Nolan Hough: “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; 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”

UK. 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, called MAG-O.

The project is a response to technology-driven changes in the way passengers travel. It is designed to move the airport experience into a new digital era, MAG said.

MAG-O opened in new offices on site at Manchester Airport this month. It has recruited a team of 65 experts drawn from the technology industry’s biggest names, attracted by the challenge of modernising the passenger experience, MAG said. 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,” MAG commented. “It 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 MAG-O team is seeking much of its inspiration from outside the airport industry. It has already trialled, tested and introduced “dozens” of new initiatives across MAG’s digital footprint, the airport company said. These improvements are already proving familiar to users of popular technology brands such as Amazon, Spotify, John Lewis and Asos, MAG said.

The investment follows feedback from passengers that showed they were “underwhelmed” by the digital experience on offer at airports generally. Additionally, their expectations of customer service had increased over recent year.

Nolan Hough has been appointed as Managing Director of MAG-O, having previously run the Group’s car parking operation. He 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.

“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.” – Nolan Hough, Managing Director, MAG-O

“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; 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 MAG-O’s first tasks has been to undertake a redesign and relaunch of the Group’s airport websites. Each one now delivers 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 there.

The business has also embarked on a programme of trialling and testing new products which will benefit MAG’s passengers. These are aimed at improving the efficiency of terminals and car parks, and offering passengers new online experiences.

Footnote: As revealed by The Moodie Davitt Report, Changi Airport Group has also just unveiled a start-up cross-border e-commerce subsidiary. Called E-Concierge, it will also operate independently from CAG and the airport business.

Red-ribbon day: (Left to right) Andrew Harrison, CEO, MAG Airport Services; Charlie Cornish, CEO, MAG; and Nolan Hough, Managing Director, MAG-O celebrate the new division’s launch

(Above and below) A suitably edgy look for the new MAG-O offices