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Reimagining the Airport Experience: How Big Data and AI Could Transform Air Travel

An uncomfortable airport experience can put a major damper on even the most enjoyable travel plans. Between the pre-flight security scans, wait times, and baggage claim lines, passengers often feel ready for a vacation as soon as they arrive. While TSA continues to tighten down security procedures, leaders in the tech world are converging to develop new smart systems that, if implemented, could transform the way flyers interact with staff, board their flight, and much more.

The two main checkpoints (and pain points) they're looking to address? The moments that flyers interact with the airport itself, as well as when they board their plane. In both instances, there is great opportunity for facilities to build customer trust, improve feedback ratings, and boost satisfaction. 

Let's take a look at a few systems in the works and what they might mean for you the next time you book a trip.

Cognitive Analytics Could Reduce Flyer Stress

We've all been there. You're waiting in a long line to claim your boarding pass and the foot traffic all around you is creating a stuffy, slow-moving bottleneck. Then, you go to find your gate and the escalator or moving sidewalk is out of order, forcing you to lug your bags around the facility. Once you arrive at your spot? You find that your flight was delayed, and you've got to find three hours to kill until takeoff.

To mitigate these stressors, developers are working to create systems that leverage cognitive analytics to more accurately predict a plane's performance and schedule. One large Asian airport is already rolling out a basic version, based on OpenText's Magellan platform . The facility-wide resource uses real-time analytics to monitor the state of the airport. Is one area becoming congested? There are sensors in the hallways and doorways that can alert staff, so they can help move travelers along quicker. 

Is the weather rapidly changing and likely pushing back departure times? Airport managers can leverage this data, along with real-time flight arrival communication, to shut and open gates as required. As this happens, nearby staff members, such as gate crew and bathroom crew employees, are also alerted, so they can take action to assist passengers.

The Future of "Smart Travel"

Though these types of responsive systems are still under development and it will likely be a while before they're totally rolled out in airports across the United States, it's encouraging news. Retailers and business owners all over the world have used big data, AI and advanced analytics for years to improve the customer experience. It's time that airports receive access to these same smart systems, and this is one major step in the right direction. 

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