Airports shouldn’t build apps

Airports have been very active with apps during the last few years. I just happened to travel through the busiest airport in Scandinavia and while there, I studied what kind of digital tools Kastrup offers nowadays. Frankly, I wasn’t very impressed.

Eventually I found out that Valtech has even made a case study about Copenhagen airport’s websites. It is probably a couple of years old, but still it gives some insight into how airports see their services.

Currently Copenhagen airport seems to be pushing their app very strongly (at the airport and on their website). That is a bit surprising since the app doesn’t really offer anything particularly useful. Yes, it does send me useful notifications about my flight — which is a very good service, thank you! But, that isn’t yet very much. (One could also argue that a more natural notifier would be the airline.)

The airport app advertises that it also helps me find my way around the airport and gives me shopping tips — but that didn’t really work in practice. It couldn’t even sort a restaurant list based on my location — even though it asked permission to use the location information. It really isn’t that hard to do.

Anyway, the main take-away for me was that airport apps absolutely make no sense. There is no way I am going to install an app for every airport I am going to visit. That is just not going to happen — not even for those business travelers that spend 100+ days a year on the road.

The CPH Airport app is most likely just a very expensive test drive to find out what kind of services the airport could offer through digital channels. And once they figure it out, they probably start investing more in their website.

Of course the reality is much more of a mess. There most likely will be more airport apps coming, and there probably will be more “super apps” like FLIO (which offers basic info and guidance on hundreds of different airports). Still, the fact remains that pushing into individual apps is just not a sustainable strategy for airports. Most of their “smart offering” could easily be done with a website — and that would still be impressive customer service.

Apps do offer interesting possibilities, e.g. very precise location info using beacons, or targeted promotions through notifications, but if those capabilities are not truly used, then apps make no sense for airports (or other similar irregular shopping and dining venues).

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