Synthesis Topics

Revolutionize Gate Boarding and Customer Experience with "Gate on the Go"

Imagine an opportunity to increase customer experience, positively impact MBR, resolve congestion for boarding lines and enhance facility usage, all with a new idea for managing gate operations. All of this can be accomplished by removing the standard millwork podiums at gates and incorporating mobile carts for the agents. Similar to what you would see nurses using for patients, using a cart the gate agents will have the ability to go to the customer in the holdroom to check-in or change a seat, print bag tags and even process upgrades, as needed. Removing the bulky millwork in the middle of the holdroom (taking up valuable space), boarding lines can moved to the interior and handled in a much more low-key and customer friendly way. Additionally, with mobile carts, there is higher utilization IT and infrastructure at the terminals, whether it is the gate functions or service centers, which are mostly used for IRROPS.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Standard gate operations have fixed millwork podiums consisting of 2 -3 workstations for gate agents. Customers have to approach the podium (usually waiting in line) for questions, seat assignments, upgrades, international documentation verification and a slew of other needs. This involves the customer either having to leave their baggage at a seat unattended or taking their baggage with them and losing a seat once they approach the podium. These podiums are large and bulky and consume a large amount of the gate holdroom area, even if Carriers are trying to reduce the sizes, they still take up valuable real estate. Another large looming issue in managing gate operations is customers carry-on baggage. A large majority of customers by-pass ticket counter check-ins to bring large and or oversized bags through TSA to carry-on aircraft. Because of this, aircraft overhead bins fill very quickly and the FAs and gate agents are scrambling at "go time" to get all bags tagged and loaded in the cargo bin for departure.

Having a mobile cart, complete with all of the same IT standards in todays millwork podiums, allows the agents to go to the customer to satisfy their needs. It allows the gate agents to see large bags in the holdroom and tag them in advance of boarding the aircraft. Without the bulky millwork in the middle of the holdroom the boarding lines can be repositioned to the interior alleviating lines infiltration into the common walk areas, decreasing overall congestion. As boarding begins. and depending on the load factor of the flight, the agents can do simultaneous boarding by moving the carts to accommodate the need; whereas todays gate allows for single scanning of boarding passes. Additionally, as typical with the later boarding groups, as overhead bins begin to fill, an agent could take the cart to the end of the jetbridge to print bag tags, mitigating the needs for had written tags.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

There are several main objectives for introducing this "gate on the go" mobile cart. First and foremost is increasing the one-on-one customer experience. The gate agents are the final people seen by the customers on the ground before flight. It ads a level of reassurance to customers about to fly when there is direct personal interface while providing good customer service. And, to ease concerns over proximity and distancing, the cart will allow the agent to be as close as needed to assist the customer while remaining safely apart.

Secondly, increased D:0 performance with a higher alertness to bags in the holdroom. The ability to pre-plan bags going to ramp with more printed bag tags and improved communication between the Above and Below the Wing groups, as well as the FAs. The final minutes before closing the door are always the most stressful for everyone, and its typically due to bags. Being able to remove this from the equation (or at a minimum significantly impact the volume), would not only aid the overall performance for the Carrier, but increase the effectivity of all work groups performing for the common goal of pushing on time.

Lastly, the "gate on the go" cart changes the whole dynamic of IT requirements in the terminal Traditionally, every gate is outfitted with multiple workstations, whether or not the gate is highly utilized or significantly under utilized. And, each Terminal has some sort of Service Recovery Center, in which 8 - 10 workstations sit, mostly unused for at least 76 - 80% of the time. That is a lot of hardware and infrastructure sitting idle. With the mobile gate cart, there is only a need as high as what is needed to support the biggest bank in the heaviest flight schedule. The volume coupled with a given quality for IRROPS and a percent for OOS, would still be significantly less then the current process of IT needs in the operation.

A trade-off objective would be a portion of the leased space at terminals. Leased areas that are currently allocated to Service Centers or other areas may need to be resized, converted and or adjusted to storage for the carts when not in service. This is easily managed by a master plan study for complete utilization of operating areas and how to more effectively utilize them.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

A generic proto-type of this cart is already in production. The initial cart contains all of the needed gate operations IT; such as, bag tag printer, boarding pass printer, passport scanner, credit card reader, keyboard, monitors, PC, trash can, small storage spaces and small workspace. The proto-type cart should be ready for trials by the end of May. Steps are underway to locate a Carrier, Ground Handling partner or Airport Authority interested in performing a demo of this cart.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

The airline world has changed significantly over the last 30 years. The glory days of the elite only flying are far behind us. Today, and rightfully so, every one can fly. Because of this change in customer dynamic, the needs to provide customer service have changed just as dramatically. Even though todays world is in a "less touch; more distance" way of doing business, there are still some things where consumers don't want to compromise the personal interaction. The gate operation at the airport is one of those areas. The flying public want to see a friendly face in the gate area as they are about to embark on their journey. Making this interaction as positive and personal as possible while still affording the agents to do the required operational needs is very important. This new "gate on the go" cart will allow for enhanced customer service, a positive adjustment to standard gate agent operations, increase the postivity rate of D:0 performance and reduce CAPEX for the business entity.

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Idea No. 631