Electronic sniffer dogs, technology that reads minds and drones to inspect the runway are all being considered as Gatwick aims to become the world’s most technologically advanced airport.
Guy Stevenson, Gatwick’s chief commercial officer, told the Eyefortravel Europe Summit in London the aim was to “transform the customer experience” rather than purely as a revenue earner.
He said happier customers spend more and pointed to technology already installed that has cut security queues down and API partnerships with partner airlines like easyJet.
Gatwick now has the largest self-service bag drop in the world and has opened an early check-in bag store facility for customers who want to spend more time in the airport.
The airport is also the world’s busiest single runway airport and the world’s largest low cost airport and so technology to facilitate connectivity was vital, Stephenson said.
He also said customer data that is allowing the airport to offer relevant and premium services like valet parking have seen its Net Promoter Scores rise to record levels.
“In 2011 customers were telling us some basic things about the airport experience. As a result we have done a lot to eliminate queues across the customer journey.
“Now they are saying how can we make that airport experience relevant to me, give me information that’s relevant to me to help me make decisions.”
Gatwick is using “passive wifi analytics” to understand how people move from one part of the airport to another and help it make decisions about staffing and how to use its real estate.
It is currently in a tender process to find a firm that will install technology to make the airport “intelligent”. Eventually it will install ‘internet of things’ sensors around the airport to help its staff do their jobs better.
Stephenson Gatwick was looking to back start-ups developing new technologies that have not been developed yet but that could be implemented.
One idea is to give customers the ability to hail disabled assistance on-demand when they arrive.
Technology could also see virtual sniffer dogs employed on security 24/7, mind reading technology to help security guards detect suspicious items in bags and drones to inspect the runway.
The airport is already deploying artificial intelligence to “hoover up” data on its customers that will be used to power chatbots.
“Our ambition is to become the world’s most technologically advanced airport,” said Stephenson. “It makes a massive difference to us operationally and potentially for revenue generation.
“Physical transformation of the airport and [customer] emotional opinion forming has led the transformation of what we do. We recognise the digital part has lagged behind.
“What we are trying to do is primarily transform the customer experience. Happy customers spend more money and that for me as a financial officer is really important.”