InfoComm: Digital Displays and Signage in Airports

AirportSignage_0815This summer, airlines are expecting record numbers of travelers, which can be both good and bad for airports. All those people moving through the airports could provide a huge boost to airport income as long as the travelers know where to spend their money.

As multimillion- (or billion-) dollar facilities, airports need to generate revenue, but the falling profits of airlines has made that ever more difficult. Airport World notes that there are five elements necessary for the airport itself to drive profit:

  • Airport branding separate from airline branding
  • Time spent at the airport
  • Multiple touch points for passengers
  • Choice of activities
  • The propensity of travelers to spend money

While most airports enjoy some of these key elements, few touch them all. It’s the innovative airports that keep travelers happy and spending money.

Applying those five elements in the real world requires innovation, forethought, and a commitment to long-term thinking. For example, a study found that 35 percent of U.S. air travelers found it difficult to find restaurants and stores. That adds up to millions of dollars in lost revenue — if the travelers could find what they wanted in the amount of time available.

Something as simple as a touchscreen information terminal could allow passengers to quickly find what they’re looking for, but also to introduce them to options they may not have known were available.

Airports can use advertising, retail sales, and food service to increase revenue, but only if they drive passenger engagement. And they can only do that if their displays are both useful and beautiful.

Functional vs. Aesthetic

Too often function and form are placed in opposition to one another. But when they are both working together the results are better than emphasizing only one or the other. In the modern world, televisions are everywhere so they tend to fade into the background of consciousness. That means that ads and information are also given less mental real estate. But when the displays are beautiful and innovative in themselves, they draw attention to not only the form, but also the content.

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Some of the most innovative airports realize this and put it to use, turning time going through security, waiting for a flight, and collecting baggage — normally boring endeavors — into engaging parts of the travel. Passengers don’t have to wait until they leave the airport to start enjoying themselves if proper attention is given to both the aesthetic and functional aspects of digital signage.

At the Los Angeles International Airport, Tiffany & Co. sponsored a digital clock tower that shows the current time, but also highlights the stylish timepieces sold by Tiffany. The seven-story, four-sided, digital-display pillar is at the center of the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The collaboration between Tiffany and the airport creates both value for the travelers and compelling marketing for high-end watches.

The Miami International Airport makes digital signage personal with virtual personal assistants that can help both English and Spanish speaking travelers navigate the airport, find shopping, food, and get important information. The virtual assistant kiosks allow travelers to find the information they need at their own pace which frees up airport employees and helps the travelers to feel more welcome.

Every international airport needs to process passports for travelers. At the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. They’ve installed passport processing kiosks, but the real innovation is in adding additional information and advertisements to the digital displays. Since the passport processing takes in the flight information, the system knows which gate the traveler will be using and at what time, making it ideal for personalized suggestions for shopping or dining.

Using digital displays improves the airport experience for travelers, making the airport a part of the fun of travel.

This column was reprinted with permission from InfoComm and originally appeared here.