Changi taps mobile beacons to stay in the lead

Beacons are being installed at Changi Airport as part of a trial to help travellers and visitors navigate the airport using their mobile phones and other personal devices.

Along the way, they will also receive updates on retail and other commercial offerings.

A small but growing number of airports, airlines and retailers are turning to beacons - devices that communicate with smartphones and other gadgets through Bluetooth - to interact with their customers.

As Changi Airport becomes bigger and busier and manpower constraints limit the size of ground staff, it is critical to leverage on technology, such as the beacons, to ensure that service standards do not slip, Changi Airport Group's executive vice-president for airport management, Mr Tan Lye Teck, told The Straits Times.

From self check-in to bag tagging and automated immigration checks, the airport is on a major do-it-yourself drive.

The aim is not just to improve processes but also to handle a growing number of travellers without compromising service levels, he said.

A focus on the customer has helped Changi Airport win countless accolades through the years, including Skytrax's best airport title for the fifth year running, which it was awarded yesterday evening at an industry event in Amsterdam.

The title was conferred by London research firm Skytrax, which said that it garnered the views of 13.82 million respondents of 105 different nationalities in its survey.

Winning five times in a row is a "remarkable achievement", said Mr Edward Plaisted, chief executive of Skytrax.

"Changi Airport continues to innovate product and service facilities for customers, and is making the travel experience at the airport enjoyable and relaxing," he said.

Mr Tan said that such recognition serves as feedback and is a "positive indication that we are on the right track".

It is a challenge meeting the needs of not just travellers but also local residents who visit the airport to shop, dine or hang out, he said.

Changi Airport, which handled 58.7 million passengers last year, is expecting annual traffic growth of about 3 to 4 per cent over the next few years.

It will be able to handle up to 85 million passengers a year by 2019, up from 66 million now, with the opening of Terminal 4 later this year as well as the expansion of Terminal 1.

The next big capacity injection after that will be at the end of the next decade, when Terminal 5 opens.

Even as the airport gets busier - especially before Terminal 5 opens - Mr Tan assured travellers and other users that service levels will not slip.

"The Changi we know now may be different from what it was before, and perhaps less cosy. But it also has so many more interesting and vibrant elements, as well as better technology and processes.

"We will keep working really hard to ensure that we give the best to all our customers," he said.

This article was first published on Mar 15, 2017.
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