Recently, easyJet became the first UK airline to offer augmented reality bag scanning in its app. This affirms the fact that 2019 will be the year that AR continues to move beyond gaming gimmicks and starts to ‘augment’ the travel experience.
Approaching the departure gate and wondering if your cabin baggage will fit in the overhead locker is a stressful part of air travel. An unexpected oversized baggage charge can cast a cloud over the travel experience, which is why easyJet is doing everything in its power to make sure its customers don’t run into these problems.
easyJet has become the first UK airline to release an augmented reality bag scanner feature in its app, which allows passengers to scan their cabin bag before traveling to see if it fits within the airline’s maximum dimensions.
Developed in partnership with Travelport Digital, this feature within easyJet's app works by using augmented reality technology, combined with customers’ smart phone cameras (iOS only for now, iPhone 6S onwards). The scan provides an on-screen 3D box which, when combined with the phone’s camera, sizes the cabin bag and shows if it fits within the maximum dimensions.
From gaming gimmicks to augmented experiences
Augmented reality has long been on the list of emerging trends to watch, not only in travel, but across many industries like gaming, healthcare and engineering. Over the last few years, it’s been a somewhat niche area that seemed a long way off becoming mainstream, aside from the Pokémon GO craze that landed in 2016. However, there are now over 500 million AR-enabled mobile devices worldwide and over 2000 AR apps in the App Store — so there’s no denying it’s evolving quickly.
While AR was seen as a gimmick back in 2016 when Pokémon GO hit the App Store, today it’s serving a greater purpose in terms of actually augmenting customer experiences. Augmented reality is already transforming the retail sector, with brands enabling customers to ‘try on’ products using their phones or virtually place furniture in their home to see if it will fit in a certain space.
In addition to retail, the travel industry has been another pioneer of AR technology over the last few years and the travel brands who are seeing the most success are the ones who are using it to address a real customer need. This is exactly what easyJet is doing.
With a 50% increase in “easyJet bag policy” searches since July 2017, the airline clearly identified a common traveler pain point—i.e. is my hand luggage too big to bring onboard, and will I face additional charges at the airport? Now, it’s gone a step beyond simply highlighting baggage dimensions to travelers, to helping resolve that pain point through mobile. By using the AR bag scanner feature to measure their bag size, travelers will have a degree of certainty that they will be allowed to take their cabin bag onboard once they get to the departure gate.
28% of airlines will invest in AR this year
Travelport Digital’s Mobile Travel Trends 2019 industry research found that 28% of airlines will invest in AR this year. The airlines who are investing in AR features like bag scanning will reap the rewards from both a customer experience perspective, as well as increasing ancillary revenue and improving operational efficiency at boarding gates.
For example, when using the AR feature in the easyJet app, travelers who discover their bag does not fit within the maximum dimensions can easily add a checked-in bag to their trip from the app. From a customer perspective, this allows them to upgrade in advance of reaching the airport, while helping to reduce time spent by staff negotiating this scenario at the departure gate.
It’s unsurprising that more than a quarter of airlines plan to invest in AR, and with the release of Apple's ARKit and Google's ARCore, developing AR capabilities has become cheaper, easier and quicker in the last 18 months or so. Therefore, we can expect to see the number of airlines investing in this technology increase in the next few years, following the example of industry leaders like easyJet.
If we think back to iOS 2.0, users had to be taught how to swipe up or down on a list of items, but now it’s second nature. As AR becomes faster, more mainstream and easier to use, it too will become second nature and a core part of travel, removing key pain points and contributing to a more seamless customer journey.