Airports Achieve Three Seconds per Touchpoint with the Digi Yatra App
After years of trialling, the Digi Yatra app was finally launched on 15th August 2022. The app is currently operating at Bangalore International Airport and Delhi International Airport, bringing the pair closer to an entirely contactless passenger journey.
The app utilises facial recognition technology to enable passengers to pass through airport touchpoints seamlessly. Domestic passengers at these airports will no longer be required to present their ID or boarding pass at each touchpoint, minimising contact and maximising efficiency.
All passengers must do is perform a series of simple steps before arriving at the airport. Download the app, type in the required personal details, add proof of Covid-19 vaccination, scan their boarding pass, and take a selfie. Having done this, each touchpoint should last no longer than three seconds and be entirely contactless, facilitating the passenger in a seamless journey through the airport. The potential benefits of this are countless.
Crucially for airports, the integration of this technology should accelerate the time it takes to check-in passengers allowing for less time in queues and more time for leisure in duty-free. The automated system further enables optimisation of staff within the airport as well as providing real-time data on passenger volume and location.
The Digi Yatra app was rolled out in Bangalore International Airport and Delhi International Airport as part of the first phase. The facial recognition technology is set to be further extended to airports in Pune, Vijayawada, Kolkata, and Hyderabad by March 2023 as part of the Government of India’s wider initiative to “transform the nation into a digitally empowered society” (Delhi Aiport CEO, Videh Kumar Jaipuriar).
However, since debuting privacy experts have been split by the app with some voicing their criticisms. At time of writing, India lacks Data Protection Law causing concerns around the use of passenger data. In response, a Digi Yatra spokesperson has assured that the data is “not saved on any central storage or server […] The data is encrypted and stored in the passenger’s own smartphone in the wallet of Digi Yatra App and used only if they give their consent.” The app represents great progress towards a seamless passenger journey, but it also highlights the problems that run alongside the digital transformation of the aviation industry.
George Fanthome, CIO at Bangalore International Airport will be speaking at the World Aviation Festival on “What have recent biometric trials revealed about the future of passenger technology, digital identities, and the airport/passenger relationship?” Additionally, there will be a panel discussion on “Breaking down the roadmap to a contactless, seamless airport security process” during which themes from this article will be debated between leaders in the field.
Is this summer’s baggage crisis an innovation opportunity?
BBC News published an article this summer about the “tech aiming to prevent lost airline luggage”. It was certainly timely given the horror stories at some European airports over the summer, both in mishandled bags and in customer service. The article quotes the SITA report that highlighted 19m mishandled bags and 1.3m lost bags in 2021. We are in 2022, and you still hesitate to check a bag for your next flight? You’re not alone 😉
Have you noticed that new warehouses, like Amazon’s, or new factories, like Tesla’s, are fully automated, also like data centres? What about bag handling at airports today, is it fully automated? No, unfortunately bags are still loaded manually in aircraft today, like 50 years ago… Until we go to “dark airports” and implement automation in bag handling, what options do travelers have when they travel with bags? This paper explores the root causes of the chaotic situation, the alternatives in the short term to avoid issues and in the longer term to fix the problem.
Overall the baggage operations for airlines is roughly a zero sum game. The cost of carrying 3 billion bags per year is about $30bn, or $10 per bag. This cost is roughly offset by ancillary bag fees also at around $30bn. The mishandled bags represent roughly an extra $3bn cost. The baggage operation processes are very complex and manual. Large airports use sophisticated sortation systems running on kilometres of belts. Bags are loaded and offloaded from aircraft manually, except for large aircraft with containers.
In this spring in Europe, as the Omicron wave was fading, consumers regained confidence, air traffic resumed and reached almost the levels of 2019 with load factors of 86%. The airport and bag handling staff, who were furloughed during 2020 and 2021, did not return fast enough in their jobs. This shortage was worsened by the Coronavirus still being active and putting staff on sick leave. Overall there were not enough hands for the manual bag processes.
Can tracking bags with electronic tags help?
The bag tags currently provided by airlines are equipped with barcodes which are read only at certain points in the end-to-end process. This means that airlines and airports have a limited view of where the bags are. Adding an electronic tag, either provided by the airline or included by the travelers themselves (like the Apple AirTag), may help locate the baggage beyond the existing tracking points at bag drop and before the carousel.
Tracking the bags may indeed help the travelers to find out where their bags are, for example if a bag is stuck in a warehouse waiting to be picked up by a delivery team. As such it can accelerate the retrieval of the bag and save time looking around 10,000 bags for a needle in a haystack. But these tags don’t make bags travel faster, don’t add hands to load bags in aircraft and don’t deliver bags at home.
Can one remove the baggage bottleneck at the airport?
One approach to tackle the baggage operation issue is to remove some baggage from the sortation systems, or at least at the peak times. This can be done at departure by dropping the bags off-airport or by picking up bags from home and processing them in parallel. At arrival, the airline may offer a home or hotel delivery of the bags.
There are live solutions that exist today, like Airportr quoted in the BBC article. A baggage agent comes to the traveler’s home, seals the bag and loads it into an electric van. The bag is carried safely to the destination. Due to current regulations, the bags travel in the same aircraft as the customers, but in time we can imagine that bags can travel independently. They could also be picked up by drones that can lift 20 kilo payloads.
Is there an alternative to bag sortation systems and manual loading?
