenger experience will look like. The example represents a consolidation of industry perspectives and research in the field. (PDF slides: AviationIT-AnnaHarrisonBLOG)

By looking at the problem of future travel from the perspective of an instantiated example, two of the key data integration components that need to be addressed before the vision of seamless travel can become a reality come to light:

  1. Data formatting, and
  2. Data ownership.

Resolving both formatting and data sharing issues is necessary in order to integrate data from various underlying data sources. This in turn is critical to providing the seamless future travel experience.

Passenger Experience

Instilling a Culture of Innovation

As the first phase of the Airports of the Future (AOTF) project draws to a close, it presents an opportunity not only to evaluate the contributions of the individual teams, but to step back and consider the positive cultural changes that have emerged as a result of the collaboration between research and operations.

At the AOTF Showcase in Brisbane last month, Alex Dreiling (BAC’s Chair of Innovation) provided an insightful perspective on the process of turning ideas or concepts into commercially viable products. A key takeaway from Alex’s talk was the distinction between ideas, innovations and their subsequent implementation in an operational context (Figure 1).


Figure 1: The role of research in fuelling the innovation pipeline: many ideas are generated, culled and only the most viable pursued to full implementation
Source: Adapted from Transient Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath, Harvard Business Review, June 2013

At the beginning of a project, there are many ideas which are generated as potential solutions to a given problem. As these ideas are explored, tested and trialled, a number will be rejected. This of course need not signify that the idea is unworthy, but more likely, that it is unfeasible to pursue (in most cases due to the cost or time needed to develop the idea further). The process of culling the entire pool of ideas to just the handful worth pursuing is generally called “research”.

Of the set of ideas retained, each will need to be explored in more detail. This process is usually associated with the creation of prototypes, working models or small scale test implementations. In general, this phase is conducted with the support of an industry partner who will provide a test bed for exercising and refining the initial concepts. Once again, the process will involve pruning the ideas which, whether for technical or financial reasons, are deemed not commercially viable. This phase consists of a combination of research and implementation, and is hence referred to as co-innovation.

The final phase in the process, implementation, takes an idea which has been rigorously tested in a (limited) operational environment and looks at ways of scaling it for commercial use. Again, it is possible that roadblocks are encountered during this process that prevent the ultimate delivery of a commercial product: perhaps underlying  technologies need time to mature, maybe industry standards need to be developed, maybe the idea is too radical for immediate public consumption. The variables encountered during this phase are often complex, however, the decision risk is significantly mitigated as a result of the research conducted en route to this phase of the process.

The process outlined by Dreiling is reasonably straightforward to understand: the challenges lie in instilling the processes in a workplace environment. In order to successfully maintain an “innovation” culture in the workplace, it is likely that changes need to be made on both sides of the partnership equation. On the one hand, articulating the connection between research and commercial value is a skill that needs to be developed for those in academic towers. Conversely, adopting a longer term perspective and understanding the nature of research needs to be injected into the culture of those closer to the ground.

Source: Dreiling, Alexander and Recker, Jan, “Towards a Theoretical Framework for Organizational Innovation

Passenger Experience

Design led innovation gets its KIX


Design affects lives. Great designs do it in a way which is so subtle and complete that we take them for granted. Look around at the products you use each day, and how they have transformed the way you work and live: your iPhone, the takeaway coffee cup, wi-fi, sunscreen lotion, sliced bread… all examples of design leading innovation.

The concept of design being a pre-cursor to innovation is not restricted to products. At Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Japan, the design of a low cost terminal was the catalyst for creating a whole new era in demand in the Japanese skies.

In 1995, Kansai International Airport offered passengers the choice of over 30 domestic routes. By 2010, however, that number had fallen to just 9 routes. The retreat of the major airlines, namely JAL and ANA, from the domestic market was problematic for KIX on two counts: firstly, a well connected domestic air network was necessary to service the international passenger traffic passing through KIX, and secondly, the domestic routes provided a much needed boost to airport revenues.

KIX needed to find a solution to the decaying domestic network. Prior to the start of the Peach project, the future was looking bleak for KIX. There appeared to be no clear way forward despite the range of options being considered. Amongst the ideas on the table were the purchasing of a new airline and the foray into the Low Cost Carrier (LCC) market. At this time, the LCC market in Japan was non-existent.

In 2010, KIX together with ANA commissioned a LCC feasibility study. On the basis of the investigations, it was clear that the introduction of LCCs in other regions resulted in the creation of “new demand”. For example, in the European market, 48.4 million new passengers travelled by air after LCC emerged in the region, while in the UK domestic market, 24.8 million new passengers jumped on board (see figure below). The experience in these regions was significant enough that, despite no history of LCCs in Japan, the question was being considered: would the introduction of LCC’s have the same effect on the creation of new demand in Japan as it did in other regions?


Source: Civil Aviation Authority, “No-Frills Carriers: Revolution or Evolution?” November 2006

In what constituted a brave move, KIX decided to take a gamble on the construction of Japan’s first LCC terminal. According to Kiyoshi Goto, Executive Officer at KIX:

There were risks involved in the project.  But you’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take… taking the environment surrounding the airport at that time into account, missing the opportunity presented an even bigger risk.

And so, negotiations began with Peach Aviation to construct a purpose-made LCC terminal at KIX. The project presented a number of challenges, most notably, coping with risks associated with:

  1. Pitching the LCC model in an environment which had not yet embraced the idea.
  2. The profile of the target passenger was unclear: who, if anyone, would identify with LCC model?
  3. Keeping the construction costs down in order to minimize debt and allow access to “jaw dropping fares”.

Designing a terminal to address all of the above challenges symbolized a significant change in the approach to terminal design in Japan. The LCC terminal design was targeted to mirror the “cute and cool” image of Peach Aviation and keep construction costs and construction time as low as possible. In the end, the terminal was erected in an unheard of time frame (6 months design, 11 months construction), at the lowest price per square meter of any terminal in Japan.

The Peach Project at KIX singlehandedly changed the nature of air travel in Japan. The successful design and conception of the LCC terminal at KIX allowed the Japanese people to discover a new experience in domestic travel. It opened air travel to an entirely new Japanese market: the cost conscious passenger who formerly did not travel by plane… another subtle yet elegant example of design quietly changing our lives.

Sources: sincere thanks to Kiyoshi Goto-Sama, New Kansai International Airport Company, for the numerous conversations which led to the formulation of this post. Thank you also to Peach Aviation for their permission to publish the above.