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International LAX Terminal Sees 50 Percent Efficiency Gain for Wheelchair Responses With BLE

Aero Port Services is deploying its beacon-based solution at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, following testing that found average responses to wheelchair requests dropped from 15 to 20 minutes to only seven minutes.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 28, 2016

The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is preparing the permanent deployment of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon-based technology at its Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), to manage wheelchairs as they are dispatched and used to transport passengers. The Wheelchair Assistance Innovative Solutions Tracking System (WAIS-Track), provided by Aero Port Services (APS), has reduced passenger wheelchair service times by about 50 percent since it was installed for testing several months ago, the company reports.

The system consists of Gimbal beacons deployed around the international terminal, Android-based smart devices carried by wheelchair agents, and the WAIS-Track app and content-management software to identify each agent's location and, therefore, the status of services being provided to passengers.

The WAIS-Track app
LAX is the seventh busiest airport in the world and the third busiest in the United States, serving approximately 75 million passengers annually. APS, located in Inglewood, Calif., has provided wheelchair services throughout the airport for 14 years, says Iliana Thomas, Aero Port Services' director of business development and legal affairs.

That service includes coverage at TBIT, where 38 foreign air carriers transport passengers into and out of the airport. The need for wheelchairs has been growing exponentially. In 2015, there were 970,000 wheelchair requests throughout the airport, the majority of which (275,000) were made at TBIT. That number is expected to be 14 percent higher this year, the company reports—approximately 325,000 at TBIT alone. (LAX is anticipated to exceed one million requests throughout the year.)

To address all of these wheelchair requests, five to six APS dispatchers in a control center at the terminal manage the movements of about 200 agents who transport passengers with a wheelchair to and from gates. The dispatchers have traditionally alerted agents about service requests via walkie-talkie or cell phone, or when the agents report to the control center; it can take several minutes for an agent with a wheelchair to arrive at the gate to which he or she is being summoned.

Agents also had to carry paperwork, and once they reached the passenger, they had to fill out a form indicating that individual's identity, as well as when and where they were picked up and dropped off. The paperwork then had to be signed by the agent and by an airline employee. In the meantime, if the passenger was delayed at customs or another location, Aero Port (without the beacon technology) had little way of immediately knowing where the agent and passenger were, or why they were delayed. That meant the airlines 'could not keep the passengers' friends or family members informed'.

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