San Francisco International Airport to dramatically cut the constant and mostly unnecessary loudspeaker announcements

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/17/san-francisco-international-ai.html

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Came here for the Airplane clip. Left satisfied. Nicely done, @pesco.

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Soo f’ing happy that they are soooo concerned about noise.

https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2018/09/07/sfo-airplane-noise-complaints-are-skyrocketing.html

Airport authorities in the US concerned about noise is a joke.

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I’ve always felt that gate alerts like the gate being moved, plane delays, calls for specific passengers to come up to the counter, etc could be easily done through an app. I never never understand the announcements anyways and have to strain to really decipher the noise, just do everything through the app to communicate directly with passengers with notifications and calls

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“Airport security is everyone’s responsibility” but only some of us are getting a salary for it.

Slightly OT: you know a thing we could do to reduce climate change and save money? Stop spending money on airports.

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Trouble with using an app is that a surprisingly large number of people still don’t have smart phones- or even cell phones in some cases. And there is a mind set some people have that they cannot possibly learn to use one, even at the most basic level.

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I came here to post that clip and I’m leaving feeling cheated, but somehow validated.

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Now if only they can do something about the obnoxious stream of unnecessary pilot announcements once on the plane.

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I suspect that I’m swimming against the tide here; but there’s something intrinsically gross about the idea of having to execute someone’s big blob of who knows what and it’s 6 advertising analytics SDKs on my hardware just to receive basic information.

That said, I also find airport PA chatter to be a combination of unintelligible and useless; with the (now more or less ubiquitous) banks of monitors showing gates and scheduling information doing all the useful work.

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I also prefer a quiet flight, but I wonder if that’s universal, I get the feeling many passengers enjoy all the flight ceremonies since they break up the monotony. I personally still love the cruising altitude bell.

Maybe we just replace the announcements with ritual soothing noises. The time at our destination could be several gentle clock chimes. The weather could be an instrumental riff on the weather. Drink service could just be the sound of a soda tab being pulled.

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I will echo the two other comments. I would nix an app. I would prefer if they spent whatever research dough they have on creating a new acoustic model for PA. I don’t know what it would be… many smaller speakers? Better microphones? Some sort of voice-enhancing AI to make announcements more generally understandable? I’ve done voice-over acting, and being well understood over a microphone is not an automatic thing. I know this gets into tricky cultural territory, but I believe there is something to certain vocal patterns being more easily understandable to more people of varied linguistic backgrounds than others.

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Those are very clever suggestions.

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It’s important to think of all travelers when you look at paging and information.

Many older and neuro diverse individuals get squigged out by the overstimulation. People with hearing issues won’t get the info. People with visual needs aren’t going to get what they need or may have too much noise interfere with assistive technology.

AIRA is a newer app that’s helpful for many folks with visual needs. Philly airport instituted it almost two years ago. It’s free when you enter the grounds. They use your smartphone camera to help you navigate - reads the FIDS boards - read menus if you want to eat etc.

Similar way finding solutions and notifications for the rest of us will surely be coming soon.

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I’m not advocating for App only but i feel like airlines can make much more useful apps. They do have apps but my experience so far has been very lack luster and often don’t really offer real-time information, i’ve found it more reliable to go to the website than the app but it’s a more manual process for getting what i need. Same for announcements, just pipe the info to exactly the person that needs to get that announcement via their phone and spare the noise from speakers.

And i see that others here would not want to bother with an app, which is fine but for those that do there’s lots of room for improvement to make it a useful experience beyond just pulling up your ticket.

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These adaptations will help everyone.

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This seems to be a mostly American phenomenon. The few times I’ve flown on the equivalent of domestic flights in other countries (short flights within the EU and mainland China, on Lufthansa and China Eastern), I was struck by how little pomp and circumstance there was. No strange safety demonstration rituals, no credit card offers, no longwinded messages from the cockpit. Made flying feel like any other kind of transit.

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What is it about American airports and the constant cacophony of announcements and the pervasive CNN broadcasts? Most other countries have functioning international airports with few if any announcements and no blaring news channels. I mean if an airport as bad as Heathrow can manage it, why can’t the US.

And when that is done, can we finally declare war on the eye-watering stink from duty-free perfume stores?

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Have my like anyway.

When I was traveling a lot (in the time before the end times) I used various apps a lot, some good some bad as you’d expect but overall it was kind of a PITA. Each airline has it’s own with it’s own UI idiosyncrasies, and the airport apps are all alike in their dis-similarity. About the only thing they have in common is the uniformly awful maps, although even there FRA takes the cake for the most confusing and frustrating layout which appears to be utterly impervious to any kind of attempt at coherent mapping. Anyway, installing and learning that galaxy of apps is a reasonably significant mental burden that - in my case, at least - was worthwhile, but only barely. And even then I still always referred to the in-airport info screens. For occasional travelers I think it is a losing proposition. And if you aren’t catching everyone via the app, then you still need the other mechanisms so overall you haven’t moved the ball down the field.

The voice announcements, on the other hand, are generally a waste of time. It’s like trying to listen to the weather on the radio. Even if you want the information it’s practically impossible to extract what you need from the flow of noise. I like quiet airports.

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COVID-19 has made this rather awkwardly clear.