The air travel industry still handles every bag individually and manually. Conversely the maritime shipping industry went through a containerization transformation. The maritime organizations got together and set standards for 20-feet and 40-feet containers. Over the past 50 years, lengthy processes were removed and replaced with container ships.
This transformation inspired André Safir with the Squarcle project, whereby travelers drop their bags directly into containerized lockers. There is no need for bag sortation and no manual intervention. Such radical invention has the potential to transform the baggage operations, reducing costs and mishandling, but also avoided future congestions and chaos in case of rapid changes in air traffic.
While bag operations have done a tremendous job at delivering billions of bags per year, they represent relatively high costs and a low resilience to irregular operations. The air travel industry has a major opportunity to learn from this summer’s Europe crisis and to explore new ways of handling bags – more automated, more cost-effective, most resilient and ideally more sustainable.
Flexible pricing is the way of the future, says ACI – and Veovo
Airport charges, a much-debated topic between airport and airline industry bodies, have again come to the forefront as the industry rebuilds from the upheaval of the last few years.
Airport Council International (ACI) strongly advocates the shift from heavy-handed regulation, arguing that cost-based pricing should be supplemented by responding to market signals and the competitive landscape. In other words, charges that reflect passenger and airline needs while addressing environmental impacts, such as noise and pollution. And we agree.
As a company that supports airports globally with operations and revenue management, we’ve seen first-hand the issues that can arise from a strictly cost-recovery-based approach. One of the key problems is that it does not reflect recent significant changes in the industry, such as the commercialisation and privatisation of airlines and airports, new customer segments, and the resulting need for varied airport services.
While the airport body continues to push for a modern policy framework on charges, there’s still plenty that operators can do today to get more from their aeronautical pricing and revenue management practices. And many already are.
Here are some examples of airports already reaping the benefits of creative pricing and incentives as a lever to improve their competitiveness, encourage more efficient use of capacity and reduce environmental impacts.
Incentivising for growth performance
As operators look to restart routes and recover traffic, they must find new ways to attract carriers. The primary way airports can do this is by innovating aeronautical charges with new schemes and differentiated tariff structures. Some standouts in tariff creativity include:
Dublin Airport. Following the global financial crisis, Dublin’s operator DAA created a selection of long and short-haul growth incentives to revive traffic and build a healthy transatlantic network. The schemes provided rebates based on overall traffic and transfer passenger growth and additional capacity on existing routes or new route growth. By 2018, Dublin was one of the fastest-growing airports in Europe; connectivity had increased by 59%, carrier numbers had doubled, and passenger numbers had risen by 45% to over 31 million.
Brisbane Airport. One of the fastest-growing in Australia in the last decade, leaned heavily on aero charge rebates and discounts to pursue Asian low-cost carriers. Within three years, its pre-pandemic Asian seat capacity expanded by more than 40%, and the number of airline partners more than doubled.
Differentiating for services
Increasingly, infrastructure charges are being separated from terminal charges to allow airports to offer a range of services such as buses, airbridges, electricity or preconditioned air to attract both full service and low-cost airlines. For instance:
Hong Kong Airport. The world’s eighth busiest airport pre-pandemic consolidated its multiple billing systems onto one platform, allowing it to deliver granular charging such as hand baggage limitations, parking utilities and overnight charging discounts.
Powering capacity optimisation
Beyond short to medium-term recovery, likely to be centred on peak periods, airports also need to ensure they can adapt to maximise the use of their current infrastructure. One way is by using behavioural incentive schemes. For example:
Dublin Airport. As a result of the rapid growth outlined above, operator DAA was experiencing bottlenecks at peak times. The charge structures were then keyed to encourage airlines to free up capacity in congested facilities, such as with discounts weighted on the significance of the capacity released. Other programs include significant runway charge discounts for long-haul morning arrivals using a remote stand, surcharges, and incremental time-based charge increases for long stayers or delayed stand departures.
Keflavik Airport. The airport operator Isavia frequently uses incentive schemes to smooth peaks and relieve congestion, both during the day and across winter/ summer.
Encouraging more sustainability
Many airports are now encouraging airline customers to use new, quieter, more environmentally friendly aircraft by adjusting charges to airlines based on environmental criteria. A study commissioned by the European Commission found that although 61% of European airports have already applied some charging levels for noise, currently, only 20% do so for emissions.
Swedavia. Swedish airport operator Swedavia is introducing a CO2 and NOx emission charge, following a government requirement that airport charges be differentiated for environmental purposes. Aircraft which emit more than average pay a penalty which finances a bonus for cleaner aircraft, with an overall airport revenue-neutral effect.
London Luton. Luton Airport has some of the most stringent noise control measures of any UK airport, building noise levels into its fees to dissuade carriers from using older, noisier aircraft.
A revenue management reset
Mastering the complex art of charge management within a regulatory cost framework – and invoicing accurately – isn’t always easy.
Some airports can fall into the black box trap – when commercial teams don’t have complete visibility into the impact of their schemes nor understand the back-office billing consequences.
For others, it’s the slow-to-cash malaise. Invoicing is delayed due to high-touch billing data preparation needs. Unbilled charges pile up through a lack of integrated operational data or overcomplex billing data preparation. Inaccurately applied discounts, particularly where multiple schemes are in play or multiple threshold criteria are required, leads to high levels of adjustments and credits.
To make sure that they can get the most from pricing signals and optimise their financial outcomes, airport operators need to ask themselves:
Does our commercial team have a clear picture of projected revenue and any operational impact of changes to the charge regime?
