“We are in an exciting and transformative era in the area of service delivery for passengers with reduced mobility,” says William L Neece, director of airport solutions at Ozion Airport Software. He tells Passenger Terminal World how service providers, airports and airlines can catch up with technology and begin to manage every passenger journey.
How do service providers and airports manage each passenger’s journey without losing sight of the entire operation?
This can be achieved by using the building blocks needed to handle PRM activity. It’s a case of providing the correct information to everyone involved in the service – agents, airline, provider or airport help desks, gate agents, and so on. Now they all have a real-time set of the data needed to reach daily operational goals and serve passengers. This type of global access also enables everyone to improve processes and system-wide service delivery.
Operational clarity brings greater awareness and understanding, and enables progress and success to accelerate. This leads to a higher service level and spreads confidence across the entire service delivery chain. Passengers also gain a sense of security, knowing that they are being well taken care of and will reach their destination on time. Agents grow more confident, knowing that the operation is under firm control, making them feel less stressed and more focused on the passenger they are serving. The result is a healthy ecosystem serving accessible passengers, meaning happy passengers and secure airport operations.
What key areas must be overcome to manage every assisted passenger’s end-to-end journey?
We believe the secret is in giving airports and their providers direct control over the daily outcomes of their operations.
Building blocks for managing the operation include:
• Data control: Using a passenger-centric approach, every bit of available data is collected and used in real time to manage the passenger’s journey, for example the time the aircraft will arrive or depart and from which gate. A passenger-centric approach also involves using the messages carrying an assisted passenger’s service request and all the details required to perform the service, as well as passenger-specific time-stamped data on the location of each agent, passenger, piece of equipment, and on every action performed (by agents, drivers, dispatchers, allocators, aircraft, and so on).
• Improvement based on comparing performance to goals: The key is to see everything that is going on in real time, and what has happened or is about to happen, including identifying and acting on any challenges that occur.
• Service risk mitigation: Allocators/dispatchers should be able to immediately mitigate risks to service quality and operational integrity.
• Fault analysis and remedy: Analyzing data to understand areas of improvement will enable you to put in place steps that will prevent service challenges recurring. The idea is to focus on continual quality improvement.
• Constant stakeholder collaboration: Fostering a common sense of shared ownership across the accessible service delivery chain gives everyone involved a complete real-time and historical picture, helping them understand what is going on and contributing to successful outcomes.
How do you work with PRMs to make them feel comfortable and happy?
This is an area near and dear to our entire organization, irrespective of whether the airport has 200 or 5,000 assistance passengers traveling through per day: each and every one of them must receive a reliable and consistent level of service. We are constantly looking at how to reach Service Level Agreements (SLAs) while retaining a focus on the individual passenger experience. This was in large part why we made the decision over 10 years ago to design the system around the passenger.
One size fits all is not the answer – the answer is to put the passenger at the center and tailor the service around them. Understanding the entirety of the service operation means we can spend time with each passenger. With this approach, passengers are given a sense of security, calm and autonomy, while remaining informed about where they are in their journey. Every passenger should be taken care of as a unique person. This dynamic global airport view creates room for operational freedom, enabling passengers to do what they want, to be able to go alone to the gate, to be assisted at boarding, to stop at a shop or restaurant, and be picked up again at a set time, and so on. This flexibility translates into comfortable, happy passengers.
Collaborating with associations primarily in Europe and the USA helps us to better understand what passengers with wide-ranging disabilities face. It is from this listening and constant input that we can continually work on new ways of improving passengers’ experience.
Do you think airports need to do more to cater for passengers with reduced mobility?
Given that the annual growth in the number of PRMs is much higher than that of overall passenger traffic, airports face an ever-growing challenge to get those receiving assistance on and off airplanes on time, while improving the quality of the assistance. We are seeing more and more airports looking to the service for passengers with reduced mobility as an ‘oxygen’ operation – meaning one that is critical to the airport’s overall performance.
When it comes to PRM-friendly design, airports can do more. In the long term, in particular, operators can design terminals and airports in ways that increase operational PRM productivity, introducing, for example; corridors and elevators that can accommodate larger group transport vehicles; autonomous chair routes; check-points that are adapted to PRM operations; and easier and faster terminal-to-terminal transfers.
Airports can use data generated within our system to identify and target the infrastructure changes that yield the greatest productivity gains. Using the data can simulate the impact of different possible investments. For instance, if we make it possible for an elevator at a given position in a terminal to accept a buggy that takes five passengers, what productivity gains will that generate and how will that enhance service?
Better use of data can also help airports reduce the number of ‘no-show passengers on arrival’. At present, up to 15% of PRMs are not meeting agents on arrival, which represents a huge waste of resources. The ability we give operators to go in and look at each ‘no show’ and dynamically search for and discover why this is occurring is a huge advantage. Simply asking the right questions immediately improves results: do we see more ‘no-shows’ at a particular airline? Or based on whether the airplane is parked remotely or accessible by jet bridge? Could it be related to the amount of time the passenger waited for an agent to arrive? By progressively eliminating ‘no-shows’, airports can focus precious resources on assistance passengers who actually show up.
It is a natural human desire to be shown respect and have autonomy. Traveling through an airport assisted is no different: service providers and airports are offering more and more service alternatives to those who prefer to ‘go alone’. These range from short-term provision of equipment and wheelchairs, to enabling passengers to use their own mobility devices. We look at this from both the passengers’ experience and the security point of view, with an emphasis on giving everyone involved in the service actionable information. What type of chair is coming to the gate? Do we need to collect our borrowed equipment and assist the passenger on board the airplane? For the gate agent, is the passenger in the airport and when should they be expected at the gate?
Every PRM is unique. Some passengers arrive with specialized mobility equipment, some require multiple agents and want to be accompanied throughout their airport journey, while others may want assistance for just one leg of their itinerary, or even just need a calming space. It is important that no matter the situation, the passengers arrives with dignity and in a timely fashion.
See the September 2019 issue of Passenger Terminal World for details of Ozion’s recently launched real-time PRM Performance Dashboard, designed for live collaboration between the service providers, airlines and airports.