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Airport News | Trends in Aviation for 2019While passenger traffic numbers will continue to grow at a stable rate, some industry experts are looking at what could be trending next year, such as how many airports are looking at expansion projects all over the world, how the competitive framework will create opportunities and how disruptive the UKs departure from the EU will be.

Biometrics and integration

Intensified competition driven by passenger growth is already encouraging greater investment in airports infrastructure. This is most commonly seen in the introduction of biometrics, and the drive towards the single-token airport journey. Biometrics are creating opportunities, but are also creating disparate data, so integration is becoming the focus of airports on a global scale.

Brexit

Across Europe, traffic is increasing, and industry analysts conclude that the rise in line with GDP could spell airport revenue increases of 2-4%. The uncertainty still surrounding Brexit and the UKs access to the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) following March 2019 is creating concern about reduced passage of passengers and freight through the UK.

Although many experts agree that the likelihood of a standstill of EU-UK traffic is slim, in the short-term, traffic could be affected, particularly when another area of uncertainty surrounds the right of movement of passengers between the two areas and whether visa arrangements will be made. Airport operators and airlines with a reliance upon EU-UK traffic may face a period of disruption which could result in revenues being affected.

Merging airports and acquisition

Airports across the world, and notably in the Asia-Pacific region are looking towards the consolidation of assets as competitive positioning increases. Opportunities for mergers and acquisitions are popping up all over Europe due to the expansion of favourable conditions such as low interest rates, for example.

This trend is likely to increase, according to industry analysts, and additional opportunities look favourable in regions such as Latin America, where in 2019, 12 airports in Brazil are being scheduled for investment and privatisation. This is expected to attract global interest.

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Airports Integrate Systems Software to Improve Efficiency and Passenger SatisfactionAirports all over the world are investing in the latest software solutions to reinforce their commitments to improving efficiency and passenger satisfaction. In today’s airport environment, greater efficiency is being achieved via systems integration and this is an area that can benefit the airport in many ways, from the back office to the terminal front line.

At this year’s Airport IT & Security 2018 conference in Amsterdam, held next month at Schiphol Airport’s Hilton, attendees will be invited and welcomed to the seminar – Keeping Pace with the Challenges of Security and Operational Efficiency.

The seminar will focus on the importance of drawing together disparate, new technologies and systems, integrating them to deliver greater situational awareness, enhanced analytics and ultimately increased efficiency.

What airport systems are integrable?

Within the airport environment every system and operational solution should be integrable. Only when systems can communicate with each other can a truly seamless airport operational environment be created.

For example, when access to airport and airline systems can be launched from any workstation, the operational environment becomes much smoother in its approach to check-in, loading and flight control, or when airport messaging happens in a secure, integrated environment, greater security is achieved, and reporting is made simpler.

In a world where security, efficiency and passenger experience is paramount, it is clear to see how systems integration can benefit airports of all sizes.

About the conference

Visitors to the exhibition and conference will have an opportunity to discover how airports can begin to work more closely with airlines and third-party providers in terms of messaging and real-time information-sharing. Connecting government agencies, customs and security providers, emergency services and local authorities delivers more flexibility and offers a transparent, yet seamlessly secure environment via automated, real-time messaging.

Emirates Biometric Path | Airlines NewsPassengers using Emirates Airlines in Dubai will soon enjoy a ‘biometric path’ according to recent promises from the airline, who have installed the latest biometrics technology in Terminal 3 at DXB.

The passenger journey from check-in to The Emirates Lounge at Dubai International will soon be guided by a single biometric profile using facial recognition and iris scanning technology. This will mean that passengers will then be able to proceed through all the necessary check-in and security processes without further documentation or hold-ups. Premium passengers will still be able to use accelerated check-in in the Emirates Lounge in Concourse B.

The Smart Tunnel has been launched by Emirates in collaboration with the General Directorate of Residence and Foreign Affairs in Dubai and is a world-first initiative. Passengers walk through the tunnel with no intervention from airport officials and are cleared biometrically. The current trials will continue to run internally, and wider testing will be announced once the initial trials are complete.

Emirates’ brand promise of ‘Fly Better’ will be further strengthened by the rollout of the biometric trials within T3 and the airline looks forward to analysing the new data and inviting consumer feedback.

A-FIDS _ Flight Information Display System | Increasing passenger experienceAccording to the latest analysis from the Airports Council International (ACI), global passenger satisfaction levels are on the rise again. Comparing Q3 of 2018 to 2017, ACI noted that levels increased to 4.21 from 4.17, and have remained stable since the start of this year.

The survey revealed that passengers are scoring airports higher in all categories from security to wayfinding, proving that investment in the latest technologies for Flight Information Display Systems, for example, has been worth it. Even the smallest global airports are receiving praise for their efforts.

Some industry professionals are not surprised at all by the revealing insights. As airline and airports competition increases, passenger satisfaction becomes ever-more important. When airports rise to the challenge of increasing passenger experience, (and airports around the world have been) they begin to consider all operational aspects, such as queuing, which has been successfully reduced by the introduction of CUTE systems and self-service applications.

