MAG, the UK’s largest airport group and the owner of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports, has launched its own technology and e-commerce business to respond to technology-driven changes in the way passengers travel and to move the airport experience into a new digital era.
‘MAG-O’, which opened in new specially designed offices on site at Manchester Airport this month, has recruited a strong team of 65 experts drawn from the technology industry’s biggest names and attracted by the challenge of modernising the passenger experience. Key hires have included software developers, designers, system architects and user experience specialists.
MAG-O sits ‘arms-length’ from the rest of the Group to encourage the development of innovative and fresh thinking away from the day-to-day operation, and is aiming to improve the passengers’ end-to-end experience of using the group’s three UK airports through the introduction of better technology and innovative new online products.
The team is seeking much of its inspiration from outside the airport industry and has already trialled, tested and introduced dozens of new initiatives across MAG’s digital footprint, with many of the improvements already proving familiar to users of popular technology brands such as Amazon, Spotify, John Lewis and Asos.
This investment by MAG comes following feedback from passengers that showed that they were underwhelmed by the digital experience on offer at airports generally, and that in recent years their expectations of customer service had increased.
Nolan Hough has been appointed as Managing Director of MAG-O, having previously run the Group’s car parking operation.
Commenting on MAG-O, Nolan Hough said: “For many of our passengers, the super-slick experiences that they get from dedicated tech companies and popular venues like Disney and the Etihad Stadium are now the norm. MAG-O is about bringing that sort of thinking to the way we serve our passengers, so that they can enjoy their time at the airport. Our mission is to connect up the journey in so that passengers get a much smoother, and stress-free, experience.
“Everyone within this new team comes to work aiming to challenge the wider business to evolve our passenger offering so it embraces the modern demands of both online and offline customer experience.
“We are essentially a start-up and already MAG-O has introduced a number of changes to the wider MAG operation that have made a noticeable difference to passengers, including how they are able to find and book flights, receive live flight notifications, and purchase car parking & fast track services.
“In the future, we are targeting a truly personalised airport experience where as a passenger you will be guided directly to your parking space via mobile web services, have your food ready and waiting for you at the restaurant of your choice and be able to take advantage of personalised discounts in our shops and then finally be guided to the plane at exactly the right time for boarding.”
One of first tasks for MAG-O has been to undertake a complete redesign and relaunch of the Group’s airport websites, with each one now delivering significantly faster load speeds and a more intuitive user experience. These sites are designed to be used on mobile devices, reflecting the fact that 60% of traffic is from passengers either at the airport or on their way.
The business has also embarked on a programme of trialling and testing new products which will benefit MAG’s passengers, improving the efficiency of its terminal and car parks, and offering passengers new online experiences.
It is also currently redesigning the Group’s back-office systems, including its online retail platforms and car park yield management systems, to maximise efficiency and offer passengers targeted products at the best possible price.
MAG-O plans to grow in headcount by a further 50% by April 2018 to drive the transformation of passenger services at MAG airports.