Getting the aviation industry ready for the airport of the future is a recurring topic in many discussions on future developments for both airlines and airports.
Imagine this: It’s the year 2020. Your airport is an international hub connecting more passengers to destinations around the world. Your passengers are happy with your fast and efficient service. Your employees are satisfied with their training and shifts, resulting in better performance. Your stakeholders are impressed with the rise in profits and reduction in unnecessary costs.
The airport is optimized for your customers: passengers, employees and stakeholders – all of those whose satisfaction determines the success of your airport.
How close are you to this vision? Let’s get back to the present.
The airline’s perspective: A highly connected operation
KLM COO and deputy CEO Pieter Elbers shared with Tnooz.com the airline’s perspective on what makes a great passenger experience, and what is needed for KLM to deliver this type of service to its passengers by 2020. The high degree of connectivity is one of the key characteristics of airline operations. According to the article: “Central to its view of the passenger experience is how they interact with the carrier on the ground, as well as in the air – an important consideration as approximately seven out of 10 customers are on connecting flights.”
The airport’s perspective: Speed is key to a great customer experience
To understand the airport’s perspective, consider the example of Incheon International Airport in South Korea. An article on IHSairport360.com mentions that with careful planning and well-balanced, phased expansions, Incheon aims to handle 100 million passengers per year by 2020.
The leadership of Incheon is very much aware that top service to its passengers together with resource optimization is a key element in its success today, as well as in future growth ambitions.
The article went on to say that: “Every year since 2005, Incheon has been voted as the best airport in the world by the ACI Airport Service Quality survey. The airport operator claims that passenger processes take only 19 minutes per departure and 11 minutes per arrival, “three times faster than ICAO’s recommended level”. Its stated mission is to turn the airport into a global hub – the well planned and constant development at the airport has no doubt contributed to this impressive performance.”
Three keys to success
Ultimately, the best experience depends on smooth-running operations in which the airline, airport and other stakeholders such as air navigation service providers and ground handlers work well together. It’s all about carefully planning a highly interconnected set of resources, and being able to adjust quickly in the event of unexpected circumstances and disruptions. The weakest link in the travel chain determines what your passengers will remember from their trip.
The airport optimization technology required to support this type of operation should satisfy at least the following three criteria:
1. Single platform:
The only way to ensure that the scheduling of all resources is truly aligned is to plan them all using the same platform. If the operations are highly connected, so should be the planning.
2. Solving the right puzzle:
Details matter when it comes to running complex airport operations, where safety and speed form a challenging combination of objectives. The decision support tool used to plan the operations should take these details into account. Only in this way is it guaranteed that the plans will work as well in practice as the tool has predicted they will. Missing a key rule or constraint in the model can easily make a proposed plan useless.
3. Big calculations:
Large volumes of data need to be processed. But it is pointless to process data that is not used as input for decision making. Airport operators, along with their planners and dispatchers, need to make thousands of decisions per day, often within minutes. If airport operators want to make the shift from creating a merely feasible plan to creating the most efficient and cost-effective plan possible, big calculations that effectively use all available data to optimize the airport’s operations is key.
The technology for airport optimization is clearly available and success within reach. My question is: What is stopping airport operators from becoming the airport of the future when it’s already possible today?