Often, innovation is the child of necessity. So it is with the long-beleaguered air travel industry, which has been viewed widely as providing perhaps the worst "customer service"
found anywhere. But, now, with an eye toward meeting increasing consumer demand for digital integration
, airlines and airports are finding innovative
ways to accommodate a new generation of passengers. Indeed, travelers should fasten their seat belts, because the future is now.
Three new restaurants in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
are receiving tech upgrades, as Delta Airlines
has integrated 250 iPads
within Concourse G’s Minni Bar, Mimosa
, and Shoyu
. Tablets are placed at each seat, where diners can order customized meals through intuitive touch screen menus. Catering partner OTG
prepares the food to order and promises that it will arrive fresh in 15 minutes or less. While waiting, guests can access their Facebook, Twitter and personal email accounts, check their flight status, play games, or watch video clips. Delta will fully deploy more than 4,500 iPads at three of its hub airports over the next year.
Passbook Boarding Passes:
The digital wallet
concept continues to gain acceptance, as American Airlines
, United Airlines
, Virgin Australia
, and Delta Airlines all are now accepting mobile boarding passes through Apple’s new iOS6 app, Passbook
. Using the iPhone’s GPS, digital tickets appear automatically on users’ screens when they arrive at the airport. Instead of downloading airline-specific apps or digging through emails for electronic boarding passes, travelers can check in merely by scanning their iPhones. Passbook also provides real-time updates on flight delays, gate changes, and boasts a particularly useful feature for those who like to spend time at the bar before flying: alerts if you're waiting in the wrong terminal.
The introduction of airport kiosks helped shorten airport check-in lines, but several airlines are taking automated customer service a step further with entirely self-service airports. Airports in San Diego and Seattle just introduced baggage self-tagging
and, at McCarron in Las Vegas JetBlue Airways
recently became the first U.S. airline to officially implement self-boarding gates. A SITA survey
found that self-boarding appeals to 70% of passengers, and almost as many travelers prefer to tag their own bags. As Alaska Airlines
COO Ben Minicucci predicted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal
, in the near future "[one’s] first [airport] interaction could be with a flight attendant.”