Are the native capabilities of aeronautical billing systems transparent enough that commercial teams can draw up winning schemes that are easy to implement in-house? Are there out-of-the-box capabilities to support standardised emissions-based charging, for example?
How much of the billing cycle can we automate to streamline the movement to the cash cycle and accelerate time to revenue?
Sharpening focus on flexibility and responsiveness
Airports that are the most flexible in using price signals are in the strongest position to encourage emissions reduction, optimise capacity and grow traffic. They are also the most able to adapt if regulation, commercial priorities or market dynamics change quickly.
Veovo fully supports ACI’s call to reconsider the use of strictly cost-based airport charges and heavy-handed regulation. In the meantime, airports must act quickly and decisively now. Where airports can pull levers to support their commercial and infrastructure needs, specialised aeronautical revenue tools can help airports inject flexibility into pricing models while remaining within regulatory boundaries.
The beginning of 2020 brought with it the hopes for a new decade. The year which started with bright smiles, successful project launches, and travel plans, has now become a long haul waiting for life to get back to normal. The change meant so much more to the people who spent their days within the airport. It didn’t seem like the projections for the travel industry would be achievable.
Looking back a few months now, we hadn’t anticipated this drastic change. Nobody ever thought that we would see a day where not a single plane would fly in the air, that there would be a global lockdown, or that crude oil would be so cheap! The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us a new world. While we are still trying to grasp the lifestyle changes we need to make, organizations and companies are trying to deal with lost sales and loss of revenues. The new challenge has also driven the need for organizations to re-think their approach and restructure. The trust with their customers can be built now only by ensuring that safety and sanitization are maintained, which is possible only by understanding the customer’s perspective. The challenge will be to revisit processes and abide by government-issued health guidelines.
At Pittsburgh International Airport, high-traffic floor areas are being cleaned and disinfected via robots using UV-C rays. JetBlue is cleaning airport terminals using a hospital-grade disinfectant and has also increased the cleaning frequency. T.S.A. officers need to change their gloves after each pat-down or on customer’s request. Delta is using a mist-based disinfectant via an “electrostatic sprayer.” While United Airlines has introduced their ‘all in one’ economy snack bag that contains a sanitizer wipe along with bottled water and snacks, other airlines are asking customers to eat food before traveling.
The pandemic has also brought attention to facts that were ignored. The retail experience within stores at the airport isn’t the same as the retail experience on the high street. Retailers at airports are yet to catch-up with the innovations that are happening outside of their world. With COVID-19, the need to invest in the digital transformation has strengthened. The challenge to maintain the same experience of a product/brand inside the airport and outside remains and is solidified.
The following innovations need to be adopted by organizations and the travel industry in general to ensure the continuation of their businesses. COVID-19 has definitely pre-empted innovation, which was inevitable due to the ‘more online interaction and less physical’ preference of the millennials:
1) Digital transformation: The key strategies for digital transformation are driving customer experiences with customer data platforms and personalization. Tracking customer interaction at every touchpoint within the airport, with the brands and their products enables better segmentation and predictive analytics.
2) Gamification / Virtual Reality: With COVID-19, hygiene and social distancing have become the norm. Gone are the days when customers tested sample products before purchasing. The panic of the pandemic is prevalent and here to stay as a part of our life. Companies will need to think out of the box. To avoid physical contact and still ensure customer tries the product before purchasing, several tools are available in the market today. Brands have their own ‘Virtual Try-on’ tools and quizzes to recommend products to consumers.
3) Contactless payment options: COVID-19 has emphasized the need for increased hygiene and sanitization. In stores, making cash payments is the riskiest transaction. The heightened sense of sanitization will make customers avoid such transactions. To enhance customer experience and their safety, contactless payments at retail outlets will be the new norm. Technologies like NFC can help brands to enable this.
4) Loyalty: Technology can be used to enhance loyalty for travelers by firstly integrating loyalty services commonly across all stores of the brand. Secondly, via an initiative to tightly couple loyalty programs of the brand with travel service providers (like airlines and airports). This way, consumers can see the added advantage of remaining loyal to a brand, and also enjoy enhanced loyalty since the services are integrated. Customers prefer value to price, and a tightly coupled loyalty program can enable it.
5) Super apps: Especially with most consumers using multiple devices and multiple channels for varied needs – booking tickets, tracking status, tracking loyalty points for the airline, buying products, etc. If all these different apps used by the customer can be clubbed into one super app, the benefits will be immense. The customer can use the same app to book their ticket, check status (of flights or product deliveries), make a purchase of a product from the brand, and use the same app to track loyalty points (for the airline and the product purchase). This connected app will enable the customer to have everything required under one umbrella. This again requires a well-integrated system of companies/brands with airports and travel service providers.
In summary, the above innovations need to become essential in organizations’ standard operating procedures to ensure that they can survive the new normal post-COVID-19. This is the opportunity for every organization to stop, assess their current set-up, and measure up for future innovations. The call for a well-connected integrated world is undying and will be here to stay, just as we tackle our new normal with the COVID-19, which is also here to stay.
It is possible that in the near future, a customer journey is well-connected and integrated – to ensure a seamless and safe experience.
Global Airport Mobility – comprising journeys taken to and from the airport by consumers – is a $60-70 billion opportunity for the travel industry that is largely untapped, according to a recent report by CarTrawler.
