OPINION: Transforming the airport experience through technology and process optimization

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The airport industry is facing numerous, big challenges in terms of technology and processes. One major challenge is the issue of integration, as airlines and airports often have multiple legacy systems that need to be combined without incurring high costs or risks. To address this challenge, scalable, standardized solutions that can be implemented with low risk are needed. To mitigate the risks while implementing new solutions, risk management has to be ready for fallback and disruption. This is an element that needs to be better planned, for both the airports and the airlines.

Biometrics is a growing trend in the airport industry and is seen as a way to improve the travel experience. With the increasing popularity of mobile apps and online check-in, technology for people’s mobility is also becoming a significant shift in the airport industry. However, there are challenges with biometrics implementation, such as providing a seamless experience for customers who fly to multiple airports and ensuring fast processing times. Also, we have to be careful about what doesn’t bring in the processing speeds, experience and convenience that the airlines and airports need in order to achieve their on-time performance and capacity. As a big advocate of implementing biometrics, I see a lot of pros but there is still some way to go for the big players to provide a scalable, cloud-based biometric solution rather than locally implemented, which requires hardware, maintenance and support on-site. There’s still some way to go to make it smart.

Another challenge facing the airport industry is the shortage of experienced personnel. As more talent leaves the industry, the reliance on technology like biometric boarding and check-in is becoming critical. However, the scalability and reliability of the technology still need to be improved to achieve large-scale adoption and implementation.

Finding the right engagement and involvement by experienced personnel who understand the processes and the bottlenecks is also a challenge. The problem is that the airlines’ project managers may not have the operational experience needed to effectively translate messages between the operational line and the digital program. To address this, the right people need to be brought onto the team, and focus needs to be placed on building up competency in digital processes.

A key strategy for staying ahead in a rapidly evolving industry is building a data-driven airport. As the aviation industry continues to evolve, it is crucial for airports to stay ahead of the curve and stay competitive. One key area of focus should be building up their data teams, with a focus on better aligning the process engineering and data teams to analyze data from various touchpoints.

Having the right analytical capability and a management team trained in data literacy is critical to understanding the digital journey that technology can bring to the airport. Investing in educating and developing their teams to understand technology, data and analytics is what I see airports needing in order to stay ahead of the curve.

With the adoption of digital technologies (like AI and data automation), data visualization and simplification for decision makers will become more important in reducing operating costs, increasing capacity, improving efficiency and providing monetizing opportunities. Airports need people that can bridge that operation and technology gap.

Airports should look for technology partners that can help generate revenue through the product or data or by creating opportunities for engagement. Airports have got to come to partners and ask, How can you help me generate revenue by creating time for people to spend and invest in the airport optimization or commercial areas? With the right mindset and technology, airports can adopt scalable solutions that can benefit the customer and business. By embracing data-driven strategies, airports can stay ahead of industry changes and continue to improve their operations.

Ultimately, I would say, airports are moving toward a more technological future, driven by the rapid adoption of innovations like the AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT. In the coming years, the focus will shift to individual passengers and their unique needs, with mobile devices, biometrics and digital IDs becoming integral parts of the airport experience.



[Author bio:]

Javed Malik has been a dynamic leader in the aviation industry for over 27 years, holding various group and C-level positions, including group chief operations officer at AirAsia, chief operations officer at Bangalore Airport, and vice president of the Network Operations Centre at Qatar Airways. With a focus on enhancing customer experience through technology-driven solutions, he has successfully led large-scale programs. Malik offers advisory services and heads Ink+, a division within the Ink Innovation ecosystem, comprising worldwide experts in key industries such as transportation, smart cities, hospitality, travel and tourism.




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