Next-Generation Automation in Airports

  • Josimus Raja, Global Head - Airport Products
  • August 30, 2020
  

Airports are one of the gateways of the human society. Entry Point. Exit Point. Transaction Point. You take it anyway, but the role of the airports is significant to the system. To handle the airport more efficiently, I am advocating the automation that should outsmart the existing automation done so far. Probably, we can find a few areas of improvement rather than covering the entire airport automation completely.

Let us pick-up a few areas of the airport.

Passengers

Passengers are the purpose of our business. Every enhancement of comfort goes a long way. I have noticed, as an airport manager, the one area where the passenger sulk is Security Queue and Immigration Queues. Some airports in the US started the queue monitoring and auto counter allocation. But it should be made mandatory across the airports.

Secondly, the airport or airline app should be enabled with voice-guided navigation options for the passengers to reach the boarding gate or the area they prefer to proceed. Half of the congestion surrounded the announcement boards or display boards. Instead, provide them the freedom the navigate with the help of their own devices.

Third, without any hesitation, the airports should enable the ‘Pay for Priority.’ At different queues available either in the retail shop or immigration or in security clearance. One token which should make them comfortable, of course, the passenger needs to pay. No queue within the airport. Period.

Cargo

When it is pricing, Cargo still goes with the rate card approach. It doesn’t hold good anymore. The more dynamic pricing system you bring in, the better the possibility of improvement of tonnes of cargo flies. Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms are doing great in the passenger segment, but we can try with Cargo, as well.

Automating the loading profiles is another area where the system can assess the loading capacity against the current occupancy within the aircraft vs. what is leftover vs. what else can be accommodated instead of leaving the loading those items on a random basis. We need to go the option of the system to decide on which consignment has to be loaded so that the occupancy is well planned and well utilized.

Airlines need to have a strong tie-up with Last Mile Connectivity (LMC) providers. It brings more customers to the Cargo, and doorstep deliveries are the ways to go to attract the cargo consignments. One of the significant challenges is the prospect believes the air cargo is costly and ends up paying more to the intermediaries. Cargo airlines should establish their presence in the city side more in the coming days than on the airside.

Flight Despatch

The airlines and ATC system should be more integrated when the flight is ready for despatch. We need to avoid the physical coordination, but we will make it only as routine. Start practicing the app to app workflow the smoothen the entire process will improve signification time-savings.

One of the major complaints from the passenger on flight delays are not on the delays but on not knowing the time of actual departure. Our systems can be connected with the mobile apps of customers to narrow down those gaps. We can use simulated AI components, which can provide greater accuracy to declare the exact time of departure or arrivals.

Airport Staff

Airport staff deployments are still a manual process for the airlines, especially. The automation on staff allocation, execution, and performance is a critical factor for the airport to deliver service excellence. In simple, every GHA should automate their processes.

When flight delays or diversions, the staff need to be conveyed, reallocated, and rescheduled on their tasks. Entirely manual today, which further embarrassing the process. Automation is the only way to do it, and AI can do a perfect job in this area.

Another often mishandled or rather manually tracked activity is the training compliance of the staff. The automation in this area is highly essential, where the team needs to go on training with an advance notification from the systems.

Safety

Documented Airport safety processes are legend in nature. But the automation is limited in those areas or acts like a silo. Video analytics can play a significant role in improving safety when it is coming to crowd management.

Another considerable improvement needed is the security staff rostering shall be mapped with their performance on the day. The auto-detection capability has to be increased for the scanners instead, still depending on manual supervision. The scanners may b fitted with AI capability so that it does the deep learning. This self-learning provides more detection by the machine rather than pushing the pressure on humans.

Parking

One of the cream areas within the airport on making the profit is the parking (provided we manage and promote it well). Day parking is increasing for the same day return passengers. But such passengers don’t bring their vehicles because of poor automation.

All the approach roads leading to the airport should have dedicated lanes. The issue is not the infrastructure here but the automation of the same. Tollways should be 100 % automated and tolls to be deducted directly to their bank accounts or valets.

Retail

Another profit center for airports are growing retail outlets. But the airport authorities sometimes don’t get it well due to a lack of data. Proper analysis of the retail behavior has to be done by the airport authorities instead of allowing the brand promoters. The more usage of retail within the airport fills the valet of the airport. Data science can assist the airports.

Though the passengers are willing to purchase, the hand-baggage policy restricts. The authorities or the airlines should be clear on their strategy to become retail-friendly. Retail shops should have the capability to deliver the items at a destination of the passengers to ease the pressure on the cabin space. The ability of the retail owners plays a role, but it helps the passenger a lot.

Immigration

One of the anxiety area of the airport for the passengers is immigration. The expectations of the immigration authorities at the destination should be clear before boarding itself. We can use mobile apps messages or WhatsApp messages to the passengers. It can ease out the pressure on visiting travelers.

The same app should have the provision to message the authorities in advance so that the immigration team also prepared to face the travelers with their answers. The language of the immigration should accommodate the visiting travelers. Such a bilingual immigration team should be available well ahead. However, visitors can request using their mobile app.

We are talking about a few identified areas where automation can make life comfortable. I will come back with more regions and suggestions in the coming days. Thanks for your time to read my article. See you soon.

About the Author :
Josimus Raja
Josimus Raja, Global Head - Airport Products
Josimus comes with 18+ years of rich and extensive experience in the airline Industry especially airport services. An enterprising leader with a strong vision on Business Automation for airports is a big plus. Josimus having a strong blueprint on future airports especially the airports looking at the digital transformation to stay relevant.
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