The survey, which looked at the consumer behaviour of over 11,500 people in five markets, was undertaken to understand exactly how consumers get to and from the airport beyond car rental, and uncovered many insights on consumer wants and needs, how the pandemic has impacted consumer behaviour, the scope of the opportunity for the travel industry, and how to optimise for it.
While there is already comprehensive data on the existing car rental landscape, the broader airport mobility opportunity has been largely overlooked, so a global survey of this nature was essential to both understand the existing situation and provide insight into how the travel industry can optimise it now and into the future.
What is the Airport Mobility opportunity?
The ‘Broader Airport Transfer’ mobility opportunity – which includes taxi, shuttle, private transfer and ride-hailing (or ‘on-demand’)- is comparable in worth to car rental at $19-23 billion but the shape of the opportunity is very different, with broader airport transfer offering seven times higher booking volumes. Whereas on-airport car rental accounts for 65-80 million journeys, broader airport transfer accounts for 460-555 million journeys – which offsets the lower average booking values.
Differing markets have different needs
While the volume of booking journeys in North America and Europe are similar at ~1 billion in each geography, there are significant differences in the breakdown of transport methods. In North America, where a car-centric culture is more prevalent, 46% of airport journeys are made by private car, compared to 31% in Europe. The most significant difference between the two is the amount of bus and rail journeys – which comprise 20% in Europe, but only 8% in North America.
Consumer needs and behaviour – and pent-up demand
The report shows that there is significant pent-up consumer demand to book airport transfer with their flight or travel vendor, but that either the vendor doesn’t provide the offering, or they don’t make the consumer aware that it’s available.
Where flight vendors offer airport mobility, the customer journey tends to be longer than that of car rental, with more touchpoints and opportunities for the travel vendor to make the consumer aware of their offering. The customer journey to purchasing airport mobility is also omnichannel and with desktop, mobile web, mobile app and offline methods of booking all popular.
To read the full report and find out much more detail about consumer journeys and behaviour, the key blockers that prevent consumers from booking airport transfers, and how flight vendors can optimise the customer journey to seize the opportunity, read CarTrawler’s Airport Mobility Opportunity here.
There is arguably no more important step in the data lifecycle process than integration. When we move to a new city, into a new home, or start a new career, we are effectively taking all our economic, social, and cultural values into an established but an also unfamiliar environment that we now call our own.
Collecting construction project information is no different. As-builts, schedules, budgets, and contracts are all fluid as the unique data associated with them. Therefore, it’s critical that as your organization or project evolves, there is a reliable system in place to fulfill all your project information needs.
What is data integrity?
Data integrity refers to the accuracy, reliability, and consistency of stored data over its entire lifecycle. With construction projects, data can be unknowingly duplicated, outdated, or outright false delaying project milestone deadlines and inflating a project’s construction budget. Adding to the complication, complex infrastructure projects such as airport terminal expansion can have tens of thousands of physical assets from taxiway centerline light cans to air handler units that all need to be inventoried and be included in close-out submittals. Plans can always change, and unexpected audits can always happen. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Why is integration important?
When integrating any data, we must understand that data is dynamic and may not necessarily be suited for an Excel spreadsheet or Access relational database that we all know and love. Data integration makes data more freely available and easier to consume and process by systems and users. If done properly, it can reduce IT costs, free-up resources, improve data quality, and foster innovation all without drastic changes to existing applications or data structures. Certain aspects of projects may involve sensitive security information (SSI) or contain proprietary information that requires limited access. In this era of information security, preventing data leaks and breaches is more important than ever. When the integrity of data is secure, the information stored in a database will remain complete, accurate, and reliable no matter how long it’s stored or how often it’s accessed. You need a system that can put your data security first.
How to integrate actionable data
Data is only useful if it is timely and actionable. Modern organizations and construction projects are drowning in data but starving for information. Data can also take the form of dates, numbers, text, and files holding that data from a variety of applications that are only accessible to certain parties. If data is cleaned, organized, and archived it not only becomes useful throughout the construction project but after closeout too. You can integrate your project data into software from the Acquisition and Planning Phase into the Bidding Phase, Construction Execution Phase to the Project Closeout and Punch List Phase and Digital Twin Turnover.
Who is going to use this data?
Stakeholders have different data needs. A specification sheet showing an airfield electrician the model numbers of all the newly installed taxiway signs is nice to have but a spreadsheet created by the contractor detailing the preventative maintenance plan for the sign panels is far more beneficial. Imagine having this data right at your fingertips without the wait or figuring out who to call. By having a robust and secure system in place to store all your project information, all team members on a project can collaborate on objectives and accomplish tasks on time. Have your data audit ready. All the time.
How can the project team benefit?
Having the project team identify their data needs is essential for the integration process of a project to succeed. This can be a subcontractor wanting to share a multi-layered plumbing blueprint with an engineer or the airport security coordinator needing product warranty information from the security camera vendor. For a project team to benefit from data integration, management must support the system that is under development and involve users in the development process. This can ultimately save the two most important things to a project: time and money.
As airports adapt to new environmental requirements, technology steps up to help them keep track of their carbon footprint.
Swedavia and Veovo have partnered to introduce environmental emissions incentives for airlines. The airport operator’s flexible airport charges scheme essentially rewards airlines for operating out of Swedavia airports Stockholm Arlanda and Gothenburg Landvetter with more fuel-efficient aircraft. In all, Swedavia operates 10 Swedish airports and is a leader in adopting environmental innovations.
