END OF RUN­WAYS?

Stephen Sy­mons and Alex Heather from the Just Imag­ine blog dis­cuss the fu­ture of air­ports

Aviation Business - - CONTENTS -

Stephen Sy­mons and Alex Heather dis­cuss the fu­ture of air­ports

Tom is fly­ing to New York for a long week­end. He worked late the night be­fore but luck­ily didn’t take long to pack in the morn­ing be­fore his lug­gage was whisked from his apart­ment by drones, se­cu­rity scanned and packed on the plane be­fore Tom even ar­rived at Syd­ney Air­port.

Upon ar­rival, Tom eas­ily strolls to his gate with­out queu­ing thanks to au­ton­o­mous bio­met­ric screen­ing that has au­to­mat­i­cally pro­cessed him through im­mi­gra­tion, se­cu­rity, and board­ing checks since step­ping into the ter­mi­nal. Seated on the plane, he de­cides to sur­prise his New York-based girl­friend with a new cof­fee ma­chine, or­der­ing it from the air­port’s duty-free re­tail of­fer­ing, tim­ing its ar­rival in New York to co­in­cide with his.

Mil­len­ni­als like Tom get a bad rap these days: of­ten dis­missed as spe­cial en­ti­tled snowflakes, glued to their screens and ex­pect­ing the good life on a sil­ver plat­ter. But what if the mad­den­ing habits of mil­len­ni­als are ac­tu­ally paving the way for a bet­ter fu­ture? This gen­er­a­tion’s ex­pec­ta­tions will be the true dis­rup­tors for air travel, re­sult­ing in a bet­ter jour­ney for all of us to en­joy.

Rad­i­cal change is fore­cast

The in­dus­try is well aware that air­line de­mand and pas­sen­ger ex­pec­ta­tion con­tin­ues to test air­port de­sign in its cur­rent for­mat, and this evo­lu­tion is hap­pen­ing at break­neck speed. At the 2018 Global Pas­sen­ger Ter­mi­nal Con­fer­ence in Stock­holm, in­no­va­tions ranged from seam­less 3D fa­cial scan­ning, self-driv­ing lug­gage ve­hi­cles and bio­met­ric bag-drop so­lu­tions.

Wayfind­ing ro­bots are al­ready in use in Tokyo Air­port and Auck­land Air­port pro­vid­ing di­rec­tions, clean­ing, dis­pens­ing duty-free goods and lan­guage trans­la­tions. Yet ex­treme change is on the hori­zon that will make air­ports as we know them vir­tu­ally un­recog­nis­able – if not ex­tinct – and will hap­pen within the life ex­pectancy of cur­rent air­port mas­ter plans.

What is the most crit­i­cal as­set of an air­port? Its run­way. If you re­move a run­way, you re­move the fun­da­men­tal rea­son for an air­port’s ex­is­tence. This is a dis­tinct fu­ture prospect made pos­si­ble by ver­ti­cal take-off and land­ing (VTOL) tech­nol­ogy that will see Uber launch fly­ing taxis, ex­pand­ing on the al­ready avail­able UberChop­per at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Qui­eter planes and point-to-point travel are chang­ing the game. Air travel will be­come more widely avail­able with less im­pact as air­craft be­come smaller, with 30-55 seater planes crafted from light car­bon fi­bre and smarter, fuel-ef­fi­cient en­gines po­ten­tially en­abling pick-ups and drop-offs from build­ing rooftops, parks and open spa­ces.

Air­ports are fac­ing de­mand from Mil­len­ni­als and Gen Z to im­prove their of­fer­ing as a seam­less, per­son­alised ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween home and hol­i­day. With air­port re­tail out­lets fac­ing in­creased pres­sure to di­ver­sify their of­fer­ing, the con­ver­sa­tion has moved to the lim­its of duty-free shop­ping. Why not have an air­port where you can pur­chase any item in the CBD and col­lect it du­tyfree at your ter­mi­nal de­par­ture? Why can’t we pur­chase any­thing from pet food to Tesla cars at the air­port and opt for a home or hol­i­day ho­tel de­liv­ery?

