The Integrated Airport Center Fuels Next Wave of Airport Growth

 Author(s): , Posted on April 11th, 2013

Opening a new airport, or renovating an existing one is more than just a series of construction upgrades to terminals, waiting lounges and check-in desks – it is a challenging balancing act of physical and technological requirements to synchronize operations and improve the passenger experience. Although airports’ size and complexity differ, each airport needs to apply scalable and easily integrated IT solutions to satisfy the expectations and experiences of today’s travelers while planning for the increased volume of travelers predicted for the future – 7B arriving and departing by 2020 according to the Airports Council International (ACI).

It is the passenger who feels the pain when there are disruptions to smooth and normal airport operations – long queues at check-ins and security checkpoints, flight delays and cancellations, painfully long deplaning, stressful and missed transfers, and mishandled bags. These disruptions not only increase passenger dissatisfaction and operational costs, they can greatly reduce the growth engine of airport revenues –non-aeronautical revenues during dwell time, transfer and baggage retrieval.

Dwell time is sell time. Non-aeronautical revenues will fuel airport growth

Of the $101B of airport revenue in 2010, 46.5% came from non-aeronautical revenue. And of the non-aeronautical slice, almost a third comes from Retail and Food & Beverage. While airline revenues are expected to grow modestly, airports are projecting Retail and F&B to grow between 8% and 25% per year over the next few years. This growth relies on the ability of airports to optimize interactions with passengers during dwell times.

Airports have focused on research and airport design. The tipping point will be passenger engagement with timely, valuable information.

Airports have renovated retail space, tweaked commercial offerings, and researched passenger desires. Now that it is built, the next step is to engage with passengers to effectively promote the right offers to the right customer at the right time.

What if you could provide specific passengers with all the information they needed in one single mobile device or smartphone regardless of who they are and when and where they are in their journey? What if you could engage with a passenger and let them know they have 17 minutes until their bags come out—and that there is a flower shop on the way – based on their geo-location? What if you could send text updates to passengers via opt-in allowing them to browse duty free shops or pick up a bite to eat while waiting to board or during transfers without worry? The average spend per passenger has been flat for years and ranges between $2.50 in the U.S., €8-16 in Europe, and $13.50 in the Middle East. Since Retail and F&B account for 31% of non-aero revenues, increasing spend by just $1-$2 per passenger could increase airport revenues by a minimum of 50% in the U.S.

To make this seamless flow of information a reality, integration between airport systems is mandatory. But this presents a unique challenge from an information technology (IT) perspective. On a daily basis a typical airport’s infrastructure and systems support hundreds of systems and business processes that must be handled in real-time with little margin for error. These processes may include passenger and baggage handling, security management and air-traffic control, among many others that are mission critical to the daily operations of the airports, airlines, security agencies, ground handlers, and tenants.

Centralizing passenger and operations intelligence is an operations issue.

Centralized information drives major operational benefits, including real-time business intelligence that allows for predictive deployment of resources to resolve security chokepoints and potential bottlenecks. For example: deplaning passengers faster which leads to even more shopping and eating time during dwell time and transfer) .

Operationally, integrated systems are a critical component of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM), one of the five priority measures in the Flight Efficiency Plan published by IATA, CANSO and EUROCONTROL. One study showed that for every $1 invested by an airport in ACDM, $8 would be returned after a decade and the initial investment would be recouped within 24 months. The ability to share high quality, timely and reliable information across airport operations and between partners generates significant and quantifiable benefits.

A complete view of passenger and operations intelligence will fuel the next wave of growth

Airport growth today focuses on a much broader range of activities including the retail business. These growth drivers all have something in common—they all require timely, reliable, high-quality information to be shared throughout the operations and between partners.

The ability of an airport to enable the seamless flow of information across a highly complex array of intertwined processes and systems is a key driver for future growth and success. This, coupled with a repository of customer information that can be used to provide business tracking, promotions, auxiliary service usage, etc. sets the stage for the Integrated Airport Center and a powerful ‘passenger-centric’ airport.

The Integrated Airport Center is one that takes advantage of the intersection of industry – i.e. Passenger Self Service – and Unisys Disruptive Trends – e.g. mobility and smart computing – to create an intelligent, predictive environment for the most effective and efficient flow of passengers, resources, goods and services during normal as well as disruptive day to day operations. The underlying technology is critical to make this futuristic environment a reality. The Airport Operational Data Base (AODB) that underpins integrated airport operations must be able to handle massive increases in passenger self-service and mobile transaction volume and to capture data and feed the core systems.

Integrated Airport Center propelled by the central repository of all airport operational and passenger information.

Many of the key elements to realize the Integrated Airport Center are already underway. Implemented as part of high profile infrastructure upgrade projects for major events and deployed to meet industry initiatives such as IATA’s Fast Travel initiatives, many airports are laying down the foundations necessary to make an integrated airport center a reality.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, for example, operates the Unisys Airport Operations Management Solution and the Central Integrated Information System (CIIMS). The Airport Operations Management is a comprehensive and modular solution that underlies all aspects of the Guangzhou’s airport operations management. At the center of this suite sits the Unisys Airport Operations Database (AODB) which is a high volume database that is tightly integrated through middleware systems to the systems that serve all corners of airport operations. In addition, these middleware systems are also applied to integrate other disparate airport systems with the CIIMS so that flight-related data from airlines, handling agents and air-traffic control is extracted from these systems and compiled in the AODB and is deployed to airport staff, government agencies and the general public in real-time information.

Bilund Airport, Denmark’s 2nd Largest Airport, operates the Unisys Airport Passenger Processing System (APPS) which is a comprehensive suite of passenger facilitation and passenger self-service solutions including internet check-in platforms, self-service check-in kiosks, fast and common bag drop, and home-printed bag tags. These self-service options have not only improved passenger satisfaction but also have provided Bilund and its tenant airlines with key information that has reduced costs and accelerated passenger flow. In 2012, 2.7 passengers passed through Bilund, 200k more than in 2008, but the total passenger handling working hours decreased from 199k to 185k– leading to a 16% increase in passenger handling productivity.

The critical next step for airports will be to extract data from these multiple systems and deliver predictive decision making and analysis to passenger mobile and mobile workforce devices, to improve airport worker productivity and passenger engagement.

By taking advantage of these convergence of disruptive trends – i.e. Passenger Self Service – and Unisys Disruptive Trends – e.g. mobility and smart computing – airports and their partners will able to seize the next wave of growth and productivity despite limitations in infrastructure and opportunities to optimize space.

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