The recently introduced CO2 and NOx Emission Charges follow a Swedish government requirement that airport charges be differentiated for environmental purposes. Airlines are charged more when operating aircraft with higher emissions and less when operating cleaner aircraft. The overall effect on airport revenue for Swedavia is neutral.
Lena Wennberg, chief sustainable development officer at Swedavia, says:” Swedavia wants the travel of the future to be sustainable. For many years, we have actively worked towards a transition to more sustainable travel via our airports. By the end of 2020, Swedavia became completely fossil-free in our airport operations. Fossil-free renewable HVO-diesel is now being fuelled at our airports. Within the Swedish government’s initiative Fossil-free Sweden, which we work within, there are also goals for domestic flights to be completely fossil-free by 2030. For international traffic, all planes taking off from Swedavia’s airports must be fossil-free by 2045″.
Veovo’s Revenue Management software will automatically calculate airlines’ environmental impact at the airport, using industry emission data sets and Swedavia’s innovative environmental charging approach. Swedavia shares the calculations with airlines on their invoices.
” The industry’s drive towards increased sustainability and carbon neutrality requires a toolkit of innovative technologies and approaches, including charging that rewards cleaner aircraft,” said James Williamson, CEO of Veovo. “We are pleased that our aeronautical billing engine with complete charge flexibility will support Swedavia in their initiative.”
Swedavia’s climate transition work was recently honoured by the Airports Council International (ACI), awarding the operator the Eco-Innovation Airport of the Year in 2021.
Airports embrace sustainability
Readers may be interested in the perspective of Jennifer Desharnais, Manager Sustainability at ACI World, who advises the aviation industry not to consider sustainability as a mere “box-ticking exercise.”
“Airports are not new to the practice of operating as sustainably as possible. Several show true leadership, and clearly have a solid sustainability strategy that cascades down and engages all employees. These airports typically create innovative partnerships, collaborate with both in-sector and out-of-sector stakeholders, invest in technologies and training, embrace change, understand the needs of the passengers and communities they serve, and measure their impact on society and the environment. Overall, the airport sector is one that recognises the intricate interdependencies of all three pillars of sustainability, and the associated risks and opportunities.”
But there will be a lot of measures to account for, and technology companies can help make progress toward a carbon-neutral future more transparent.
The future of flexible airport charges
ACI World has suggested that flexible airport charges might also result in the more efficient use of airport infrastructure. ACI World published a policy brief on this topic at the end of last year—Airport Charges: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom—with the assistance of InterVISTAS Consulting Inc. and the support of Oman Airports Management Company, ACI Africa, ACI Latin America-Caribbean, and ACI North America.
The brief suggests:
Policies on airport charges should ensure that they serve the travelling public’s and local communities’ best interests.
Strictly cost-based airport charges do not ensure that infrastructure is used more efficiently to benefit the travelling public.
The primary focus of charges should be on market needs and signals for the efficient use of infrastructure.
The best way forward in the changing competitive landscape is through commercial agreements between airports and airlines.
Light-handed oversight formats are preferable in exceptional situations where economic regulation of charges is deemed necessary.
More flexible policy
The environmental incentive scheme introduced by Swedavia appears to be a better solution to keep Europe’s airports on target than the Fit for 55 proposals put forth by the European Commission.
Fit for 55 refers to achieving a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 relative to 1990 levels and encompasses the goal to meet net-zero targets by 2050. The European Commission has proposed mandating the use of sustainable aviation fuels (in its ReFuelEU Directive), requiring the supply of electricity to stationary aircraft (in the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation, AFIR), and putting an effective price on CO2 emissions and jet fuel (through the EU Emission Trading System, ETS, implementation of CORSIA, and the European Taxation Directive, ETD).
While well-intended and in some ways aligned with aviation’s environmental commitment, ACI Europe has pointed out that Fit for 55 could have an unintended negative impact on European airports, airlines and passengers alike.
The AFIR will require airports to upgrade or change their infrastructure to ensure electricity supply is available at aircraft gates and stands.
The other proposals will increase airlines’ costs— e.g. by introducing a kerosene tax. The extent to which airlines mitigate, absorb or pass through these cost increases to passengers and how passengers respond to any fare changes will determine the effect of these proposals on carbon emissions and demand and revenue at airports.
The Fit for 55 proposals will reduce demand at European airports.
Fares on direct flights could increase by 11% in 2030 and 13% in 2050, leading to a reduction in demand of 5% in 2030 and 6% in 2050.
However, the Oxera report points out that while these policies will dampen demand, the overall trend is for future passenger demand to exceed 2019 levels. These policies will not curb flying. Aircraft will remain a preferred form of transport for many. Instead, they will only lessen the number of flights operating in Europe.
Climate change is a global issue, and the solutions should also be global.
Oxera finds Fit for 55 might encourage more airlines to program connecting flights that avoid European airports and switch routes to connect through other airports instead. Even flights originating in Europe destined for long-haul routes may choose to connect through airports elsewhere. After building the infrastructure to attract connecting flights, Europe’s airports need to remain viable.
What is more, this policy shift would not effectively accomplish its mission.
The proposals reduce carbon emissions per passenger by 54% in 2050 on flights within the EU, but only by 20% on flights that connect EU and non-EU airports.
ACI EUROPE proposes the following policies:
Further incentivise and provide financial support to increase uptake of SAF (sustainable aviation fuels).
