The Clock is Ticking - Airport World

At the onset of the pandemic, as we all waited for vaccines to be the industry, we can see that two of the top target benefits are made available, many experts warned the public that it could improving the passenger journey, and upgrading operational efficiency, be years before a viable vaccine would be available. both in terms of capacity enhancement and enhanced operational

And yet, by December of 2020, the Operation Ward Speed resilience and agility. programme delivered the first US shipments of the joint Pfizer–

BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, ready to distribute to the public. Looking at Operation Warp Speed to see how this was made possible — and looking for ways to apply this to advancing technologies in other industries — three key factors stand out.First, there was a demand for what they were doing; second, there were years of research to leverage; and finally, the programme received immense amounts of funding.All of these converged into what some are calling a ‘warp-speed mindset’ that could be applied to other areas of need in the world.And of the many industries that were disrupted by the pandemic and would most benefit by extreme advancement of technology — often termed as a ‘digital transformation’ — the aviation industry has emerged as one that is ripe for transformation with a similar warp- speed mindset that the US government leveraged to such great success in their mission to provide vaccines. What areas of airport operations have the greatest need for digital transformation?While there exist many areas ripe for transformation, for those looking to accelerate their digital transformation journeys, it is important to first pinpoint a couple of priorities as a starting point.Perusing a whitepaper about the digital transformation needs of airport operations, which queried many of the top business leaders in the industry, we can see that two of the top target benefits are improving the passenger journey, both in terms of capacity enhancement and enhanced operational. Passenger journey

Too often, when we think of the passenger journey at an airport, we only think of the stress of going through the various processes and making our flight on time. But airport operators across the world are looking to change that narrative and reduce time spent in queues — like ticketing, baggage, and security — as much as possible to encourage passengers to enjoy themselves in the various shops and restaurants available to them at their leisure.With this goal in mind, airports must look to implement technologies that facilitate these improvements by pushing real-time travel information directly to passengers.This will permit travellers to plan ahead for any changes to their trip and timing, guide them along their entire travel journey through mobile apps on their phone, and increase self-service options available to passengers to decrease the amount of time waiting to be served in a queue. 

Operational efficiency

Although everything outlined above has an immense impact on the passenger journey and their customer experience, without efficient and agile processes in their ground activities — like security, runway operations, and baggage handling — you will still force passengers to experience the same delays and cancellations that have become all too familiar in the industry.

To achieve operational efficiency, airports need to research and invest in technologies that facilitate a streamlined approach and can allow you to automate ground activities like luggage management and security check; automate proactive measures for anticipated delays due to factors like weather or technology outages with AI; and provide real-time monitoring of operations to promote swift responses to any issues. What technologies can be leveraged to digitally transform airport operations?When it comes to available technologies that can be leveraged to achieve the goals of airports’ digital transformation journeys, the possibilities are vast, and several areas have already seen great advancements in recent years.Among the top five areas of digital technologies to help reduce operational costs that were identified by airport business leaders in the whitepaper from Amadeus, the top two — cloud technology and advanced analytics — have already accomplished great strides across the entire industry and now are being seen as a minimum requirement in today’s modern airline industry.While some of the other top areas of technology — like Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual modelling/simulations — have seen significant progress in recent years, most airports are just scratching the surface of their potential.Business leaders across the industry are pointing to these technologies as part of the future of digital transformation in the airline industry.Internet of ThingsAirport operations rely on a large and diverse volume of physical assets — including mobile assets like push tractors or fixed assets like escalators — and advancements in the area of remote sensors and other IoT-enabled devices could allow airports to leverage the real-time data they receive from sensors installed on this equipment to always have full visibility into where their assets are and to stay ahead of any maintenance issues that could cause major operation disruptions. Virtual modeling and simulationWith IoT available to transform how physical assets are managed, many airports are also looking to virtual modelling and simulations to help them do the same with their human resources.

By relying on simulation technologies, airports can much more accurately anticipate the areas of their operations with the greatest need for more human resources at peak times to maximise passenger flow, and can enable them to predict how any major managerial decisions could impact the passenger journey.Another major application of this technology is flight management performance by forecasting the impact of flight delays and optimising runway capacity. Software as a ServiceWith the right queue management software, airport operators can decrease crowds and reduce congestion in the high-congestion areas of their facilities, eliminate the necessity to hire extra staff to manage queues and congestion, and even, in some cases, completely remove the need for physical queues.All of this will allow airport operators to deliver faster, more efficient services, while improving your operations overall and eliminate the need for unnecessary costs or extra staff. The future of digital transformation in the aviation industryWhile some may look at these various technological advancements as somewhat of a luxury for airports at a time where they are struggling to simply continue operating, there are many experts saying that failing to catch up to these changing trends could leave airports at a massive disadvantage in terms of operational efficiency and financial stability. Among the top risks of not adopting some of the many emerging technologies listed by industry business leaders was the creation of a non-competitive business model, an inferior operational performance, long-term structural cost disadvantages, and sunk costs, losses, and failed investments.With the aviation industry still in a state of uncertainty – with great change remaining on the horizon for at least the foreseeable future –no airport or airline can afford to incur these risks if they wish to remain effective and competitive, while still providing the passengerexperience that is necessary today.

Originally published in Airport World Magazine.