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Helsinki Airport's travel experience will be upgraded

Article published
15.11.2015 at 07:00
The future of air travelling was redefined in Helsinki last weekend. Over 100 talented developers literally all over the world gathered in a 48-hour hackathon to set the course for future travelling.

The idea of the hackathon’s (*) AERO-track was to create revolutionary ideas and digital solutions that will change the travel industry and make travelling an even more enjoyable experience.

Helsinki Airport was one of the main organizers of the event, together with Finnair and the creative technology company Reaktor. This was the first time an airline, an airport, and a technology developer combined their forces to host a hackathon.

The event was a great success, and as many of the creative proposals as possible are considered to be taken into use at the Helsinki Airport and other airports managed by Finavia in the near future.

How will the future of air travelling look like?

One of the creative forces behind the AERO-track, Fernando Leon, Business Developer from Reaktor tells that the future of flying will be more passenger-centric with a lot of design thinking and personalized experiences.

- Airports are socially and emotionally loaded environments and are just as big part of the travel experience as airlines. Therefore we want to challenge developers to create technology that amplifies and leverages these social and emotional aspects to create great experiences and improve the interaction among passengers as well as between brands and passengers.

Leon is excited about the results of the hackathon. There were ideas that will challenge the current model of frequent flyer programs and will involve also the airports in the loyalty programs. Some interesting ideas developed here aim to change the artificial intelligence used in services provided by airport operators and airlines.

- All of the ideas will offer significant possibilities to increase passenger satisfaction and cruise satisfaction before, during and after the flight. Together with Helsinki Airport, Finnair and Reaktor we have all the ingredients to roll these things out to the market.

Cooperation between airports and airlines plays an important role 

One of the judges of the AERO-track, Helsinki Airport’s Head of Service Development Eero Knuutila, also rejoices about the hackathon.

- First time ever in a major Hackathon, there are airline, airport and technology developers working together.

Knuutila states that it is crucial for airports and airlines to form deeper relationship in order to serve passengers better.

- It hasn’t always been clearly understood how important it is to get the parties to cooperate. Airports together with the airlines need to compete as a hub, offering a harmonic and smooth passenger experience.

People will be able to travel in very different ways according their own individual preferences. Therefore, possibility to choose and personalize the air travel experience will be one of the key denominators in this industry.

Studies show that as much as 33% of international transfer passengers choose their travel routes based on the transfer airport, which means that the airports play significant role in the process together with the airlines

Knuutila visions that in the future a passenger can choose anything between a luxurious and personalized travel solution and a largely commoditized option.

- We are interested to see how the developers, who often come outside the industry and represent different kind of thinking, view the travelling experience both as passengers and experts of their own field. Definitely we are breaking some new ground here, and this is the way it is going to be in the future.

Eye-opening experience

There were plenty of ideas that caught Knuutila’s attention.

- For example, a system which combines data from passenger’s personal devices to measure his/her health status, and which then offers us the possibility to use this data in order to make the passenger experience more enjoyable. It also gives us the chance to reduce stressful elements and understand the travel related sources of stress.

He paid lot of attention to the solutions that add game-like elements into travelling both at the airport and in-flight.

- There was a solution which integrates education into entertainment while travelling. I found it really potential and promising of an idea, especially as Finland is well known for quality education.

Knuutila found the results of the hackathon inspiring and fruitful.

- There have been many eye-opening proposals and I hope we can continue the discussions with the teams to develop their models forward. We have seen some really exciting stuff that helps us to think the travel experience differently. This gives us also new ideas how to communicate our messages differently both externally and internally as an airport.

The winning idea of the AERO-track was a solution that helps to tackle the fear of flying by team Coder Coded. The idea is to provide the passenger special information about the flight through an app to relieve the feeling of uncertainty, and hence alleviate the fear of flying. Their solution includes e.g. all the sounds that airplane is making during the flight, and “Can the plane handle it” accelerometer

* Hackathon = codefest, an event in which computer programmers, software developers, graphic designers, interface designers and others involved in digital development gather to collaborate intensively on software projects during a short period of time.

Read more about how Helsinki Airport is developing