Allocation of revenues from taxation and ETS for aviation decarbonisation
Exempt small airports from supplying electricity for stationary aircraft
Engagement with the EU’s main trading partners and other third countries to accelerate international decarbonisation goals and actions
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE, said: “The achievement of our climate goals is too important to proceed with anything other than the fullest body of knowledge possible. And the social and economic cohesion that comes with robust air connectivity is too valuable to our continent and communities to put at risk. Oxera’s report shows that the ‘Fit for 55’ package, whilst unquestionably valuable in its aspirations and directions, invites unwelcome and unanticipated consequences through a lack of a comprehensive and cumulative impact assessment. As we all strive to decarbonise our sector, let us go forward with our eyes wide open. The process will be costly and lengthy, and ours is by its very nature a global industry. The measures we propose today will help create a firm foundation for us to move forward whilst protecting Europe and its citizens from distortion and exclusion. We urge the European Institutions to incorporate these in their next steps”.
While the objective is to ensure a sustainable future for humanity, there are more gains to be made from flexibility.
Fresh green tech opportunities
In her article, Desharnais also raises awareness about the complexity of reporting, highlighting opportunities for the tech sector to offer solutions that will help keep aviation on track towards net-zero 2050.
“The spotlight on sustainability is resulting in a multitude of ESG ratings and rankings, sustainability reporting frameworks and guidelines, and target setting guidelines, popping up all over the sustainability landscape. Often dubbed the “ESG alphabet soup”, the topic continues to gain greater attention every day, demonstrating the pressing need for standardisation. For airports and many other businesses, it can easily become confusing. ACI’s ESG Management Best Practice aims to help airports better understand the differences between ESG and sustainability reporting, the steps they can take to start or improve reporting, and the reasons why investors are interested,” she writes.
The environmental commitments made by the aviation industry—to achieve net-zero targets by 2050—requires technological innovation not only in aircraft and fuel systems but in how we measure and keep track of operations. Governments, investors, and the travelling public will demand transparency along the path to net-zero. Ensuring accurate reporting will be essential.
After all, sustainability is nothing without accountability.
Whilst we see the light at the end of the runway in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many barriers and challenges to overcome to fulfil the pent-up demand of travel. With many domestic markets showing strong signs of recovery, certain international markets are now dropping testing requirements making for stronger demand as we head into the busy summer season. ACI World forecasts a return to 2019 traffic levels in 2024 which highlights that we need to get to work now in order to handle the growth from today.
Airports are currently undergoing many challenges during the recovery phases of the pandemic. Across many of the world’s airports, queues are starting to become the norm at check-in, security, and immigration processes due to a lack of staff, or new staff undergoing essential onboarding and lengthy training programmes. As airports cut down staff during the first wave of the pandemic in line with depleted traffic levels, many front-line workers who left the sector are not returning at pace due to the uncertainty of the industry moving forward and opportunities in other sectors. These operational challenges are beginning to hamper smooth, efficient passenger journeys.
ACI’s World Airport IT Standing Committee recently discussed the topic of staffing and diversity on their quarterly IT initiatives meeting. Airports are experiencing the ‘great resignation” and are not being able to offer as competitive opportunities as some of the larger technology players in the market. With airports under an era of digital transformation, this is particularly problematic as airports digitize processes and have an overwhelming reliance on different technologies. The challenge is market wide and begs the question of how we bring more IT talent to the buzzing environments that are airports and airport technology providers.
Whilst airports are seen traditionally as infrastructure companies, technology is at the heart of everything we do. Some examples of technology use cases include:
Air traffic control management
Security wait time monitoring
Concessions and developing non-aeronautical revenues
Therefore, lots of IT roles are encompassed in these technologies from software developers, IT technicians, maintenance engineers, data scientists, project managers and cyber specialists to ensure there is sufficient capacity, user friendliness and security across all airport technology. With it being the 21st century, there are many tech companies attracting talent away from aviation. Airports should be thinking of the future generation and leaders of IT at their airport and within the supply chain. Ideas to attract future talent include:
Software development courses
Partnering with local schools and universities
Offering recognised qualification courses for new recruits
Whilst attracting IT talent is key moving forward to grow and develop the workforce of the future, diversity, inclusion, and equity need to be at the forefront of every airport. Diversity includes attracting talent from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds as-well as of different genders or sexual orientation. Being diverse doesn’t mean that you are inclusive. Inclusivity should provide equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. Similarly, this doesn’t necessarily lead to being equitable. Airports should deal fairly and equally with all employees. The three pillars need to go hand in hand when airports think about their company culture of the future. ACI World and the IT committee are continually focusing on attracting diverse talent as the future CIOs of the aviation industry. Airports should think about their culture and workforce, providing a dynamic, challenging role where opportunities can be discovered to progress. A sense of belonging and engagement is critical in this era versus traditional motivation objectives.
As airports struggle with staffing levels, now is the time to act and make changes to reap results in the years to come. ACI World has launched its first cross committee collaboration, to produce a workforce of the future whitepaper due to be published at the end of the year. This area will become a much-needed focus for the industry to continue its recovery in years to come.
COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented challenge to the aviation industry, requiring lower IT spend in line with depleted traffic levels. As the industry continues to recover, with certain States such as the U.K aiming to now live with COVID, and drop testing for fully vaccinated travelers, there appears to be some hope for the sector in 2022. 81% of airports in the latest IT Trends survey by ACI World and SITA show that they are looking to maintain or even grow their IT spend in 2022. The planned spend at airports was 5.1bn USD in 2021, up from an actual spend of 4.1bn USD in 2020. Whilst this is only 50% of actual spend in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, the signs are an encouraging trend.
