It was back in the year 2000 when the WAP technology was still at its bleeding stage and Bluetooth was only available in a few communication labs.
I was working throughout a weekend preparing a live demo of an airport community portal accessed via WAP phones. We were showcasing the solution to a couple of IT decision makers from BAA. The portal application we built for the demo was mainly for travelers who need to get instant information such as latest flight schedule, check-in counters, gates, lounges and baggage carousels.
Upon completing the half an hour demo, the feedback we received from BAA was such an eye opener. It seemed that the airport community (which consists of people such as the travelers, airport operators, duty free shops’ concessionaires and other airport retailers) had a bigger IT requirement than what we have assumed. It was not a surprise anymore after we learned the facts and statistics about the 4 major British airports.
The biggest and busiest British airport, London Heathrow alone is used by more than 90 airlines with 67 million annual passengers. The second largest is Gatwick Airport that handles over 34 million passengers a year with more than 250,000 aircraft movements. The third largest airport serving London area is London Standsted airport which handles many European low-cost airlines. Manchester airport is the fourth busiest airport which handles more 230,000 aircraft movements a year.
One of the constructive comments we received that day was the biggest value add any IT solution provider could provide is to integrate the airport community portal application with the airport hotels. These are the most sought after cheap accommodations for many of the passengers. Travelers who happened to be backpackers, on business trips, in a large group or in a long flight transit should be able to find the hotel information easily and can even make last minute booking. Online checking in to the nearby airport hotels should be hassle free if the function is available from the airport portal.
Well, that was almost 8 years ago. Today the airport hotel information can be accessed by travelers from any device that supports internet browsing. They can plan the stay way ahead or do it on the last minute. Airports like London Heathrow, Gatwick, Standsted and Manchester are expanding and getting busier each year. Airport hotels that are within the vicinity with attractive room rates will remain the best choice for most travelers.