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PERSPECTIVE

How Delta is designing airports built for ‘walking speed’

E.V.P. and Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband talks about the ways Delta is using digital innovation and infrastructure upgrades to make the airport journey as seamless, hands-free and “walking speed” for customers as possible.
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E.V.P. and Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband
Allison Ausband
E.V.P. and Chief Customer Experience Officer

Allison Ausband oversees the end-to-end customer experience that includes the Innovation and Customer Experience teams and the 56,000 team members in Delta’s Airport Customer Service, In-Flight Service and Reservations and Customer Care divisions who deliver those experiences. In an extraordinary two years for commercial airlines, Allison and her team have continued to innovate to meet evolving customer expectations while providing peace of mind during times of rapid change.

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There’s no doubt the past few years have been challenging for our people, our customers, our industry and the world. But the Delta team continues to lead the way in delivering an industry-leading customer experience and ensuring the future of travel is personalized, enjoyable and stress-free.

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In January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a standstill, Delta unveiled our vision for the future of travel at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. We showed off PARALLEL REALITY™ technology for the first time and shared a look at what a truly seamless airport experience could look like in the years ahead. Even though some of those ideas were temporarily put on hold due to the challenges of the pandemic, our team never lost its focus on bringing this ambitious vision to life.

The airport is a central part of the customer experience – and we know navigating such busy facilities can often be overwhelming. Thanks to a series of continuous airport infrastructure investments paired with truly exciting efforts in digital innovation, customers are beginning to see this concept come to life through Digital ID, PARALLEL REALITY™ and other experiences. And this is only the beginning. We’re laser-focused on making our airports “walking speed” – allowing our customers to journey through the airport at their own pace, hands-and touch-free.  

Already this year, we’ve opened new terminals at LAX and New York-LGA that were thoughtfully redesigned with the customer in mind. One of the coolest aspects of the new T3 terminal at LAX is a 250-foot LED digital backwall in the lobby which spans the entire length of the check-in and bag drop counters. (Fun fact: It’s wider than both the wingspan and the nose-to-tail length of Delta’s flagship aircraft, the Airbus A350!) Currently, the screen shows dynamic content such as real-time Delta Sky Club volume indicators and flight status information, wayfinding in both English and Spanish, and intuitive icons to help guide customers based on their travel needs. A quick glance at the backwall allows our customers to easily absorb information as they navigate the check-in lobby. And there is so much more this technology will allow us to do in the months and years ahead.

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A joint $2.3 billion investment to modernize and upgrade one of the airline’s key global hubs.

We unveiled domestic Digital ID technology at our Atlanta and Detroit hubs late last year, and we’ll soon make those capabilities available at our new terminals at LAX and LGA as well. Digital ID is facial matching technology that allows customers to opt in to check bags, go through security and board completely hands-free by using their digital identity, powered by TSA PreCheck. A “digital identity” is made up of a customer’s SkyMiles Member number, passport number and known traveler number from the TSA PreCheck or CBP Global Entry program.

Delta carries nearly 200 million customers each year. Each person who sits in our seats is important to us, and we demonstrate that by personalizing the travel experience in as many ways as we can, with the help of our people. We took a huge step forward in personalizing the customer journey when we launched the PARALLEL REALITY™ experience at Detroit Metropolitan Airport this past June. This mind-blowing technology, made possible through Delta’s partnership with tech startup Misapplied Sciences, was still in its conceptual phase in 2020. While we test this technology out at DTW, it is helping over 1,000 people seamlessly navigate the airport each day.

Customers departing from Detroit Metropolitan Airport can now access PARALLEL REALITY™ technology, a must-be-seen-to-be-believed experience that demonstrates Delta’s spirit of innovation and commitment to customers.

PARALLEL REALITY™ offers a large screen that displays personalized flight information, such as directions to the gate. Currently, customers can opt in to use this technology at the airport simply by scanning their paper or digital boarding pass. Up to 100 customers can share the screen at the same moment and see only their individualized information on the screen, with no hint of what those around them see.

I was in Detroit recently, and a customer walked by in a panic asking, “Which way do I go?” And then he looked up and saw the PARALLEL REALITY™ screen with his own information and said, “Oh! It’s right here for me. To the right, that’s easy.” This technology is for everyone, not just the tech-savvy or the travel pros. It was incredibly cool to see it in action and watch how it’s already taking some stress out of the airport experience.

Imagine a world where every airport flight information screen has PARALLEL REALITY™ technology – there are endless possibilities, all of which will enable these experiences to become routine. It’s about communicating with our customers in the simplest and most easily accessible of ways. Walking-speed airports are truly within reach.

As humans, we all want to feel valued. That’s why personalizing the customer experience is a priority for us. It’s one more way for us to say you matter and thank you for flying with Delta. There is no better time to keep climbing – I hope you’ll keep climbing with us to see our vision become reality.
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