As expected, whilst the pandemic continues, there is much focus on digital transformation at airports. ACI World released an updated Digital Transformation handbook in 2021, designed to support airports in their planning and rollout of the journey. This is a way airport can look to:
Reduce OPEX through staffing costs.
Simplify the passenger experience
Implement self-service solutions including touchless processes
Continue with biometrics rollouts.
All of these initiatives are crucial for recovery by reducing the face-to-face contact with airport staff. This adds to hygienic journeys and the welfare of passengers and staff, but also boosts an airport’s bottom line with lower OPEX. This helps airports with their staff management as it is becoming increasingly difficult for airports to hire front line workers a many have left the sector since the first wave of the pandemic and don’t appear to be rushing back. This is evident by 84% of airports implementing self-service technology in 2022, with 86% of airports using cloud infrastructure to make this a seamless possibility.
Biometric ID management has been spoken about for the last decade, but only recently has it really been integrated into multiple airports, except perhaps in the case of border solutions. Nearly three quarters of airports will invest in biometric technology by 2024 improving security and operational efficiency for airports. We will see this not just at border control, but throughout the journey from check-in to self-boarding solutions aiming to reduce costs for both airports and airlines and quickening up the transaction times versus traditional manual processing.
Whilst we may be stating the obvious that airports will invest in touchless processes, one area that has been steadily rising in investment from airports is within cybersecurity. Due to the increasing dependence on technology and digital services, 94% of airport CIO’s will be spending some amount on cyber protection by 2024. ACI also serves its members by offering cyber support with different products available including our cyber self-assessment tool, Airport C-Suite executive level questionnaire and advisory services.
Two other key takeaways this year that are worth noting is in the area of business intelligence as airports look for ways to improve service and spend per passenger, as-well as the ultimate sustainability goal. Airports are looking to differentiate themselves based on environmental factors and it is clear reducing the carbon footprint at airports can be supported by a strategy of green IT.
As the industry continues to battle through different phases of the pandemic, we can see clearly that the light isn’t at the end of the tunnel, it is in our skies. Airports now take IT to be an enabler for rapid, efficient, safe, and seamless journeys. The continued and substantial investment in IT throughout the industry is very encouraging, despite it still being a global pandemic.
Airbus has announced an ambitious strategy to decarbonise the air transport industry, with the ZEROe project—which explores zero-emission technologies for a future aircraft—playing a significant role.
Hydrogen is one of the most promising zero-emission technologies to reduce aviation’s climate impact, and airports play a pivotal role in enabling the transition to a climate-neutral aviation ecosystem.
Airbus Hydrogen Hub at Airports
In 2020, Airbus launched “Hydrogen Hub at Airports”, which aims to jumpstart research into infrastructure requirements for future hydrogen aircraft, as well as low-carbon airport operations, across the entire value chain. Various airport authorities, airlines and energy providers are already signing on to get involved.
“Airports have a key role to play to enable the transition to a climate-neutral air transport ecosystem,” said Lionel Cousseins, Airbus ZEROe Market Development and Airline Relations Manager. “Hydrogen Hub at Airports enables us to collaborate with partners to define needs today, so we can pave the way for hydrogen adoption by 2035.”
There are benefits to Hydrogen Hubs for airports that go beyond powering future sustainable aircraft. For example, ground transport, including buses for passenger transport to and from aircraft, and heavy-dutylogistical vehicles – such as aircraft tugs and cargo trucks –could also be powered by hydrogen in future, contributing to a reduction in airports’ overall emissions. Airports can also improve their environmental impact by using hydrogen for cooling and heating the airport facility.
“The on-site production (and liquefaction) of hydrogen could also be a promising option for airports to meet their individual energy needs. This solution would eliminate the need for transport to and from off-site hydrogen production facilities, which would further reduce emissions. In doing so, airports could also become future energy ecosystems with liquid hydrogen production at their core,” Airbus suggests.
Airbus expects to produce the first hydrogen-powered aircraft around 2035. The European aerospace company has been encouraging airports to prepare facilities for the supply of hydrogen to power the new greener aircraft.
Changi and Incheon
In February, Airbus signed a Cooperation Agreement with Changi Airport Group, global industrial gases and engineering company Linde and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to study building a future hydrogen hub in the city-state.
Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer, Han Kok Juan, Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Yam Kum Weng, Executive Vice President of Changi Airport Group, and John Panikar, Executive Vice President, APAC of Linde, signed the agreement at the Singapore Airshow.
The partners aim to leverage their expertise in support of the aviation industry’s commitment to decarboniseand achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. They will examine how hydrogen can be transported, stored and delivered to aircraft at existing and new airports.
Airbus will provide characteristics on aircraft configuration and fleet energy usage, insight on hydrogen-powered aircraft for ground operations, and data on the estimated hydrogen aircraft ramp-up at airports.
“The Asia-Pacific region will play a key role as we work towards making climate-neutral aviation a reality,” said Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer. “By partnering with Changi Airport and with Incheon Airport, Airbus will leverage the operational and technical expertise of two of the world’s leading hubs. The studies we will carry out together reflect the need for a cross-sectoral approach, including manufacturers, airlines, regulators, airports, energy providers and academia. We need bold and coordinated action to achieve our goals.”
