In the past few years there has been a massive thirst for travel, whether for business or leisure. It’s as if the entire world is taking to the skies.
Aviation, although only somewhat acknowledged, has always been a catalyst for economic growth, enabling people and businesses to reach a global marketplace for goods and services and to travel for work, leisure or education.
Air freight is essential to modern life, but it is in the movement of people (precious cargo) that airports have the greatest effect on economic development.
Which is why, across the globe, airports are under intense pressure to expand and renew their facilities, with modern IT enabled services.
Airports are expensive. Maintaining them requires huge amounts of cash inflow. In an economic climate where governments are increasingly cutting expenditure to reduce debt, government financing and full ownership of airports is not always a sustainable or a sufficient source of revenue, hence privatization of airports is a must with the fundamental motive of arranging finances to upgrade or expand airports. Large amounts of capital investments is needed by airports not only to keep operations smooth, since most of the work must be completed without interrupting current airport operations, but also to enable airports to make money from their investments.
Two-fifths of airport revenues in evolved airports around the world, come from retail and food outlets, car parking, advertising and other such ancillary revenues.
To stay in business, airports need to keep passengers streaming through their departure gates and through their shops, restaurants and bars. Plane tickets may be getting cheaper , but one way or the other, we all end up paying more for bigger, better airports by way of taxes and surcharges.
Airports of the future: areas set for radical change.
Airports are changing fast, as the rise of new technologies and growing environmental constraints play a crucial role in shaping the future of aviation. Airports are anything but static environments. Internal and external pressures are forcing hubs around the world to evolve into advanced, sustainable complexes offering a service that goes beyond mere transportation. Every competing global hub today vies to offer an experience like no other; newer attractions are being marketed as ‘destination airports’ rather than a ‘transiting’ one.
Baggage reclaim areas repurposed to increase capacity.
Barring the fully automated airport terminals around the world, there are still a lot many airports that need to address the issue of baggage handling, especially in smaller airports which provide the last mile connectivity. The issues of missing/ stolen baggage often leads to angst and stress amongst passengers and airport staff, not to mention the financial damages.
Shorter security checks.
Checkpoint screening systems will eliminate longer queues and recurring causes of disruption and delays at border controls. Airports are considering using technologies that can scan liquids and other materials from inside bags. Using advanced software and detection algorithms and 3D volumetric imaging, it would mean that passengers would no longer have to take liquids or electronic devices out of their bags.
Improving public transport links.
Many airports are working alongside partners and stakeholders to reduce their carbon footprint, from departure halls to the airport apron by improving surface access and train links and promoting public transport over cars.
This much-needed collaborative effort from both the railways and aviation could lead to higher volumes of rail travellers, cheaper trips and, in the long term, fewer cars reaching the airport every day.
If this concept proves effective, it would mean that airports can resize and re-use car parks to meet the growing capacity demands.
As part of the check-in process passengers will be scanned for biometric identifiers like facial features, iris patterns and fingerprints to verify their identities. This information is shared with immigration and security officials to streamline the arrival and departure process.
This technology, already undergoing trial at Heathrow, Schiphol, and Changi airports, could be used to track passengers from arrival to departure. It’s faster – and more reliable – than checking passports manually.
Customer service: the rise of robots.
In the coming decades, robots are likely to take over several customer-facing jobs currently held by airport staff, especially as airports grow overcrowded.
Technology is already replacing admin jobs at check-in desks, with most airlines encouraging customers to use their apps for check-in and many implementing self-service bag drops.
But as years go by, we will likely say goodbye to staff working at bars and restaurants and many other areas of the departure hall, leaving space for robots.
As airplanes are changing to becoming more fuel and environment efficient so must airports too. From check in to disembarking, airport innovation should focus on offering efficiency.
Travellers world over are always on the lookout for a memorable travelling experience before they have even boarded the planes.