Changing customer needs as well as the economic and social impacts of the pandemic are challenging airports worldwide to enhance efficiency and review their facilities, operations, cost structures and revenue streams. It requires updated strategies, innovative technologies and certain investments to streamline the airport’s future success. Daniel Eckstein, Business Development ManagerMiddle East and Africa of Munich Airport International (MAI) – Munich Airport’s international business subsidiary- recaps the key questions African airports and airports in general need to address to remain or become fit for the future and further illustrates best practice projects using Munich Airport, Europe’s first five star airport, as an example.
Digitization And Seamless Travel
Eckstein considers the question of how the still rather manual airport world can be securely automated and digitized as one of the crucial issues. It will definitely need investments in digitization and new technologies to help improve the airport’s operational performance and customer experience. The use of technologies that enable touchless and contactless processes in particular is expected to increase significantly.
Prominent examples which were introduced at Munich Airport include biometric recognition algorithms, self-service check-in and bag-drop as well as self-boarding gates up to contactless payment solutions. Other passenger-friendly and smooth technologies that have been rolled out in Munich are i.e. the smart border control systems EasyPass, next-generation CT body scanners with a 160 percent higher passenger throughput per control lane and a line-up system with automated boarding card control also speeding up the passenger flow. Displays at the security entries indicate the actual waiting times and direct passengers to the fastest lane.
Efficient Airport Operations And Enhanced Safety Aspects
Optimizing airport infrastructures, operations and capacities pose another challenge. In numerous urban regions it is currently difficult to expand airports. Either there is no room for growth or there is no political will or support for expansion projects. The challenge there is to find solutions to increase the capacity utilization: maximize the throughput of passengers and the usage of aprons in a secure and safe way while ensuring a high customer experience.
One solution can be the introduction of Total Airport Management (TAM), an enhancement of Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM). It is a concept that allows airport operators, airlines, ground handling agents, air traffic control and the Network Manager Operations Center (NMOC, formerly CFMU) and powerful and transparent cooperation. The target is to increase the overall efficiency of terminal processes, the turnaround process of aircraft at the airport and the en-route capacity management.
“Munich was among the first airports in Europe to introduce A-CDM”, explains Eckstein. So increasing operational efficiency and productivity combined with smart airport planning will allow airport operators to maximize the asset utilization with smaller airport footprints and lower environmental impacts. Furthermore, airports need to look into the improvement of their safety and security concepts-security measures and safety precautions need to be identified, evaluated and adapted more quickly.
Non-Aviation Offerings And Landside Commercialization
At Munich Airport, nearly half of all revenues comes from the non-aviation sector. “The potential for African airports is huge, especially in this sector, as the non-aviation offerings and services are still below average atmost of the African airports”, evaluates Eckstein.
New and enhanced shopping, dining and service offerings lead to an improved customer experience and overall customer satisfaction, and will in particular increase non-aviation revenues. Higher non-aviation revenues could in turn enable airport operators in Africa to reduce airport charges, which in Africa are still above average and urgently need to be reformed. In combination with effective airline marketing and route development programs, new airline customers could be attracted.
“Advanced commercial offerings could thus promote traffic growth at an airport and increase the still below-average connectivity on the African continent in general”, adds Eckstein.
Another focus for airport operators in Africa may also be on optimizing the commercial use of landside areas by creating airport cities, business parks or free trade zones in order to tap further non-aviation revenue potential. Munich Airport, for example, is diversifying its revenue streams with landside shopping, restaurant, hotel and conference center offerings, office leasing for international companies, rental of event spaces and the construction of a smart city in the form of a cross-industry innovation center called LabCampus.
Last but not least, the continuous improvement of the passenger experience – with seamless processes, attractive shopping and dining options, relaxation areas, showers, free WiFi, public events and entertainment – forms a core task. The passenger journey itself will need to turn into an excitin gretail and culinary adventure. Shortening waiting times, optimizing signage and making it easier to find your way, as well as speeding up access to gates will round off the overall travel experience.
“We are proud to support airports worldwide to tackle all these challenges with best practice solutions for the entire airport life circle. MAI can help to shape state-of-the-art concepts and strategies to make African airports fit for the future, ensure efficient and sustainable airport operations and optimize the airport’s commercial growth,” Eckstein concludes.