4 reasons your airport needs to adapt to new technologies and how to do it

The airport industry is going through a major business transformation. To ensure a smooth operation, you need to understand the triggers and how to adapt.

This post explains the four main triggers for a smooth airport operations. It also highlights the key technologies impacting airports now and in the future, and lastly it examines which elements to keep in mind when adopting them at your airport.

1st trigger: Passenger growth.

Airports that have previously been able to operate without constraints are now feeling the pain of long lines snaking through the terminal, causing delays, unhappy passengers or misconnections resulting in social media uproar.

2nd trigger: The rising importance of retail revenue.

The increased significance of non-aeronautical revenue (NAR), is forcing airports to shift focus. At an airport conference, I overheard a vendor describing airports as malls with runways attached. This is in line with a recent ACI analysis that shows that retail concessions remain the largest source of non-aeronautical revenue for airports at 30.2% (ACI Economic Report March 2019).

3rd trigger: The need for increasing passenger satisfaction.

The importance of retail revenue is closely tied with the third trigger, the need for increasing passenger satisfaction: Having a bad experience at the airport once, leaves the passenger with a lasting impression of not wanting to show up early, resulting in fewer sales and less revenue. Also, being stressed by the passenger journey through the airport reduces the desire to spend time in retail. Even though your airport may stay within your service level agreements for wait time at security or check-in, the actual passenger experience may still be poor, if lines snake outside the roped-off queuing area or if the airport layout causes confusion and a sense of chaos.

4th trigger: The increased applicability of new technologies.

Biometrics, CT-scanners, and baggage tracking software have now reached a level of accuracy and affordability that can significantly improve processing times and security measures while making passengers happy. However, the technologies are not just plug ‘n play. Airports need to understand their operational processes and have a holistic approach to airport operations to gain the full benefit of adopting new technologies. The technologies driving the transformation and how they create a better airport:

The first step before adopting new technologies is, therefore, to map your current processes and harness the data already available at your airport. The use of data-driven decision making and optimization goes a long way in improving both the passenger experience and ensuring growth without expansion. Furthermore, through data integration and the use of smart, easy-to-use planning tools you will be able to identify your airport’s specific operational pinch points, select which type of technologies to focus on and consider how they can supplement existing business processes. 

A brief outline of key technologies and their value for different operational areas:

Check-in: If your bottlenecks are within check-in, the future rhymes with taking control while introducing mobile infrastructure and continuing to push self-service:

The full-service kiosk has partly been phased out and the check-in and boarding card process is predominantly taking place before arrival at the airport. Many airports are realizing that mobile kiosks can be the more flexible replacement for the full-service kiosks.

Development and adoption of face recognition and the single token concept are starting to show its worth in decreasing transaction times and passengers’ satisfaction, by there is still a way to go before this technology is fully up and running.

Operational optimization also depends on the willingness of airlines to agree to the use of shared services. This will be affected by the airlines’ need to differentiate and brand themselves and reflects the level of competition at your airport. However, using accurate planning tools will usually get you a long way before having to expand infrastructure.

Baggage: The permanent baggage tag is unanimously selected as the future within baggage and we expect it to  gain traction within the next five years –  RFID will be the more expensive option, due to high implementation costs. In the coming years, the smaller bag tag printers can help airports deal with an increasing number of passengers.

Airport operators will start engaging more actively in the baggage operation where millions of data points are generated. The data points are not only valuable for the baggage operation, but for other operational areas as well.

Security: For security, the main development centers around security level differentiation, biometric solutions, advanced scanners, and automated tray return systems. The main driver of performance improvement in security operations is the adoption of advanced scanners. C3- or C2-level scanners that let passengers keep liquids and/or laptop in the bag will increase throughput and improve process times and the passenger experience.

The introduction of centralized image processing (CIP) and automated tray return systems contribute to an increased throughput and reduced wait times.
Security level differentiation works towards an overall reduction in the process time and Risk Based Screening helps security staff focus on the few travelers that pose the biggest threat.

Emigration / immigration:  Within emigration and immigration, the main development centers around biometrics, eGates and mobile apps. The wider use of Primary Inspection Kiosks (PIK) and eGates improves processing times and reduces wait times during entry and exit into the country.

Also, the wider use of mobile apps for the border can help streamline the traveler inspection process and enable border security officers to focus more on inspection and less on administrative functions. As officers become more familiar with the automated solutions, transaction times are expected to decrease significantly and through this, reduce reliance on border officer staffing.

Retail: The use of new technologies, like biometric face scans, will also play a key role in the non-aeronautical revenue streams. The pre-enrollment of personal information provides airports with valuable information on individual preferences to tailor offers to each individual passenger. This will enable airports to increase NAR significantly, although it also requires airports to think carefully about data security and regulations.

What to consider when adapting new technology?

When adopting new technology to your airport, there are some basic steps that you need to take to ensure you are getting the expected return on investment:

Do a test run! Before purchasing new technology, make sure to either test it at your own airport or visit other airports that have it, to see how it works in a live airport environment.

Get the required know-how! Ensure you have the right skill set to assess the value of the technology to your airport. If you are missing the skills, get it from outside your organization. This can be done by carrying out a technology maturity assessment.

Get the right people! Ensure you have the required skills needed to work with the technology implementation. It is important that the required resources are identified as part of the project acceptance.

Measure the value! Have a clear understanding of what the aim of implementing the technology should be, and make sure to measure the new piece of technology from implementation. Quantifiable metrics should be put in place to support this.

Take small steps! By doing a limited installation at first, you get a chance to harvest learnings and use them for a full roll-out. Also, make sure that you have a framework contract that allows for quick project extensions without another round of procurement.

Decide on one or more suppliers! Consider the value of having one versus several providers. For certain areas, multiple suppliers may be required to deliver the services.

Let Copenhagen Optimization assist you with your airport technology

At Copenhagen Optimization, we are committed to providing exceptional airport management systems tailored to your unique requirements.

We call our airport operations platform Better Airport and it is designed to be very flexible and customizable, which ensures a seamless integration with all your current systems. Any module of the platform is easy to implement, making for a hassle-free experience in airports around the world.

With our cutting-edge technology, automation of manual processes becomes effortless, resulting in significant time and cost savings. Our solutions are accessible from anywhere in the airport, enabling efficient collaboration with both internal and external stakeholders. By partnering with us, you can maintain your competitive edge and stay ahead of the curve in airport management.

We take pride in our expertise, experience, and track record of satisfied clients worldwide, spanning across the American, European, and Asian continents.

By partnering with us you can streamline your airport operations and enhance the overall airport experience. Trust us to provide you with world-class airport management tools customized to meet your specific needs.

Contact us to learn more about our technology solutions!

The implementation of new airport technologies, can generate numerous questions and concerns.

At Copenhagen Optimization, we provide you with the support you need to streamline the implementation of new airport procedures and address any doubts you may have about our technology and other software solutions that can enhance your airport operations. Our team of experts is committed to providing you with the best assistance possible. We encourage you to contact us without hesitation.

You can reach out to us via phone or email and also sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on our latest technology solutions. We look forward to helping you optimize your airport operations with our advanced technology solutions.

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