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Flying start

By Federica Fattorusso, business development director at Posterscope.

The aviation industry, like almost all other industries, has not been immune to the momentum of the digital revolution, changing significantly due to the increasing prevalence of technology in all aspects of travellers’ daily lives. When considering that last year young tourists alone spent $217bn on travel, with millennials seeing travel as more important than buying a home or paying off debt, we face a huge global trend that will only continue growing.
Our region has not been shying away from this trend, but is riding the wave with full force. Dubai International airport is the world’s busiest for international travellers, with a 6.3 per cent year-on-year (Aug 2016 to Aug 2017) cumulative traffic increase. And 9,353,368 passengers were recorded during the first eight months of the year. Similarly, Abu Dhabi airport, the UAE’s second-busiest commercial hub, handled 10.1 million passengers in the first five months to May 31, an increase of 1.8 percent compared with the same period last year, which is in line with the prediction it will handle approximately 25 million passengers in 2017, compared with 24.5 million last year.
As the numbers taking to the skies increase, the flight experience can potentially become frustrating and disorganised. However, technology and data streams are instead transforming this increased traffic into seamless, personalised and connected experiences – a new golden era for travel.
Dubai International airport, already equipped with smart gates requiring digital fingerprints to grant access to the baggage claim area, is taking technology to the next level. Its new project foresees an advanced high-tech security tunnel straight out of Total Recall. The tunnel, fitted with 80 different cameras positioned at various angles, will rely on artificial intelligence instead of X-rays to verify that a traveller poses no threat. Designed to look like a virtual aquarium, the walls will be equipped with face-scanning fish, which will attract the attention of the passengers passing through in order for the cameras to capture different facial prints. The tunnel’s
installation is scheduled for the end of summer 2018 in Terminal 3, and in the remaining terminals in the following two years.
Airlines are also looking to deliver personalised and seamless experiences. On-board connectivity has already begun to roll out and will be commonplace by 2025. Emirates airline, for example, now supplies wifi on almost all of its flights, with the new A380 fleets providing unlimited access. Whilst five years ago a seven-hour flight was a black hole of connectivity, today we can check our Facebook feed, upload a picture of #clouds on Instagram and pick up office emails as though we were still in the lounge. What will this mean for inflight behaviours that have never existed before?
In-flight entertainment is also evolving, with companies such as Virgin and Jet Blue partnering with Netflix and Amazon Prime, enabling passengers to select content such as e-books, movies and music and download them onto their iPhones or iPads in order to enjoy the content at any stage during their journey.
The evolution will continue, and today there are already ideas about seat sensors that will alert cabin crews to individual passenger responses to the flight, such as temperature, hydration, and anxiety, in order to enable staff to supply support or change the cabin environment to provide more comfort.
From an advertising perspective, we are already reaping the benefits of technology in the airport environment. The growing number of applications and programs that are improving travellers’ experiences are potentially new advertising containers. The access to the much richer degree of data is also allowing us to tailor advertising experiences to individual travellers, delivering content that is relevant to them, at the right times and in the right locations.
As client requests become increasingly specific, with many brands wanting to focus on first and business-class passengers, for example, advertising opportunities need to become similarly targeted. Today we are seeing a growing number of dynamic campaigns, thanks to the growth of digital out-of-home, plugging into real-time passenger, airport and airline data feeds. Our recent research has revealed that ad-serving relevant content to the appropriate audience at the right time can show an increase of 15 per cent in campaign effectiveness. However these campaigns still remain few, considering the opportunity available.
Data, technology and connectivity are giving rise to new media and brand partnership opportunities and the future will most certainly see more seamless forms of direct and indirect advertising in the airport environment. The ability to understand travellers and their
behaviours will give airlines and airports incredible leverage, and retailers in duty free a new currency with which to work. The infinite amount of data will give us incredibly valuable insight for incisive marketing activities.
The future is bright, and in a few years’ time, from a consumer perspective, a six-hour flight may be of more interesting and effective marketing value than 10 hours of TV.