Key challenges for today’s airports

Airports have to embrace new technologies

August 30, 2021

The economic and social impacts of the pandemic as well as changing customer needs challenge airports worldwide to review their structures and operations. It requires new strategies, innovative technologies, and investments.

Apart from the necessary new health measures, airports will have to find ways to become more efficient, reduce costs and enhance revenues while ensuring all safety and security standards are met. As the industry slowly recovers from the pandemic, operators are looking at how new technologies, smart solutions, automation, and digitalization can help improve the overall airport performance and customer experience. “The integration of new technologies will certainly play a key role in the recovery of airports”, explains Simon Lotter, Head of Market Asia Pacific of Munich Airport International (MAI).

The use of technologies that enable touchless and contactless processes in particular is expected to increase significantly. Prominent examples include biometric recognition algorithms, self-service check-in, bag-drop and self-boarding gates as well as contactless payment solutions.

Aerial view of Munich Airport with an LH aircraft taking off
Munich Airport's 5-star quality and competency together with MAI's international experience form the basis for successful best practice solutions.
Munich Airport's vehicle fleet, such as the passenger bus, is being continuously electrified and existing fossil fuel passenger buses are being rebuilt to use methane from natural renewable sources.
Munich Airport's vehicle fleet, such as the passenger bus, is being continuously electrified and existing fossil fuel passenger buses are being rebuilt to use methane from natural renewable sources. © Flughafen München GmbH

Airports need to commit to becoming green(er)

Another fundamental question – Lotter claims is, how the aviation sector will become sustainable and operate carbon neutral. European airports i.e. are committed to reduce their net CO2 emissions to “NET ZERO” by 2050. These and other climate targets clearly demand increased action from airports. Low-emission electric vehicles, biofuels, sustainable aviation fuels, carbon-neutral airport facilities and LED technology are some of the measures to achieve the net zero goal. “Taking responsibility for the environment definitely needs commitment, a clear agenda and future-oriented planning”, states Lotter.

Optimizing airport infrastructures and capacities poses a further challenge. With one third of the world's passenger kilometers, Asia has become the leading region in air traffic in recent decades. However, airport infrastructures have not developed in step with this growth. A large number of Asian hubs will exceed their capacity limits once the industry has recovered from the pandemic. But, developing airports in or nearby urban areas in Asia is almost impossible and entails major infrastructural challenges and high costs for terrestrial connectivity – this requires new strategic approaches. The challenge is to find solutions to increase the capacity utilization: maximize the throughput of passengers and the usage of aprons in a secure and safe manner while ensuring a high customer experience.

Airports must respond to customers' needs

Last but not least, the continuous improvement of the passenger experience – with seamless processes, attractive shopping and dining options, events and entertainment – forms a core task. A perfectly functional airport has to be supplemented with the so-called WOW-effect, leaving the passenger with a positive emotional experience. Not only does this have a direct impact on the airport’s image, but it also reflects in non-aeronautical revenues.

“We are proud to support airports worldwide – including numerous projects in Asia – 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 airports fit for the future, ensure efficient and sustainable airport operations and optimize the airport’s commercial growth,” Lotter concludes.

Article first published in the Insight Asia-Pacific (02/2021) magazine of OAV

Simon Lotter, Head of Market Asia Pacific at Munich Airport International
Simon Lotter, Head of Market Asia Pacific, has been in the aviation industry for over 18 years, more than half of which he has spent abroad - in Hong  Kong, Singapore, and the Middle East. At MAI – Munich Airport’s international business division – he can combine his long-standing experience with his  passion for the Asia Pacific region.