Adapt or die – but do it care­fully

While air­ports across the world are em­brac­ing change, it’s crit­i­cal that cur­rent and fu­ture in­no­va­tions are con­sid­ered in the air­port mas­ter plan­ning process. Air­ports need to evolve smartly while con­tin­u­ing to ex­pand. The rapid pace of change means it may be im­pos­si­ble to know what the fu­ture will look like ex­actly, but de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers need to keep flex­i­bil­ity top of mind so that in­no­va­tions can ideally adapt in years to come.

The Air­bus A380 ex­am­ple is a cau­tion­ary tale that springs to mind. At sig­nif­i­cant cost, air­ports in­vested in ter­mi­nal and air­field in­fras­truc­ture to house these ‘next gen­er­a­tion’ air­craft, and air­lines or­dered fleets of A380s due to an­tic­i­pated pas­sen­ger de­mand.

How­ever, with ques­tions be­ing asked around the A380, and in some quar­ters their pre­dicted ex­tinc­tion due to low load fac­tors and lack of freight space,

This is a dis­tinct fu­ture prospect made pos­si­ble by ver­ti­cal take-off and land­ing (VTOL) tech­nol­ogy that will see Uber launch fly­ing taxis, ex­pand­ing on the al­ready avail­able UberChop­per at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Air­port.”

the in­dus­try has clearly moved in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion from what was an­tic­i­pated. How quickly will air­port in­vest­ments of the fu­ture be­come re­dun­dant? Or, are ad­vances go­ing to hap­pen so quickly that in­vestors will just need to learn to stom­ach the in­evitable losses?

Heathrow or Hawaii

What will hap­pen to air­ports if they do in­deed be­come a relic of the past? Let’s con­sider Tom’s sis­ter, Ge­or­gia, for a mo­ment. Ge­or­gia fun­da­men­tally dis­agrees with pol­lu­tant car­bon emis­sions pro­duced from air travel yet loves to hol­i­day as much as her brother. She in­stead chooses to visit the old stomp­ing ground of Heathrow that has now been turned into a com­mer­cial hub and tourist des­ti­na­tion in its own right.

Se­lect­ing her pre­ferred ex­pe­ri­ence as ‘is­land get­away’ upon en­try, Ge­or­gia pops on a pair of VR sun­nies be­fore hurtling down a wa­ter slide, swim­ming in a warm, salty sea, en­joy­ing a cus­tom­made Mo­jito, then rev­el­ling in a one­hour Shi­atsu mas­sage. Ge­or­gia en­joys all these treats in the com­fort of a VR chair over a few hours, be­fore re­turn­ing home with­out a speck of sand ir­ri­tat­ing her slick, in­ner city wardrobe.

First Air­lines in Ja­pan al­ready of­fer two-hour vir­tual ex­pe­ri­ences where pas­sen­gers can view the sights of Paris in a pur­pose-built cabin that is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with el­derly or mo­bil­ity-re­stricted pas­sen­gers. How­ever, there is much greater po­ten­tial for dif­fer­ent sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ences to be in­cluded, as ev­i­denced by Dis­ney’s new im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence that ‘could ul­ti­mately change how theme parks op­er­ate’, mak­ing air­ports them­selves vi­able hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions of the fu­ture.

The need to travel will cer­tainly never dis­ap­pear, yet the way we travel, our ex­pec­ta­tions and cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences will fun­da­men­tally change over time. Gone will be the days of taxis ver­sus park­ing, in­ter­minable queu­ing, lousy fast food and sketchy Wi-Fi. For this, we have to at least in part thank the mil­len­ni­als, whose ex­pec­ta­tions and de­mand for a bet­ter air­port ex­pe­ri­ence are driv­ing these in­no­va­tions.

Aure­con’s award-win­ning blog, Just Imag­ine pro­vides a glimpse into the fu­ture for cu­ri­ous read­ers, ex­plor­ing ideas that are prob­a­ble, pos­si­ble and for the imag­i­na­tion.

While air­ports across the world are em­brac­ing change, it’s crit­i­cal that cur­rent and fu­ture in­no­va­tions are con­sid­ered in the air­port mas­ter plan­ning process.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.