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PASSENGER SERVICES Last modified on October 20, 2016

Queue busting

South Africa’s aviation sector is rapidly digitising its operations in line with global demands, writes Sello Mmakau, Airports Company South Africa’s chief information officer.

Modern business has learnt that technology no longer plays a supportive role, but is now central to the activities that drive business strategy. 

Indeed, companies are rapidly evolving into digital concerns performing business functions through the application of modern state-of-the-art technology to accomplish a set of defined corporate objectives. And Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) is no different.

Arguably, the need to fully automate processes in the aviation industry and eliminate the human element in the delivery of services has never been greater. 

As a result, the industry is constantly driving new technologies aimed at enhancing the customer experience and making it convenient for airports to communicate with customers and passengers.

For our part we have crafted a five-year digital strategy approved by the Board of Directors in Financial Year 2015/16 for implementation in FY2016/17. 

The key dimensions of this new strategy are ‘passenger experience’ (self-services solutions); ‘mobile and social’; ‘business intelligence’ (analytics); and ‘digital Infrastructure’. 

In December 2015, ACSA contracted SITA to install new self-help baggage drop-in kiosks (part of passenger experience). This solution demonstrates our commitment to technological advancements, a deeper comprehension and appreciation of global travel trends and the willingness to bring this technology to South Africa’s airports. 

This project will not only limit possible human errors, but also hasten and simplify the check-in processes, while also exposing our valued customers to the latest trends in customer processing technology.

In addition we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Germany’s Munich Airport Group that is designed to allow us to tap into their digital expertise and experience to enhance our operations. Its range of highly efficient, digitised solutions includes InfoGate, its very own multi-functional and interactive information and navigation instrument at Munich International Airport.

The highly innovative and interactive system allows passengers to speak in real time to a customer services officer who appears on the screen in front of them and is trained to assist with a range of  service related queries ranging from security advice to directions to nearby eateries.

We like them so much in fact that we have concluded an agreement with them to deploy InfoGates at our airports starting with a pilot project in the second quarter of this financial year.We also plan taking our information technology relationship with the Munich Airport Group to the next level by exploring the possibility of jointly developing a global mobile travel application that would end the need for individual airport apps on your phone. 

ACSA will become the first African airport operator to feature in the new application when it is launched in the final quarter of the year.

In the meantime, as a responsive entity, we are also working on a revised version of our existing stand-alone application which will come with quite a number of enhancements aimed at making it more user-friendly to a wider market including those with disabilities. 

All these initiatives are aimed at bringing us closer to our aspiration of being a digital entity providing aviation services through the management of airports. 

There is no doubt that ACSA is one of Africa’s leading airports management companies and it counts Africa’s busiest gateway – Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport – among its airports.

It is therefore very important that we keep a close eye on the impact of technological advancements on our business processes and consider ways in which we could adopt them to become more operationally effective and better understand our customers and passenger behaviours.

Doing this will not only make ACSA a better company but also help steer its direction in the years ahead.

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