A summary of the Evolution of Airports report

by | Aug 8, 2023 | Airports, Digital Transformation, News, Travel Tech

A summary of the Evolution of Airports report


“Airports Council International (ACI) World predicts an average annual growth of 5.8% in passenger traffic between 2022 and 2040. By 2040, more than 19 billion passengers will pass through world airports each year.”

As the aviation industry grows it is also evolving. Responding to changes in its surroundings and embracing new technologies, our industry is undergoing a transformation and it is imperative its progress is future-proofed.

Analysing the development of airports and projecting estimations forwards to 2050, Oliver Wyman, ACI World, and the Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC) have produced a report on the evolution of airports “to assist ecosystem players on their journey to 2050.”

Underpinned by an understanding that “the airports of tomorrow will be shaped by the approach taken towards the challenges of today,” this report explores:

  • The trends that will shape the airports of 2030, 2040, and 2050.
  • What airports will look like in 2030, 2040, and 2050.
  • What airport leaders, industry and governments can do to pave a successful and sustainable way forward.

To produce the work, four broad airport types were identified (the City Airport, the Global Hub Connector, the Cargo Champion, the Leisure Gateway) and interviews with eighteen Chief Executives spanning these categories were conducted.

This article distils essential conclusions from the work, highlighting its key points. However, the full work is rich with critical industry insights and well researched guidance on future growth. You can read it in its entirety here.


Conclusions presented in the report

The report is structured around five megatrends which have been identified as significant forces shaping the future of airports. As substantial influences, the way the industry responds to these will remain pertinent for decades into the future. Consequently, any innovation, investment, or strategy in present day should ensure it is in-keeping with the trajectory outlined below.

These megatrends are outlined as:

  1. Achieving net zero
  2. Technological innovation
  3. Intermodal connectivity
  4. The changing workforce
  5. The passenger experience revolution

Providing a decade-by-decade breakdown, the report highlights where the industry will be in the coming years with regards to the five megatrends identified. The result is a comprehensive roadmap charting the industry’s path and offering valuable insights for strategic planning and decision-making.


Source: Evolution of Airports report p15-16.


Helpfully, the report also provides details on which areas airport CEOs should prioritise at each decade to ensure future success. For 2030 the key priorities are:

  • Building resilience and agility in the wake of the pandemic.
  • Investing in the commercialisation of SAF.
  • Increasing non-aero revenues.
  • Implementing new technologies.
  • Recruiting and retaining airport staff to future-proof the workforce.

The 2040 priorities are detailed as:

  • Investment of scaling up SAF, hydrogen, and electric aircraft.
  • Partnering with the local community.
  • Investments in alternative infrastructure to align with emerging tech and optimise connectivity.
  • Eliminate queues at touchpoints to create the touchless terminal.
  • Streamline and secure IT and data-sharing processes to enable the tech that will be widely available by 2040.
  • Consider the allocation of sufficient and appropriate space for the new types of aircraft and their ecosystems.

The 2050 priorities outlined are:

  • Consider the revenue implications of a business model that focuses on distributed airports with features such as in-transit processing – parking revenues etc. may dwindle so other opportunities must balance this out.
  • Airports as energy hubs will be a key new opportunity.
  • As models of connected and integrated travel, airports will need to consider multi-stakeholder engagement to expand integrated decision-making beyond the airport infrastructure.

The report offers a glimpse into what the future holds for airports. More importantly though, it also lays out a strategic roadmap for getting there. Through building on the assumption that “the airports of tomorrow will be shaped by the approach taken towards the challenges of today,” the work offers actionable insights to future-proof actions for years to come.


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