The agreement will focus on a series of feasibility studies aimed at developing a hydrogen refuelling hub for non-aviation use in the short term and developing infrastructure for hydrogen use in aviation in the future.
“With this agreement, SEA has taken a concrete step forward in enabling important solutions for the decarbonisation of airports and the entire industry,” said Armando Brunini, CEO of SEA. “We are going through an important transition and have chosen to be at the forefront of it, together with our partners. Innovation is in the DNA of aviation and, also thanks to Airbus, is moving towards a transformation that was unimaginable up to just a few years ago. We are proud to be part of it.”
With Milano Malpensa and Milano Linate airports, SEA is among the European airports that will achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2030, twenty years earlier than the 2050 deadline set by the European Green Deal.
SEA is part of the European Commission-funded project “OLGA, hOlistic & Green Airports,” committed to decarbonising aviation. This project will significantly contribute to the complex challenge of CO2 reduction while improving energy efficiency, air quality and biodiversity. SEA’s strategic plan for rapid post-pandemic recovery focuses on environmental and sustainability-related transitions.
The partners chose the airport of Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (VINCI Airports’ centre of excellence for innovation) as the pilot airport, with the first installations as early as 2023.
The implementation of this project includes several phases:
From 2023: deployment of a hydrogen gas distribution station at Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport. This station will supply both the airport’s ground vehicles (buses, trucks, handling equipment, etc.) and those of its partners, as well as the heavy goods vehicles that drive around the airport. This first phase is essential to test the airport’s facilities and dynamics as a “hydrogen hub” in its reach area.
Between 2023 and 2030: deployment of liquid hydrogen infrastructures that will allow the provision of hydrogen into the tanks of future aircraft.
Beyond 2030: deployment of the hydrogen infrastructure from production to mass distribution of liquid hydrogen at the airport.
By 2030, the three partners will study the possibility of equipping VINCI Airports’ European airport network with the hydrogen production, storage and supply facilities needed for use on the ground and onboard aircraft.
“This partnership illustrates the partners’ shared commitment to decarbonising air travel and is a major step forward for the development of hydrogen across the airport ecosystem,” Airbus stated.
VINCI Airports has 45 airports in 12 countries, which will help create a robust supply network as this technology takes off.
During the Aviation Festival London, Sjoerd Blum, Chief Information Officer, Royal Schiphol Group, suggested airports should think of themselves less as infrastructure and more as tech companies, with technological innovation and data management driving their strategies for recovery and growth.
“Like anybody in the sector, we were severely hit by the crisis that we’re in together, but the good thing is that our long-term ambition still stands. We aim to be the world’s most sustainable and highest quality airport,” Blum said. Blum suggested it is essential to make the most of technology and data to succeed. “No matter if you talk airport operations, if you talk commercial, if you talk safety, security, or asset management, or your staff, you make the difference in the future as an airport if you make technology and data work to the maximum.”
To achieve their goals, Schiphol has prioritized IT and data. “You start to look like a tech company, who does tech for their existence,” Blum said. “If you look through your traditional eyes at an airport, you might still see that infrastructure company that we have been over the past 100 years. But if you look a little bit closer, you see a company driven full with tech, driven forward by the power of data…Think like a tech company. We took that as a leading principle when adjusting because of the [COVID] crisis…But we said we would not only want to adapt because of COVID. We also want to improve. We want to build back better.”
So what does “think like a tech company” mean in practical terms? As Blum explained, it means putting technology to the forefront not as a supporting mechanism for the infrastructure but as the driving engine of the business.
“A tech company first has a foundation on which they built all their IT and data products. Those products are built as part of the business, not by an IT team doing that for the business—as an integrated part of your business, ensuring that it leads to value…You make smart use of what the market can do for you.”
As an integrated part of the business in operations, safety, security, commercial, asset management, and human resource management, Schiphol has developed business platforms that gather data as part of their primary activity. Schiphol has also prioritized connectivity solutions that will support large scale, real-time gathering and sharing of data and building a smart facility.
“We are taking important steps to be ready for the connectivity of tomorrow—thinking about 5G in our enabling technology outlook,” Blum said. “Fully embarking now on the power of what the cloud can do for us and the integration that will come. Our data and AI strategy is not only about the foundational parts, getting one platform doing your engineering, but is also very much focused on getting the products into the business platforms…In essence, the management platform is all about getting to an intelligent asset control centre, safety and security, and a seamless flow biometrics journey.”
Other advantages of technology-led total airport management operations at Schiphol include refining their commercial strategies by making better use of passenger data, creating a “workplace of the future” for staff.
Blum also highlighted the importance of cyber defence in a technology-led airport. “We are opening up as a sector, and the bad guys are aware of it as well. So you need a cyber roadmap that goes together with the steps that you’re taking,” Blum said.
The next step for Schiphol’s tech-company strategy is the potential commercialisation of their technology developments.
“Thinking like a tech company also convinced us that we should no longer just be building products that can bring value to Amsterdam. We are looking at building products that can also function somewhere else in everything we do. That can be within our group, as Schiphol airports, but it can also have value [at other] airports. What we have done is we have partnered up with the market, and we are now able to bring the products that bring value to us, also to other airports.”
Schiphol has developed solutions for staff communications, airport disruption management, and sustainability criteria, among others, which Blum suggested could be offered to airports with fewer IT development capabilities in-house.