While many airline brands are improving the customer experience in-flight, it is the part before boarding the plane that many passengers usually find the most stressful.

Good news from Gatwick then, as the airport announces that it is to introduce ‘augmented reality wayfinding’, powered by its recent installation of 2,000 indoor beacons.

Essentially, the technology will provide an indoor navigation system (much like Google Maps) to help passengers find directions to wherever they need to go inside the airport. Here’s a bit more on the story as well as how it could do more than remove those panic-induced runs to the gate.

Simplifying the passenger experience

Due to the unreliable nature of indoor GPS, Gatwick has chosen to use a beacon-based system to enable ‘blue dot’ navigation on indoor maps. Alongside increased reliability, the battery-powered beacons also require less cost and complexity to install, with the new system reportedly taking just three weeks to complete.

For passengers, the main benefit of the beacons will be to reduce the stress and anxiety of getting to the gate on time, taking away the need to constantly check for information on boards or ask staff. 

What’s more, it will also help passengers to navigate all other areas of the airport, helping them to find baggage carousels, check-in desks, and specific food and shopping outlets. 

This could be particularly useful for international passengers, who are likely to find it much easier to follow a visual map rather than written or spoken English. 

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Helping airline operations

While the beacon technology has already been integrated into some of Gatwick’s apps, the airport has suggested that it is keen to widen it out to airlines and other third party apps.

This means that beacons could be used for more than just navigation. It all depends on user consent, of course, but it could allow airlines to send real-time messages and information to late or absent passengers – and even use their location to speed up departure times (if it is clear that the person will not make the flight within a certain timeframe).

General operations on the ground could also be improved, with the technology allowing the airport to view and monitor queue density and other logistical factors that impact things like passport control.

So, what about consumer privacy?

According to Gatwick, no personal data will be collected other than generic information such as gender, and consent will remain paramount if third parties start to integrate the technology into their own apps.

Benefits for retailers   

Finally, the benefits could also extend to retailers operating in Gatwick, with the technology offering up huge potential for proximity-based marketing.

Not only could it allow brands to send proximity-based offers and discounts, but to target and retarget customers based on more specific types of behaviour. For example, taking into consideration where they are in the airport, whether they have previously visited elsewhere, and even in terms of how they navigate the store and whether or not they make a purchase.

With 75% of consumers reportedly using their mobile devices while shopping in-store, it could be a highly effective way to drive sales. What’s more, it also aligns with the growing trend of airport shopping as part of the over-arching travel experience – not just a way to while away half an hour before boarding. 

So, while it is good news for passengers, Gatwick’s new AR navigation system could be even greater news for retailers, with people perhaps even more inclined to spend money pre-flight.

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