1. The airport is a facilitator of the passenger journey

Airports are focusing on how to make the passenger journey easier and better in order to maintain a competitive edge. Passenger demands are increasingly moving towards smooth and quick processes and airports need to be able to accommodate this whilst also achieving maximum revenues as passengers move through the terminal.

Passengers often travel several times a year, and different types of passengers expect to be able to choose from a variety of service levels. This increase in demand for flexibility of the passenger terminal infrastructure means that we need to be able to accommodate different needs in order to offer the best passenger experience possible.

2. Advanced technologies assist the passenger experience

New technologies will contribute hugely to improve and simplify seamless travel. Self-service technology is already widely in place, but is set to increase further to allow for a more personalised experience.

Future technologies will enable passengers to complete a lot of the required processes at home, those which are typically considered airport services, including around car parking and baggage check-in.

BlueFi technology will mean that passengers can be tracked through the airport, and re-usable electronic baggage labels (home-coded based on boarding information) will also enable the traveller to tag their bags themselves. Not only will this help them to move through the drop-off process more efficiently, but it will also increase reliability and traceability for the airline.

3. Can biometrics technology improve security?

But with all of this new technology comes an increase in security concerns. One future solution is the use of biometrics to change the way passengers move through security clearance. Singapore Changi Airport is already looking at such technology to facilitate an expedited and fully secure passenger journey through the new Terminal 4 which is due to open in 2017.

By becoming a ‘known traveller’, the use of biometrics will make movement through the airport much quicker and easier. Passengers currently have to show their passport at least three times when travelling through the airport. What if we could get rid of one, or even two of those checks? This could represent an increase in efficiency in terms of personnel and security, but also reduce hassle for passengers.

It’s clear however that biometrics currently represents a huge shift in technology and not all countries will have this capability in the near future.

4. Balancing the necessary processes and passenger experience

So what can be done now in order to help improve the balance between the necessary airport processes and the passenger experience in the airport terminal?

One of the key areas which airports should focus on is in providing quality training for staff and creating a pleasant ambience of its control area. If the security process can be made more friendly and more efficient, the passenger experience will only improve. Technology can be used to streamline passenger flows around the airport and reduce waiting times at security, but the human element will remain important – right from when the passenger first enters the airport.

It’s important to ensure that there aren’t too many security demands in place which could hinder the passenger experience. Capacity is a key issue, to ensure that the airport has enough staff to deal with the number of passengers expected at any one time. Improving security in this way – particularly for departing passengers – will ultimately also have a positive effect on an airport’s revenues, as passengers will spend more time in the departure lounge.

5. Airport simulation and virtual reality will be key to design

All of these developments ultimately come back to the design of the airport terminal. One area which was specifically highlighted at Passenger Terminal Expo was the idea of airport simulation which is already allowing us to see the realities of passenger flow more accurately and analyse peak hour volumes and capacity when designing the airport.

Ultimately this enables a much improved passenger experience as travellers move through the airport. Airport simulation will have a huge impact on passenger experience, and adopting a flexible approach is key if airports want to stay ahead and maximise the seamless passenger experience, while virtual reality provides the opportunity to truly experience the airport during the design stages.

With thanks to my colleagues who contributed to this blog post following their participation at the event – Susanna Neleman, Solomon Wong, Frank Christofolini, Rene Marey, Robbert Weeda and Gerard van der Veer.

About the author:

Kris Pauwels has a passion for aviation and has been involved in airport development and planning for over 11 years. In his current position as Business Development Manager at NACO, Kris works closely with and consults clients to address their challenges and define effective solutions from symptom to result. Kris holds an MSc in Aerospace Engineering and has a strong track record in delivering project management for airport developments around the world.