In a world where passenger numbers and service expectations are increasing dramatically the drive towards a more efficient airport has never been greater. Improved efficiency can lead to more relaxed passengers and increased commercial opportunities in that “golden hour” that passengers spend in an airport terminal.
Here we discuss three key areas where IT is being used to make airports more efficient.
- IMPROVING PASSENGERS’ TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
The introduction of technological solutions such as the online check-in, self check-in and bag drop desks enable passengers to get through the initial stages of departure much quicker than in the past. Technology is continuously evolving and key recent innovations include the introduction of augmented and virtual reality as part of smarter wayfinding solutions to help passengers get through the airport. Additionally, biometric and facial recognition solutions are aimed at minimizing delay for passengers as well as making security checks more reliable.
- REDUCE AIRCRAFT TURNAROUND TIME
A major requirement for busy airports is to reduce the time that elapses between one flight and the next. A key element in this equation is the turnaround time of each individual plane. This process can involve many different stakeholders including carrier staff, ground handlers, refuellers, baggage handlers and more. Even small reductions in the time taken for specific parts of the turnaround process can make a major difference. We are seeing increased use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in this field.
- LOGISTICAL EFFICIENCY
Logistic operations need to be optimised to assure a quick delivery of goods around airports with the minimum environmental impact. Technologies like driverless electric vehicles have been introduced to reduce time and costs. The improvement of baggage handling systems with individual tagging of items via RFID or other tagging is another good example.
Gatwick airport, pioneer of innovation
It is interesting to look at Gatwick airport as an exemplar of innovation in the field of overall efficiency.
Passengers’ travel experience, aircraft turnaround time and operational efficiency are all topics on which Gatwick airport has worked to introduce some significant innovations. For example, to improve customers’ experience, Gatwick has introduced some important innovations in its mobile app, for example it is provides indoor navigation features that allow passengers to reach what they are looking for by following the path that appears on their phone’s display.
Gatwick is leading the way in innovation linked to aircraft turnaround time. They have recently trialed, with Easyjet, a method for boarding by seat number. The objective of this trial was to reduce waiting times and avoid the creation of long queues at the boarding gates. In other work they have used Artificial Intelligence to reduce the aircraft turnaround times by monitoring aircraft position and activity with a network of cameras and sensors. The AI system enables accurate predictions of the timing of the different operations, in order to align the different stakeholders.