Faces of YWG: In-house innovator helping steer next steps at YWG amid COVID-19
February 5, 2021
A versatile team member is pulling from everything he’s learned in a variety of different roles to help Winnipeg Airports Authority further enhance the passenger experience through an innovative lens.
Scott Marohn, Vice President of Innovation and Customer Service, started working at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG) as a summer student while attending the University of Manitoba. After labouring abroad on a cruise ship for a few years, his love for travel landed him right back at YWG.
“To see people taking off and experiencing the world is literally a dream come true in terms of being able to work in an industry that I love,” said Marohn.
Over the past 15 years, he’s shifted from ground transportation to terminal operations then to air service development before further undertaking WAA’s innovation portfolio. Today, his main focus is finding ways to innovate products and services, especially during the pandemic, to meet the needs of passengers in this new reality and in the near future.
“COVID-19 has really kick-started a contactless journey and I think seamless and contactless go hand-in-hand together,” said Marohn. “You’re seeing a lot more contactless options, and that’s also speeding up digital (transformation).”
The YWG Clean Program has been the top innovation priority amid the COVID-19 pandemic. New technology has been installed throughout the terminal including UV-C light handrail sterilizers on the Arrivals Hall escalator and a touch-free elevator operation system. The Customer Service team, led by Marohn, is also working to modify past processes to adapt to current needs and prioritize safety above all else.
“People automatically think innovation is about a miracle new initiative and it’s not really about that,” said Marohn. “It’s about a mindset, or maybe changing a process or improving on something that you’re already doing… that’s innovation.”
The Valet & Away service, suspended at the onset of the pandemic to minimize touch encounters, was re-envisioned to instead offer a contactless, curbside parking option in line with safe practices and customer preferences. A piece of AI technology called Zensors, which leverages video analytics to help monitor the state of an environment, also underwent a process change. While it was initially ordered for the taxi area, it is now being trialed to monitor traffic outside the main airport washroom, allowing the cleaning team to proactively address issues and meet increased cleaning standards. Marohn says this could be expanded to other areas of the airport too, such as the boarding gates, to further deliver excellent customer service.
While these independent innovations are adding up to increased safety and efficiency at YWG, they represent only a glimpse of what is possible. As an out-of-the-box thinker, Marohn keeps in mind a broad vision of how these pieces can tie together in the future to elevate the seamless passenger journey and believes the best is yet to come. With digital adoption continuing to grow and the robotics world further being explored, such as WAA’s ongoing partnership with WHILL to trial autonomous personal mobility devices, WAA is strategizing how to connect more features in the future to better serve each customer.
“It is incredible how far we’ve come and we don’t even realize it,” said Marohn. “In my first couple years as Parking and Ground Transportation Manager, we used to have to cash out the parking pay stations because everyone paid with cash. Now, 12 years later, we’ve pretty much gone automated and eliminated coins.”
Although, the biggest change during Marohn’s career was the opening of the new terminal building on October 30, 2011. Marohn, who was the Manager of Terminal Operations at the time, had been immersed in learning about all of the new systems coming online in the new facility, from the baggage system to the bridges and the alarm processes. He reflects on the opening day as the most important day of his career, symbolizing how the entire team had met the pressure of the grand project.
From the past to the present, Marohn’s career has now come full circle. Today, he’s back in the terminal, prioritizing customer service, innovation and still overseeing parking and ground transportation. But for him, it’s a perfect fit.
“An airport is the heartbeat of a city and to be able to work in that heartbeat, it’s a rush, it really is,” said Marohn.