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#PaxEx Podcast: Passenger Personalization and Data Rationalization


Welcome to Episode 25 of the #PaxEx Podcast. Our guest for this episode is Nigel Pickford, who serves as director of marketing operations and market insight for SITA, a multi-national IT company to the air transport industry.

During its annual summit this week in Brussels, SITA released its Airline IT Trends Survey 2015, and with it some compelling detail about how airlines are investing in passenger personalization now that 83% of passengers travel with a smartphone and 15% travel with at least three personal electronic devices. Co-hosts Max Flight and Mary Kirby talk to Pickford about how airlines are “tailoring the trip” for passengers, including in the way they sell ancillary products such as seat upgrades or travel services. Wearables will be a key focus of this personalization effort going forward. “It’s at very early stages,” notes Pickford, though with the launch of the Apple Watch “this will actually drive, I expect, significant development activity on the watch (Geneva Airport, for instance, already has an app that is being showcased by Apple on its website).”

But should we be concerned about privacy as personalization takes hold? “My take on this is personalization should be a personal choice so if somebody wants the airline to provide them with information or services at certain points in the journey, then they have to give consent to share any details about themselves for airlines to do that,” says Pickford.

Next, we know that airlines are investing in different ways to ease anxiety at various touchpoints in the passenger experience (#PaxEx). SITA conducted an assessment on emotions as part of a recent passenger trends report, and discovered that passengers are “more happy with their dwell time at the airport” – that time after they’ve passed through passport control and security while waiting for the flight (is it because many of us hit the bar for a few beverages pre-flight?) We talk to Pickford about when and where anxiety is the most acute for passengers, and whether the rise in self-service at the airport (check-in, bag drop) is a win-win for industry and passengers.

Last but not least, the air transport industry has shown a real interest in the Internet of Things (IoT), and some 37% of airlines have already allocated budget towards leveraging this phenomena. Doing so is fraught was challenges, however, as there are myriad disparate systems at airports and airlines, and a reluctance to share meaningful data, even among some alliance partners. We talk to Pickford about how airlines and airports struggle to manage the data they already have, and consider the complexities of marching into this brave, new IoT world.