The three keys to successful self-service

There is more to airport passenger self-service innovation than just technology. Successful technological innovation includes people and infrastructure in the design process. When technology is implemented to simply replace manual processes and cut costs, the broader impact on both the passenger and the organisation is often overlooked and poorly understood.

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Speed and efficiency

Technological innovations such as self-service security access or self-service boarding provide excellent ways of increasing speed and efficiency of the passenger process in terminal design. The technology itself is, however, only one of three critical aspects of a successful implementation.

A technology focus overlooks the importance of employees who will work with the systems and the support needed from infrastructural design. The innovation then misses its desired effect, leading to unhappy passengers and lost revenues. Processes become slower, less efficient – and more expensive – than expected.

More than just technology

Technological innovation is most successful when broader organisational and infrastructural aspects are included. The technical aspect of implementing passenger self-service machines does often focus on how well passengers understand and interact with the interface. However, no matter how good the user experience is, there are always exceptions that need handling by capable personnel.

Passengers now use technology to check in from home, label their luggage and scan boarding passes and passports themselves, but passenger processes will never be fully self-service. Human interaction remains necessary to manage passenger flows efficiently, and the automated routine handling frees up personnel for more and better service to travellers needing extra attention.

Effective infrastructure can also make or break a passenger self-service innovation. Useful instructions, clear signage and good terminal design need to support the technology and take pressure off personnel. Passengers can move quickly and easily through the process only when they know where to go and what to do in an intuitive process that requires minimal (cognitive) effort.

Technology – People – Infrastructure

Technology, people and infrastructure are the three integral keys to successful innovation. When technology cannot handle exceptions, people must take over. If people cannot instruct all passengers, better supporting infrastructure is needed. If infrastructure is insufficient, more technological solutions are needed. Clearly, all three must be addressed when implementing passenger self-service innovation.

Trying to innovate without coordinating how each of these elements will work together is a recipe for user dissatisfaction and resistance. The aviation industry often mistakenly assumes people will adapt naturally.

Employees need to transition as their jobs shift from doing what technology now does to addressing exceptions and providing other services. Infrastructure should support smooth passenger flows along the technology and beyond, and take pressure off personnel. And the technology itself must be fast and easy to use, and improve passenger perceptions by solving bottlenecks, not creating them.

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. For more information, please refer to

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