How Tablets are Taking Over the Air Travel Industry

From entertainment, dining and navigation, tablets and iPads are stepping in as an upgrade to legacy equipment. Here's how tablets are revolutionising airports.

Recently coined as the ‘golden hour,’ the wait passengers face between arriving at the airport terminal and boarding the plane provides airlines and retailers alike with an opportunity to fully engage with a captive audience. In select airports around the world, they’re taken advantage of this newfound opportunity to entertain, inform and relax flyers with time to spare, while making life easier for those in a hurry. The ever-adaptable tablet and iPad has stepped in as an upgrade to legacy equipment, becoming as ubiquitous as the suitcase in airports.

Tablet and iPad kiosks have the capability to improve both operational efficiency, build customer loyalty and help generate new, valuable revenue streams for retailers. Here are a few ways tablets have taken off to improve the airport experience:

Touch ‘n’ Go info

Navigating a bustling airport environment doesn’t have to be a daunting task for novice jetsetters. Tablet technology has improved navigation around terminals so that way-finding is simple, while live flight updates make running to the departure gate a thing of the past.

We’ve worked on projects at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in the UK, where tablet and iPad kiosks serve as a source of flight information for travelers. Replacing banks of digital displays with interactive tablets is a simple way to reduce information overload. The easy-to-use interface of the tablet makes it perfect for serving up quick-fire, bite-sized information to passengers on the move.

Tablets are also used to offer free internet access for anything from checking out last minute hotel reservations to posting vacation-bragging updates on social media.

And it doesn’t end there; tablets are also helping airports gain valuable insight into their operations. This includes passenger feedback surveys to measure satisfaction in lounges and restaurants, as well as monitoring wait times to pass through security (as seen at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam).

Wine, dine and fly

Whether arriving with hours to spare before a flight, or a rushed 20 minutes to grab a snack, airport dining is fast adapting to the needs of its customers.

For those with extra time on their hands, The Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar in Heathrow T2 and Barajas y Feria in Barcelona Airport have replaced their paper menu with an extensive bar of tablet and iPad kiosks (a trend that is taking hold with restaurants outside of airports, too!). This allows diners to relax, browse the menu and learn about the provenance of their meal, champagne in hand.

Meanwhile, self-service order kiosks allow a rapid turnover of diners, with restaurants such as Japanese food chain Yo Sushi taking quick-fire service to a new level. By allowing orders in advance via Twitter, customers are assured that by the time they’ve cleared security, their food is ready for collection.

Retail recharge

With a sizeable percentage of airport revenue generated from shopping, retailers need innovative ways to increase footfall and inspire purchases, especially with sale revenues at airports predicted to grow by 73% from 2013 to 2019. The ‘golden hour’ is an ideal time to engage the captive audience of relaxed vacation shoppers looking to take advantage of bargains.

For those wanting to research potential purchases in more detail, tablet display cases have become the perfect tool for showcasing interactive product information. This includes tech brand Jawbone, who use a custom app to promote features of their UP activity tracking wristband to vacationers in Dixons Travel, Europe’s leading airport electronics retailer. Product videos were the most effective way to show Jawbone’s movement-focused wristband in action, with the benefits of a healthier lifestyle given through customer testimonials.

Travelers can also forget lugging purchases around on top of their vacation wardrobes. At LaGaurdia Airport in NY, items can be ordered using iPad kiosks, with the option of delivering straight to a traveler’s home or pick-up at the departure gate.

The fun of flying

With time on the hands of many travelers, the airport is no longer just a stopgap between destinations. Interactive installations are ideal for taking the wait out of waiting and expanding the experience beyond simply shopping and eating.

For those with an active interest in aviation, Heathrow’s Terminal 4 Observation Deck offers a 270-degree panoramic view of the Southern Runway and comes equipped with binoculars and tablets using Flightradar24 app to track live air traffic.

By no means are adults the only ones in need of entertainment. Russian toy store Reg Staer at Vnukovo Airport opted for a futuristic store revamp, including a giant octopus and spaceship model with colour-matched iPad kiosk gaming stations. This eye-catching gameplay installation is a crowd pleaser for young travelers, and a welcome relief for harassed parents.

It’s onwards and upwards for the air travel industry, as it adapts to the changing expectations of tech-enabled passengers. For a shining example of airport innovation, read about our work with London Heathrow Terminal 2, where tablet enclosures play a key role in its focus on ease of travel and passenger entertainment.