Guest Post: NCR Govt Systems President Stan Ratcliffe on Self-Service Tech in Air Travel

Stan Ratcliffe

As president of NCR Government Systems, Stan Ratcliffe works with governments and their constituents to facilitate information exchange.

In a spotlight interview with ExecutiveBiz in March, the 25-year federal contracting veteran discussed how self-service offerings such as ATM machines and check-in kiosks can help open communications between citizens and the government.

For this guest column, Ratcliffe zeroes in on air travel, one of the primary points of interaction between the government and citizens and an avenue of frustration for many citizens.

Read below to see the gaps Ratcliffe identifies in making air travel easy for citizens, some possible solutions and ways some agencies help passengers get through the lines and onto their destinations.

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Hurry up and wait…how government can employ self-service to eliminate delays and put travelers in the fast lane

By: Stan Ratcliffe, President, NCR Government Systems

Being able to check in for a flight and get your boarding pass at home, online or en route via mobile device has all but eliminated the need to wait for a ticket agent. But what is the point of saving time when we’re forced to queue at security or border control? Today’s digitally enabled traveler has come to expect the expediency of self-service technology to manage their travel experience, yet research released this month by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) highlights the gaps in delivering that same convenience throughout the journey.

While the Open Government initiative has improved the way we access information, interacting with the government remains cumbersome, time consuming, and a source of frustration and unneeded expense. This is particularly evident in the travel industry, where obtaining a passport can take up to 6 weeks, winding through the security line can take up to an hour and waiting to go through customs can take even longer at the country’s busiest airports.

The IATA study finds that more than a third (37%) of respondents listed the queuing time at airport security as the most frustrating element of the security screening process. Further, more than half (51%) said an acceptable queuing time at a security point is 5-10 minutes. Yet security line wait times on Monday morning average more than twice that time, and the average wait to get processed through U.S. Customs upon arrival will add an additional 20 minutes or more.

Passengers have come to expect the convenience of self-service to complete routine passenger processing activities, such as check-in, passenger authentication and ancillary purchases. By integrating these same types of self-service technologies to automate other areas of travel, government can close the gap in an otherwise seamless passenger experience and fundamentally transform the way it operates and interacts with its constituents.

The Transportation Security Administration is currently piloting a self-service approach to passenger authentication that it anticipates will not only speed the process, but improve the level of security by eliminating the potential for fraud. Known as Credential Authentication Technology – Boarding Pass Scanning System (CAT/BPSS), the self-service kiosk-based solution reads and analyzes data and embedded security features on passenger IDs and boarding passes to identify fraudulent credentials.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is also beginning to employ self-service kiosks to improve the travel experience. Its Global Entry program allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Initial reviews are positive, but there is tremendous opportunity to expand this program and others like it by enabling passengers through self-service technology to take a more active role.

For example, allowing passengers to access real-time updates on wait times for security or customs, or mobile wayfinding applications that could redirect passengers to less busy checkpoints could alleviate congestion and frustration.

The widespread adoption of mobile, web and kiosk-based solutions from departure to arrival clearly indicates that consumers want more control over their travel experience. Empowering the traveler and eliminating delays along the way can help the government drive greater efficiency and forge stronger, more meaningful relationships with its citizens.

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