Following a six-figure investment, George Best Belfast City Airport has launched a major five-year, digital transformation programme aimed at enhancing the customer experience that includes introducing Amazon Alexa functionality – a first for any Northern Irish airport.
The first phase of the innovative programme, accelerated by support from Tourism Northern Ireland’s ‘Embrace a Giant Spirit Digital Welcome’ fund, has already successfully introduced Amazon Alexa skill functionality for passengers seeking information about the airport; implemented a 24/7 customer service tool, Airchat; and installed the first of a 20-screen digital wayfinding portfolio in the terminal building.
Director of Information Technology at Belfast City Airport, Brian Roche, explained: “Like any modern business, digital transformation is vital to Belfast City Airport, not only for effective operations on a day-to-day basis now, but also in futureproofing the organisation for sustainable growth.
“The creation and implementation of these digital platforms will benefit our inbound and outbound customers greatly providing another layer of excellent customer service and assistance.
“It also demonstrates our commitment to continually delivering an airport experience that exceeds the expectations of our passengers.”
The airport is the first in Northern Ireland to harness voice search functionality and implement a 24/7, multi-channel customer service tool, allowing passengers greater choice and flexibility in how, when, and where they receive their travel updates.
Amazon Alexa, one of the world’s most popular voice-controlled, virtual assistants, tackles the important issue of digital accessibility by acting as an invaluable tool for those with visual impairments or physical, communicational, or cognitive disabilities, and allows passengers of all abilities to ask their Amazon device for airport information such as live flight details, car parking, facilities and more.
Until now, passengers could only receive updates on flight information by checking the airport website. With the AirChat platform, users can register in advance for real-time, pre-departure flight updates which are then conveniently sent directly to their chosen device via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and webchat.
AirChat is also a 24/7 service, enabling passengers to ask questions regarding travel updates, facilities, car parking, special assistance, and more at any time and receive automated yet informative responses that will help plan the journey to, through or from Belfast City Airport.
Speaking of these digital developments, the first of a 20-project business transformation programme, Brian continued: “Our passengers are at the heart of everything we do and convenience for our passengers is the catalyst behind our investment in these digital solutions.
“The airport is a first and last impression of Northern Ireland for visitors so we are thrilled Tourism NI recognised the opportunities to further enhance the passenger experience Belfast City Airport and pledged its support to achieve our vision.”
Tourism NI’s support has enabled the airport to complete the first phase of its programme ahead of schedule.
Dave Vincent, Chief Digital Officer at Tourism NI responsible for accelerating a ‘digital first’ ambition within the tourism industry, said of the partnership: “As a main gateway to Northern Ireland, Belfast City Airport plays an integral role in the tourism experience of our visitors.
“Already a central transport hub that offers a quick, safe, convenient transit, the airport’s dedication to further enhancing the passenger welcome through digital innovation is to be applauded.
“Its aspirations of harnessing digital tools and online platforms to better the experience of those visiting our shores align perfectly with the ethos of Tourism NI’s ‘Embrace a Giant Spirit Digital Welcome Programme’.
“We are therefore delighted to support this exciting, passenger-centric phase of the airport’s digital transformation programme.”
The next phases of the digital transformation programme will see the airport partner with both local and global industry leaders to develop platforms and protocols that will further enhance the passenger experience from door to gate.