Innovation at Airports: Efficient and Passenger-friendly, Please!
by Friederike Hering und Philipp Schett
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts that the number of air travelers worldwide will exceed eight billion by 2037. This estimate was made before the Covid-19 pandemic brought the global aviation sector to the brink of collapse in a matter of weeks. Today, nobody knows what the future of air transport will look like, but the message remains the same: air traffic is and will remain a key pillar of mobility and consequently an important economic factor. It is the responsibility not only of airlines, but also of airports to find the right answers to the challenges of the future related to maintaining an efficient air traffic business. This requires a constant willingness to innovate, particularly in two areas:
- Airports need to create attractive yet efficient travel experiences to increase passenger numbers and travelers’ propensity to consume products and services at the airport.
- Airports need to keep an eye on their energy consumption to mitigate damage to the ecological balance of the surrounding environment and community.
Of course, the innovation agenda of airports before and after Covid-19 differs significantly. Due to the pandemic and the numerous new health regulations, basic processes at airports now need to be analyzed and redesigned. The focus is now on measures to improve safety and prevent the spread of the virus.
At the same time, we must not lose sight of competitiveness and innovation in the post-Covid era! We recently conducted a research study on airport innovation with our partner Airports Council International North America (ACI-NA), and although it was published before the pandemic, the study is still as relevant as ever. We analyzed the innovation activities of airports of different sizes and regions and found that innovation is increasingly becoming a strategic success factor in the operation of many airports.
Each institution interprets the topic in its own way, and the different approaches are surprising. However, institutions all agree that innovation for an airport can only work effectively if a proper innovation strategy that promotes the emergence and advancement of ideas, technologies, and opportunities is in place. Such a strategy should address the following elements of innovation:
- Culture - The airport must enable and present a culture of innovation.
- Collaboration - Working with other partners, particularly other airports, to jointly create success stories of innovative airport solutions and to scale them more easily.
- Communication - Consistent and transparent communication of the airport's own unique innovation strategy creates stakeholder acceptance and enables the airport to drive innovation more successfully.
We at Detecon have been advising our clients in the airport sector on topics related to innovation management for years. You can download the study here free of charge. We would be glad to present it to you in a personal meeting.