As passenger numbers are on the rise around the world, and airports are reporting being at or near capacity, how can the industry hope to grow to meet demand when space is at a premium? The only real answer has to lie in our existing infrastructure – utilising the space that we already have to better effect in order to increase the capacity of some of the world’s busiest airports.
The journey of the passenger must remain at the heart of any discussions that airports have around increasing capacity. If you make a space too busy, or create queues that are too long, passengers will vote with their feet or use social media to spread the word globally . “Airports are a space which should be filled with excitement, relaxation and fun but instead they can be stressful, uncommunicative and frustrating,” explains Neil Norman, CEO, Human Recognition Systems (HRS).
A study from the industrial software and hardware systems developers, ‘Exploiting Infrastructure for Future Passenger Growth: a discussion on the challenges facing the global aviation sector as passenger numbers continue to climb’ suggests technology is the solution to these capacity constraints.
“Airports wishing to solve their capacity issues need to look to technology in the forms of personalisation and automation if they want to solve their issues at the same time as improving customer satisfaction and increasing revenues,” explains Mr Norman.
He believes that creating a seamless journey for the passenger with minimal fuss and delay will help to smooth the flow of the millions of people who travel globally every year and help to increase capacity at all airports.
Automation of processes is becoming increasingly commonplace for high volume people management. The ability to speed up processes and improve accuracy offers huge potential to the aviation industry. A perfect example of this is Fast And Seamless Travel (FAST) at Changi airport, Terminal 4, that is scheduled to open this month. However, new infrastructure is a luxury for airports that can afford substantial investment. Software that can talk to existing airport hardware is an alternative solution, says HRS.
However, there remain significant hurdles to jump within the aviation space before you can successfully implement automation. A core issue is the disjointedness between airlines and airports, which don’t currently share passenger data, and consequently have alternative views of the passenger’s journey. HRS says integration of airline and airport data through passenger automation technology “can reduce delays and maximise operational efficiency”.
But, above all in this digital age, the ‘connected’ passenger desires a seamless, personalised travel experience through the airport. HRS says personalisation in the airport space is “crucial” as customers become more demanding of individualised and relevant experiences than ever before. With different profiles, preferences and destinations, it isn’t feasible for all passengers to be treated in a generic way and HRS says airports must “meet and exceed passenger expectations” in order to remain competitive. This means treating passengers “like guests” and providing excellent customer service.
The digital experts solution is a simple, but at the same time complex one… getting airlines and airports to actually talk to one another in a balanced way and share their data insights. “Creating a seamless flow of information between airports and airlines will smooth the passenger journey,” it says. By understanding the customer journey better, this has the potential to create a one to one relationship with the passenger, where the offering is unique and is communicated through the right channels at the right time.
HRS says the ability of technology solutions to talk to existing airport hardware can “help to release the latent capacity” which exists within current airport spaces. The increasing adoption of automation and personalisation will add to the speed of this process. However, the industry needs to address the biggest hurdle to change which is that airports and airlines still treat each other as separate entities.