Singapore Airlines passengers connecting between flights at London’s Heathrow Airport will be the first to gain access to Star Alliance’s new digital ‘Connection Service’ via their smartphones.
Now available to Android users of Singapore Airlines’ mobile app, and soon to follow with an app update for iOS, the system aims to simplify the transfer process, while also unlocking airport Fast Track privileges for those with quick connections.
By running the app and enabling location permissions on the device, travellers connecting between Singapore Airlines and any other Star Alliance airline at Heathrow will be presented with a personalised map of the terminal, highlighting the fastest path to their onward gate.
They’ll also see exactly how far away that departure gate is, how long the walk is expected to take, and when the gate is set to close.
When time is tight, the app will also display an ‘Express Connection’ pass for use at security, granting access to the Fast Track lane even if the traveller wouldn’t have otherwise qualified.
“We know that it can be challenging at times for customers to navigate through large, unfamiliar airports when connecting from one flight to another, especially when unexpected delays have an impact on the connecting time,” said Christian Draeger, Star Alliance Vice President Customer Experience.
“As we welcome back passengers to flying, we look forward to expanding the enhancement in our major connecting hubs.”
The service had originally been set for a March 2020 debut at Heathrow, but was pushed back when the impact of the COVID-19 crisis hampered international travel demand and significantly reduced the number of Star Alliance connecting passengers at the UK’s biggest airport.
“We were expecting to launch that in London Heathrow already at the beginning of March … but right now, we have no passengers connecting: so even if we did launch the product, no one is going to be using it,” Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh told Executive Traveller earlier this year.
Star Alliance’s original Connection Service
This digital upgrade for Star Alliance passengers follows the 2017 launch of the alliance’s ‘people-powered’ Connection Service, where staff manually monitor at-risk connections and take action to expedite passengers.
For example, at Frankfurt Airport, passengers with a tight transfer may be met at their arrival gate and driven by buggy to their onward flight – with their checked baggage similarly given the VIP treatment to make the connection.
Working behind the scenes, Connection Service staff can also liaise with the airlines in other ways when larger groups of passengers may be displaced.
If a connection could still be possible, the Star Alliance Connection Service team can attempt to park the arriving and departing aircraft next to each other in the terminal for a swift transit – or, if a connection has been missed, may ask an airline to swap a later flight to a larger plane to get everybody on board.
Here's a tongue-in-cheek version of how it all comes together:
This service will continue, with the new digital Connection Service helping to ease some of that workload while allowing passengers to self-assist themselves through eligible terminals and transits.