Mobile phones and beacons can help airports manage queues

Security lines are not only a problem for airlines and airports but also a nuisance to passengers. Ensuring the right staff are available to quickly serve changeable passenger numbers is a tricky business.

Now airport technology company BLIP Systems suggests the solution to this queue quandary could be right in passengers’ pockets.

IATA has found that passengers’ patience with queuing is tested after the 10-minute mark. In the US, where TSA lines can be theme-park long, the wait time is sometimes counted by hours.

Airports Council International North America (ACI-NA) recently expressed its frustration with the situation, voicing the concerns of members and urged action to resolve delays for the long-term.

“If you’re two to three hours on the line, the airport gets the blame for it,” its president and CEO, Kevin M. Burke said on a press call this May.

The association proposed greater collaboration between airports, airlines, and the TSA to calculate demand numbers and plan ahead for adequate staffing.

“Our suggestion is to re-engineer the allocation model and implement a maximum acceptable wait time. We suggest 20 minutes..and they get a figure,” said Christopher Bidwell, vice president of  security for ACI-NA

Getting all stakeholders around the table is complicated, and there are issues of TSA funding. This has slowed progress, and kept the lines long.

BLIP has developed queue measurement technology which helps airports track passenger numbers by counting as passengers’ mobile phones cross their beacons.

Up to now, that technology has been used for real-time reporting, alerting airport staff of backlogs, and displaying waiting times to passengers on digital monitors.

But BLIP has now added a forecasting solution for back-end systems which projects future passenger flow, based on a combination of historic and real-time data.

The new “Optimiser Module” predicts passenger demand by combining real-time and historic data with future flight schedules, expected growth, events, holidays and other data points. It can give airports visibility on demand days, weeks, or months ahead. The module can also be integrated into existing airport management systems.

Beyond keeping passengers happy, queues cost airports cash.

Christian Bugislaus Carstens, marketing manager at BLIP, cites studies which estimate that every minute of delay can cost an airport €1.00 per passenger. It adds up, especially for airport concessionaires who need passengers to spend as much time as possible airside. Carstens says:

“Each day or period brings new changes such as flight delays, cancellations, changing passenger numbers, unplanned events, seasonal changes, national holidays and more. Disruptions impact the operational plan and require both live and long-term operational changes in airport passenger processing areas to prevent queues, frustrated passengers and lost revenue.”

BLIP’s real-time solutions are already in place at New York’s JFK Airport and Cincinnati reporting on passenger flow, and the company is in talks with these and other US airports about the new “Optimiser Module.”

Copenhagen Airport (CPH), where queues are often well below that 10-minute mark, is presently conducting a trial of the new Optimiser Module.

The airport expects to serve more than 100,000 passengers a day for the first time in its history.

CPH has already alerted passengers to arrive early, and has added staff and made process improvements at security to keep those queues from getting out of hand.

As the wise man said, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Related reading from Tnooz:

So far, passengers mostly ignore airlines’ call to shame the TSA (May 2016)
Moving bags, busting queues and inspiring journeys – all in a weekend hack (Dec 2015)
New TSA chief hopes new technology will smooth airport checkpoints (Nov 2015)


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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.



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