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When Self-Help is Really the Best Help
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Air travel used to be stressful and overwhelming, especially at the airport. Issues such as the risk of being late for a flight, the time spent in queues and the sheer volume of harassed people could ruin a holiday or business trip before it even starts.

In today’s world however, time and convenience have become prized commodities and airlines are making use of modern technology to provide a travel a much-needed shot in the arm, to help passengers accomplish their goals faster and with less stress.

British Airways, ever the pioneer in travel innovations, has been reviewing a number of important ‘self-help’ products and services that are now giving customers greater control over their travel, as well as reducing the time and stress that used to accompany business and leisure travel.

The airline’s award-winning website, ba.com, is available in 11 international languages and receives an average of 2.5 million visitors weekly. British Airways launched its online check-in service in the year 2000, and upgraded the service to enable passengers to print their own boarding pass ahead of travel in 2004. Moran Birger, British Airways’ commercial manager for Ghana, explains that the airline is focused on giving the customer greater control over their own travel arrangements.

“On the website our customers are able to search for the best deals, look up information on their intended destination, book hotels or arrange car hire, and pay for their flights, all from the comfort of their home or office.”

Birger says that the ba.com website is also accessible from mobile devices, meaning that customers who may not readily have Internet access could still access ba.com on their mobile phones.

“On the more popular mobile platforms we actually have a downloadable app, which provides additional features such as a boarding pass that can be displayed on the phone or tablet screen and scanned,” says Birger.

The British Airways mobile app, one of the most advanced in the market, was relaunched in May this year, with features that include a personalised home screen which automatically updates with the customers' next flight including flight status, local time and weather at their destination, gate information, check-in options and seat information.

The app also has lounge Wi-fi passwords for all of British Airways’ 60 dedicated lounges across the world.

British Airways has seen an increase in the number of people booking via mobile devices by 290 per cent in just two years, with Mobile Boarding Pass usage also growing by more than 650 per cent in the last three years.

British Airways also has self-service technology available at selected airports that enables passengers to print their own bag tags after check-in, and deposit them at a bag drop counter. Birger believes that this technology could be widely available across the airline’s operation in a few years.

“Combined with the option to check-in on line and print boarding passes at home or the office, or scanned from your handheld device, you could literally go from your car to the boarding gate within 20 minutes, even with checked-in bags.”

Birger says the airline is in regular contact with its passengers, and endeavours to invest heavily in products and services for their convenience. “We are already seeing the results of our £5bn investment – we have brought in new aircraft, enhanced our cabins, improved catering and inflight entertainment and are using the latest technology to the benefit of our customers.”

British Airways is the first airline in Europe to allow its customers to use their handheld electronic devices in ‘flight-safe’ mode during taxiing, take off and landing. It was also the first UK airline to allow customers on long-haul flights to access inflight entertainment immediately when they board the aircraft.

In June this year, British Airways treated customers travelling from London to Accra to a live football match, courtesy of a high-speed “wi-fi” Internet service the airline is trialling around the world. “Our passengers were able to enjoy a live football match at 35,000ft – think about the possibilities for business and leisure travel once this technology is available on all our flights!”

Birger says that feedback from customers on the Ghana route has been very positive and the airline would be reviewing some of the interesting requests they have received, such as introducing a ‘fast track’ service for known and frequent travellers.


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