Specialty Buildings

Tomorrow’s terminal: designing for the digital passenger

While airports already use digital technology to power various aspects of their operation, most have yet to create a complete digital passenger experience – and reap the benefits.
By Ian Taylor February 27, 2019

On 27 December 1995, the very first flight was sold online. Just over two decades later, every flyer is a digital passenger, providing and consuming vast amounts of data, from our trip itineraries and social media posts to shopping preferences. And while airports already use digital technology to power various aspects of their operation, most have yet to create a complete digital passenger experience – and reap the benefits.

The potential gains are immediately apparent. Terminals that adapt to avoid queues and overcrowding. Faster and more secure check-in procedures. Retailers with stock tailored to the preferences of passengers that use those routes. Our own use of digital strategy in terminal design has already demonstrated what’s possible.

Perhaps more importantly, digital services are the only way to meet the expectations of a new generation of passengers. ‘Generation Z’ is used to a world of services that unconsciously meet their needs and reflect their preferences – so why would travel be any exception?

The data-powered terminal

But it’s not enough to simply collate information in siloes. It must flow through the terminal to provide real commercial intelligence. For this reason, we see more collaborative relationships between airport operators, airlines, retailers, and service providers as vital to facilitate this new, data-powered operation.

With the right strategy in place, every aspect of the airport can be improved:

  1. Design for future flexibility: Terminals are huge investments, but the industry is a dynamic one so operators need facilities that can adapt to fluctuations in passenger numbers. Digital tools can help produce modular designs that respond flexibly to passenger flows without additional costs or bottlenecks.
  2. Smoother (faster) security: A smooth passenger journey can be derailed by the slow speed of check-in or security checks. Frequent fliers who opt-in to share biometric information in the USA are already being fast-tracked – an idea that could have much wider application.
  3. Higher retail revenue: Space in airports is constrained, so how do retailers achieve higher revenues? With Bluetooth beacons installed throughout a terminal retailers and food/beverage vendors can send personalised offers to passengers whose preferences they already understand.
  4. Better baggage control: Arrivals data can be used to improve carousel efficiency, reduce waiting times and avoid unnecessary belt maintenance. Passengers could track ‘digitally tagged’ bags from their devices, providing peace of mind by showing exactly where they are located and when to collect them.

This article originally appeared on Arup’s website. Arup is a CFE Media content partner.

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Ian Taylor
Author Bio: Ian Taylor is a Global and East Asia Aviation Leader