Getting Passengers Back in Flight

First published at Edenspiekermann

Markus Pauly has over twenty years of experience within the aviation industry. After spending several years in management positions at Deutsche Lufthansa AG, developing their largest hub in Frankfurt, building on customer-centric processes, and forging extensive long-term relationships, he has become somewhat of an aviation expert. He has a deep understanding of what a truly seamless passenger flow should consist of.

Pauly implemented a joint long term development plan for FRA, with goals for the airport and airline. With a quality program starting during this period, Frankfurt Hub’s customer satisfaction exceeded 80% for the first time, and the hub emerged as one of the top ten hubs in the world.

Frankfurt airport is ranked highly regarding customer satisfaction. However, during Markus’ management time, they succeeded from being within the top twenty to reaching the top ten in customer satisfaction.

Furthermore, during his management period, the number of airline passengers increased by over 20%, and the number of passengers using the intermodality products nearly doubled.

One project was rebranding Lufthansa’s intermodal product (Lufthansa Express) and introducing Lufthansa Express Bus and Carsharing. He scaled this product, which is now operating and facilitating over 300,000 passengers a year. As well as introducing a new top tier HON Circle membership, resulting in it becoming the leading Frequent Flyer Programme in Europe.

We sat down with him and discussed his predictions for the post-covid world of flying and how airlines and airports can prepare to get passengers back on board.

Have customer expectations changed with Covid-19?

Absolutely. With the sudden and confusing travel bans being introduced, passengers are in a state of ambiguity alongside further restrictions from authorities. The number of flyers has reduced by over 70%, which proves a lack of trust in travel. During this disruption, safety, security, and mobility, in general, requires improvement. An opportunity has emerged to reevaluate existing infrastructure. How can we utilize it to its full potential, creating a seamless and safe passenger experience?

In regards to customers’ actual expectations, various touchpoints need to be altered. Clear and precise communication is essential now more than ever. From informing passengers of updated Covid regulations to displaying clear signage within airports, these are crucial elements for providing comfort to the passenger experience.

How can we apply your learnings from your previous projects in supporting airports with the challenges they face today?

From my experience, silo-thinking and non-collaborative finger-pointing restrict progress. To cope with upcoming challenges, this behaviour must be eliminated. We can support this by moderating between stakeholders and driving them towards shared aligned goals.

Frequently I have moderated processes, overcoming barriers between organizations, and built long term collaborative relationships. An example of this is when I negotiated and implemented a long term development plan for a major hub between airline and airport. Only through trust and shared common goals were we able to reach the champions league of global hubs. The result was a joint investment in infrastructure, valuable unit costs reductions, and increased quality in passenger-centric metrics, such as DWell time and punctuality.

In most cases, this is a lengthy and time-consuming process — the time-sensitivity of this pandemic emphasizes the need for these critical factors to be taken into account.

What are the biggest challenges airports and airlines face right now, from a customer point of view and a partner’s point of view?

The shared goal amongst all within the aviation industry is to return passengers to the sky. Airlines, airports, and service providers are suffering and in urgent need of sufficient revenue growth. In my opinion, having the ability to handle new processes via existing infrastructure and scaling up rapidly will be a significant challenge.

To face this challenge, it is essential to clarify who is responsible for what. While this sounds simplistic and straightforward, airlines and airports need to have a strong understanding of a post-covid passenger’s expectations. There has been an emergence of new stakeholders who must be considered, such as health authorities, private testing centers, and even hotels, which all have influence. This has triggered further questions to prevail, meaning new solutions must be distinguished. More than ever, it is now valuable to have experienced consultants on board who can efficiently and effectively navigate this.

The uncertainty and rapid developments of the pandemic emphasize the need to put the passenger first. While facing unexpected challenges, ensure a focus on regaining customers’ trust while providing a hassle free and safe experience.

From a safety and security point of view, what are the biggest challenges airports are now facing?

While safety and security regulations have always been of the utmost importance, they now have had to expand to local laws enforced by governments, proving how we have to adjust and focus on developing the ability to adapt to ever-changing variables. Enforcing Covid rules and regulations is fundamental to regaining trust. How can we ensure passengers wear a mask, socially distance, and avoid touching surfaces within the airport? These are all elements that have never before had to be considered, so appropriate systems are not in place.

This safety and security process features a new challenge; the variation of regulations between countries. Airlines and airports must be involved in this flow of information to meet the customer’s needs. Delivering this type of information at ease is a challenge but also an opportunity. To stand out from competitors providing clear, direct communication is crucial.

How can we apply technical knowledge and operational knowledge?

As we enter a new phase of digitization, the emergence of ID based products is growing. They support the passenger process, but they optimize it, we face the opportunity to utilize this technology to its full potential.

A few examples worth keeping a close eye on are:

Identifying solutions which are compatible with processes today and for the future is another key challenge. I overlook the development and challenging vendors from a neutral position, with the customer being front of mind throughout. For example, it is crucial for any European airport if it is planning to invest in biometric technologies to choose a system that allows future integration of the entry-exit border control system that is implemented across Europe by government authorities.

An efficient design of the passenger processes will only be feasible with supporting technologies. But single hardware and software solutions will not automatically result in customer-centric strategies. I was involved in several projects implementing new IT-systems.

A common mistake is made by individuals using the new system. Many functionalities were not designed because developers are unaware of what users need. Passengers were behaving differently than UI developers were expecting. Hence, there is a strong need for design thinking to be implemented throughout the development process. Prototyping and rapid testing are crucial elements that must be considered.

Implementing Seamless passenger flow

With new technologies emerging, it is essential to seamlessly integrate passengers’ needs, technology, legislation, and systems. Regarding biometrics and digital ID management, the main topic arising is acceptance of the passenger. I organized a survey pre-Covid. This demonstrated a high rate of passenger acceptance. Besides solving the short-term passenger growth with the existing environment, it is good to invest further in technologies for the future. This implementation is a long process that requires a large team.

We are here to provide the best customer-centric solutions and equip you with the tools required, bridging technology and passenger behavior with human-centric design.