Access at Arm’s Reach

Jason Caws / Tuesday, March 01, 2016

I recently waited for a flight in Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal C. Expecting the typical travelling experience of delayed departures and time wasted waiting at the gate, I was surprised to find that the poorly rated airport had implemented a massive upgrade to their customer experience by installing iPads at every seat in the terminal.

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This upgrade, courtesy of the innovative company OTG, drastically changes the travelling experience by providing a means for all passing travelers to monitor their flight status, browse the web, and even order food straight to their seat and pay for it with a built-in credit card reader. Experiencing this new way to kill time in an airport terminal made me consider the effect of minimizing the gaps between customers and satisfaction. 

In the past, grabbing a quick bite to eat between connecting flights has rarely been more appetizing than a stop at a magazine stand or fast food counter. A stressed traveler pressed for time will sacrifice quality for ease of access (a choice familiar to everyone who has ever taken a road trip on the interstate highways). And keeping yourself occupied while waiting for a flight (and eating your pre-packaged turkey wrap) usually involves a frustrating interaction with unreliable airport Wi-Fi or searching for an available charging station. With the installation of new, self-serve technology (and free Internet access, including your flight’s gate number and boarding time), a larger range of quality choices has become easily accessible to customers. Any traveler can pick an open seat and gain instant access to the range of services provided by United.

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This self-serve method has the power to change what was previously a dreaded experience into something like a casual stop in the Apple store, all while minimizing the stress of flying. Users of all ages can walk up to an inviting interface and explore what it has to offer. By providing a commitment-free way to spend time at arm’s reach, United has demonstrated that they understand some of our fundamental needs as airport users and actually improved our experience.