Airport as a business is complex, sensitive and different from all the other businesses. As a gateway to the country, state or city, an airport creates the first impression for visitors. Regardless of the size or the type of customers it caters to – International or Domestic - the framework of the airport’s service as well as its complexities and cost elements remain the same. A business that is 24x7 has to be resilient to cater to ever-changing customer demands while being cost-effective.
As air traffic grows, airports have to become more adaptive, entrepreneurial and proactive to changing aviation dynamics. With most airports now poised as “multi-nodal” transportation hubs for people, information and trade, the effort is to make systems and processes digitally aware, interconnected, infused with intelligence and simple to access by all stakeholders.
Airports have to deal with challenges such as predicting capacity demand, providing enhanced passenger travel experience, improving operational process efficiency, improving staff productivity, and ensuring safety and security. The need of the hour is to create a unified, integrated, ready-to-use digital platform to assist airports in becoming intelligent and informed.
Many airports today are implementing isolated solutions around intelligent airports. Some of these are mobile-enabled passenger services, introduction of Smart Gates, implementation of Airport Operations Command Centers (AOCC), and airport performance reporting, etc.
While these solutions may improve specific processes and functions, they are not holistic enough. For example, introduction of Smart Gates requires integration with other airport systems and analytics solution to measure the improvements, in which case if there is no holistic integration and analytics solution, it will lead to creating a local solution blocks. Thus, effort should be to move from piecemeal solutions to an enterprise-wide platform-based solution.
To define a holistic solution approach, it is important to look at the key challenges Airport operators face.
Capacity Shortfalls: According to Airport Council International (ACI), with growing demand of air passengers, the total critical infrastructure required to cater to the capacity worldwide would be deficit by 15%, by 2020. This compels Airports to focus on efficiencies or reducing airport costs, as well as better utilization to improve profitability.
Dissatisfied Passengers: Airports today need to deal with growing lack of tolerance for poor agent interactions, baggage fees, lost baggage and flight delays.
Declining Aeronautical Revenues: The worldwide ratio of aircraft-based revenue to passenger-based revenue has remained relatively constant over the last three years, with passenger-based revenue having the greater proportion. Retail is the leading source of income for airports at 29% of the total non-aeronautical income. Property income and rent is tied with parking as the second- largest source of non-aeronautical income at 20% each.
Increased Competition: Airports that are in close proximity to each other, compete to attract airlines by offering them competitive landing fees, dynamic resource allocation, hassle-free co-ordination of multiple services during the aircraft time in the airport, aircraft maintenance facilities and better technologies to improve passenger experience.
Outdated & Unreliable IT Infrastructure: Unreliable IT infrastructure with outdated products & technologies makes the system unavailable and difficult to use. It is difficult to maintain the up-time of IT systems during upgrades, maintenance, and asset refurbishment etc.
Airports need Intelligent Airport platform to address these challenges.
Agile,responsive way forward
The Intelligent Airport solutions platforms are holistic, automated, agile, scalable and responsive. These airports use fault tolerant and scalable Infrastructure and provide real-time data analytics, self-service capabilities on end user devices. This helps in timely access to information, thereby helping in accurate decision-making.
Intelligent Airports help stakeholders in these ways:
- Passengers – by helping track status of fliight delays, queue lengths, lost baggage and discounts available at specific retailers
- Airport staff – by helping them keep track of capacity consumptions (gates, staff, counters etc.), real-time tracking of check-in, boarding and congestion points
- Airlines - improve on-time performance or digital monitoring and control of multiple parallel activities on aircraft (ground staff, catering, fuelling, baggage handling etc.)
- Retailers – transparency in tracking the business performance of retailers, targeted promotions based on user profiles and past buying pattern
- Government systems – integration with immigration system and citizen identity management system
- Airport Security – by helping with biometric-based authentication to staff and passengers, potential security risk alerting in real-time and crisis management