Airports And Digital: Maximising The Pre-flight Experience

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Digital has become an integral part of the holiday-planning cycle.

From dreaming, planning and booking to experiencing and sharing, travellers are becoming increasingly reliant on digital to manage and enjoy all elements of their trip.

Whilst attention is often more heavily-focused on the pre-travel stages, there’s plenty of opportunity to further enhance a user’s holiday experience both during and after a trip. And to really maximise this experience, you can look to segment the more granular elements of each stage; affording individuals the ultimate travel experience.

For airports, specifically, there’s plenty of opportunity to exploit the ‘experience’ stage. A holiday doesn’t just begin when a person hits the beach; it starts days before, when the bags are being packed and the excitement kicks in.

The experience stage obviously stretches from a couple of days to multiple weeks, but honing in and enhancing the digital experience on offer during the very first part of this can make a real difference to travellers. By helping users manage all aspects of their departure, airports can ultimately encourage spend throughout its shops, bars and restaurants within a terminal.

Digital boarding cards

Now this one isn’t entirely in the hands of an airport, but many airlines now offer digital boarding cards. Downloaded as part of a mobile app, it’s an easy-to-use hands-free solution that allows travellers to navigate across a terminal with ease.

Airports simply need to ensure that the correct technology is in place for users to be able to use this functionality, while it’s then down to any airlines who don’t offer this feature to bridge the gap. Making it as easy as possible for users to check-in and catch their flight is only going to enhance their overall experience.

Dedicated mobile apps

Modern users crave solutions capable of delivering all the information they require in a simple and straight-forward manner. It’s why mobile apps are so popular, and why all airports need to offer them. From providing information around location and amenities before a user arrives to affording access to departure information and live flight data while they’re in the terminal, an application such as this is sure to meet the evolving expectations of travellers.

Incorporating notifications around gate numbers will save people relying on departure boards for this information while, for bigger airports, distance and ‘time to gate’ data, based on GPS tracking, will allow users to plan accordingly. From a commercial perspective, allowing users to prebook airport facilities and preorder food and beverages in a simple manner will only further the experience on offer.


They’re becoming increasingly more popular, and go hand-in-hand with dedicated mobile apps; iBeacons allow you to relay messages to a user’s phone, based on their location, using Bluetooth technology. The largely untapped potential in using this technology by airports could prove key to optimising the traveller experience and fully exploiting commercial opportunities.

From bars and restaurants, to shops and other amenities, you’re able to push deals and incentives to an individual’s device to encourage them to visit. By tracking the movements and behaviours of users while in a terminal using iBeacons, airports are also able to optimise every inch of their customer flow; key for strategic commercial decision making and exploring ways in which wait times can be reduced at check-in, security, etc.

Social sharing

You’ve made your passengers’ pre-flight experience a memorable one; now get them to shout about it. Holiday excitement will mean that plenty of social sharing will be taking place in and around the airport – you just need to ensure that you’re latching onto it and, where possible, encouraging further engagement.

Ensure that links to your social media channels and sharing functionality are clearly visible across your digital platforms, while promoting the use of specific hashtags will encourage users to create posts clearly associated with your facility. Expanding your reach to the friends of followers of immediate customers will, if they’ve enjoyed their experience, only inspire more people to use your facilities.

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