Five technology trends to shape the airport of the future

Sarah Samuel
Head of Airport IT, Amadeus, Asia Pacific

Airports are the backbone of the travel industry. They are a gateway to the world, handling millions of passengers around the globe each day.

But airports are not immune to disruption. Much like the rest of the travel industry, they are being put under pressure due to the rapidly changing industry landscape.

Growing traveler expectations, an ever-increasing number of passengers and a need for personalization means that airports have to prioritize frictionless travel. Competition for passengers, airline routes, and non-aeronautical revenues are also driving innovation in the industry with key players rethinking the traditional airport .

Looking ahead further in the future, revolutionary modes of ultra-fast and ultra-long-haul travel will require airports to not only accommodate new types of aircraft but also a new generation of traveler.

To better understand how to manage these pressures, we spoke with leaders in the travel industry to hear which trends they believe will shape the airport of the future.

1. Automation will be needed to manage passenger growth

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to receive an additional 2.1 billion annual passengers by 2036. To address this rise in passenger numbers, airport operators will increasingly look to automation to extract more capacity out of existing infrastructure.

“Automation of services will facilitate a smoother flow of passengers in, through and around the airport, easing congestion. They also offer a more personalized service in the process. For example, automatic bag drops allow passengers to retrieve their booking biometrically instead of using a boarding pass, saving valuable seconds that would otherwise compound as hundreds of passengers check their bags onto flights. Less congestion across these touchpoints will allow the airport of the future to become more experiential, offering passengers more time to explore retail and entertainment options throughout the terminal.”Dr Thomas Landgrebe, Senior Software Engineer, ICM Airport Technics, an Amadeus company

2. Off-site passenger handling will become an industry standard

Advances in technology are facilitating greater opportunities for off-site passenger handling. Many airports and travel stakeholders are using the cloud to enable pop-up check-in and baggage drop services.

“To cope with the rising passenger numbers, airports will have to use cloud-based technology to alleviate the congestion of passenger processing. We’ve been using the cloud to roll out our ‘pop-up’ check-in kiosks, which we can deploy in any location that’s convenient for the passenger. The main benefit being these are scalable according to demand, and require no new infrastructure investment. In the future, we’re going to see off-airport services become the norm, while check-in halls are reduced and repurposed.”Matt Lee, CEO of OACIS

3. Biometrics will become integrated across all touchpoints

Investment in biometric technologies will rise as airports look to increase throughput, while streamlining the passenger journey, creating a frictionless experience at every touchpoint.

“As other airport processes are becoming more modernized and efficient; processes around the airport, such as security, are beginning to develop bottle necks throughout the terminal. In fact, we’re seeing some travelers choose flights based on queuing times. Fortunately, the uptake of biometric technology has the ability to ease the pressure across multiple touchpoints around the airport. We’ve seen airports already exploring and trialing biometrics. The industry needs to continue to test and innovate the technology to create seamless experiences for all travelers.”Faisal Ariff, Founder and CEO of BorderPass

4. Greener airports will become much more important in the coming years

An increasing concern for the global travel industry is the carbon footprint left by all travel stakeholders. In response to public pressure, many organizations are pledging to reduce emissions. Airports Council International (ACI) Europe recently set a target to cut the collective emissions of European Airports to zero by 2050.

To address the issue of carbon emissions, airports are implementing green technology. For example, by running operations via the cloud rather than energy-intensive on-site servers, or by optimizing runways to ensure aircraft spend less time needlessly burning fuels, or by gaining greater visibility on usage of airport resources and powering down those in infrequent use.
Greener airports will become much more important in the coming years, as the world becomes more conscious about combating climate change.

5. Scalability will be crucial at peak travel periods

The cloud enables airports to be more flexible, scaling operations up or down based on demand. At peak times, such as public holidays, festivals, or national sporting events, additional passenger handling services can be rolled out quickly and without the need for any fixed infrastructure, as systems connect via the internet.

“Digitally transforming to create a new airport experience is a common goal for many airports. This can be achieved using the cloud. We’ve been using the cloud to deploy iCUSS check-in kiosks, allowing passengers to check-in from locations outside of the terminal, such as train platforms, hotels or convention centers. By using the cloud we’re able to completely revolutionize our airport experience and alleviate the challenges of the customer journey.”Andy C Bien, Chief Information Officer, Hong Kong Airport

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