London Stansted's owner has today announced plans to improve customer experience and fight off competition from a rising wave of travel startups - by launching what will effectively serve as its own startup.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has launched its own technology and e-commerce arm, which it said will enable the airport group to respond to changes in the way passengers travel and respond to heightened customer expectation.
MAG-O opened in Manchester Airport this month, after bringing on board 65 tech experts, with hires including software developers, designers, system architects and user experience specialists. The team is looking outside the airport industry for inspiration, trialling initiatives used by the likes of Amazon, Spotify and Asos.
The airport group has plugged investment into a tech arm after feedback from passengers reflected disappointment with the current crop of digital offerings at airports generally, coupled with rising expectations of customer service.
Both airlines and airports are ramping up efforts to improve their digital work, with Gatwick today launching a new app offering personalised flight alerts and queue updates for security. British Airways boss Alex Crus meanwhile, said yesterday he was planning the airline's response to startups boasting apps and services that "inch into our operating models".
MAG-O's managing director Nolan Hough, said the new business was "essentially a startup" and has already been introducing changes to the wider airport operation, to improve how passengers find and book flights, and receive live flight notifications.
A redesign of the group's websites has already been completed to make them a better fit for mobile use.
Hough said: "For many of our passengers, the super-slick experiences that they get from dedicated tech companies and popular venues like Disney and the Etihad Stadium are now the norm.
"MAG-O is about bringing that sort of thinking to the way we serve our passengers, so that they can enjoy their time at the airport. Our mission is to connect up the journey in so that passengers get a much smoother, and stress-free, experience."
In the future, we are targeting a truly personalised airport experience where as a passenger you will be guided directly to your parking space via mobile web services, have your food ready and waiting for you at the restaurant of your choice and be able to take advantage of personalised discounts in our shops and then finally be guided to the plane at exactly the right time for boarding.
The new tech arm will also be bolstered over the coming months, with plans to up the headcount by a further 50 per cent by April.
MAG, which owns East Midlands and Manchester airports as well as London Stansted, also unveiled half-year results, from 1 April to 30 September, revealing a 13 per cent rise in revenues to £544.6m.
Earlier this week, it announced it had sold Bournemouth airport.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) rose 9.6 per cent to £236.6m, which the airport group said was driven by a record-breaking summer.
Passenger numbers also continued to soar, rising 9.1 per cent year-on-year to 34.9m. London Stansted specifically, recorded passenger traffic growth of 9.8 per cent to 14.6m.