As systems and solutions begin communicating, integration becomes more important, as does scalability when airport operators consider how to address critical flow times and exceptional circumstances. The world’s most innovative systems and solutions are often highly integrable, which makes day-to-day operations simpler and more streamlined – opening the door to automation.

The highest increase noted in the recent analysis was in the facilities category. This includes airport eateries and shopping, which are increasingly important for travellers, especially those that are no longer waiting in long queues.

When airports consider the planning aspects of facilities, and have greater capacity with streamlined services and processes, they can make better use of airport resources and terminal space. As passenger demand increases for higher levels of service and facilities, these types of reports and subsequent analysis can really help airports to serve as a model for passenger expectation.

Imran Khan Government Grounds VIP Protocols | Airports NewsThe historic VIP protocols granted by the Federal Investigation Agency in Pakistan have just been withdrawn by the new Government, led by cricketer Imran Khan this week.

Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday, ‘We have decided to strictly implement the decision to provide equal opportunities to all travellers without discrimination. We have seen that influential people used to seek assistance of FIA officials at airports, who accompanied them to promptly clear their luggage.

The new changes have already taken effect, and from yesterday (26/08/18), FIA officials attempting to give preferential treatment to VIPs will now face ‘strict action,’ according to the Ministry.

In Pakistan, VIP protocols were historically granted to a wide range of people, such as politicians, senior bureaucrats, court judges, legislators, high-ranking military officials and even some journalists. The shake-up has been brought on by observations at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport, where reports were given of FIA officials, Civil Aviation Authority or Airport Security Staff clearing luggage, while VIPs relaxed in the dedicated VIP lounge.

The new Pakistani Government, led by Imran Khan has deemed these practices old-fashioned and damaging, which has led to the abolishment of the outdated process and introduction of the new, equal opportunity system, which will be strictly enforced.

The newly-built Islamabad airport notably has no VIP lounge or facilities, and all passengers follow the same check-in, baggage handling and processing system.

Consumer aviation survey shows drop in satisfaction for flight passengers | Aviation NewsAs airports around the world appear to be placing more and more importance on passenger experience and satisfaction, it is interesting to read that the latest Aviation Consumer Survey results from the CAA show that there is a clear drop in just that. But where are passengers less satisfied?

This, the fifth wave of the UK Aviation Consumer Survey, investigates the current behaviour and attitudes of flight passengers to air travel. The survey looks at every aspect of the passenger journey, from arrival at the originating airport to arrival at the destination airport.

3,500 consumers took part in this survey, selected from a cross-section of UK citizens aged 18+, nationally representative of the population.

The results are used by the Civil Aviation Authority to ascertain the most current and rising aviation issues according to consumers, and to assist in decision-making, regulatory requirements, policy and strategic positioning to improve systems and services.

What to the latest results highlight about passenger satisfaction?

The latest results show that satisfaction amongst flight travellers has been dropping consistently over a two-year period (2016-18). The decreases are slight, but significant, with 90% in the first quarter survey of 2016 to 83% in 2018. However, the decreases in passenger satisfaction are not happening on the ground.

Systems and technologies are streamlining airports of all sizes all over the world, and this is paying off in terms of passenger satisfaction. The reduction in queuing and lengthy security screening processing times have both contributed. Airports in particular have been showing an increasing interest in improving passenger experience, and the latest in self-service technologies have placed greater control of the passenger journey directly into the hands of flight travellers.

The greatest dissatisfactions are happening in the air, during flights and during problematic times, when around half of respondents are worried that any complaints they do have, may be falling on deaf ears.

Speaking about the recent drop in satisfaction, the CAA Director, Tim Johnson said, ‘Delays and disruption can be caused by a range of different factors. Some of these are within the control of airlines, and some are not. Whatever the cause, these delays can be frustrating for passengers. We expect airlines to always provide prompt and accurate information and if passengers are entitled to further care and compensation, this should be provided without delay.

The in-flight experience is making passengers less satisfied, according to survey results. Over two years, the number has fallen from 81% (2016) to 77% (2018), and while still a reasonable satisfaction measurement, it shows a significant drop since 2016.

Where are the least satisfied flight passengers?

An interesting highlight of the survey is that there are regional changes. It seems that flight passengers are more satisfied the further north of the UK they are.

East Midlands travellers are the least happy, at just 76%, with Wales close behind at 78%, where passengers in the north east are 89% happy, on average.

It is widely felt that airports are working hard towards making the ground experience as seamless as possible to improve passenger experience and satisfaction. Infrastructural changes, master systems integration and implementation of the latest innovations in self-service kiosks, biometrics and common use airport systems are all helping to improve not only satisfaction, but also airport operational management.

It is now time for airlines to follow suit and take passenger experience and satisfaction to another level.

passenger-processingVirgin Atlantic has spoken out in a call to the UK government to take action to reduce immigration waiting lines, asking that its passengers receive the ‘welcome visitors deserve.’ The US airline spoke out following reports that waiting times for passenger processing through immigration had reached up to two and a half hours.

The airline say they have been ‘doing their bit,’ providing additional staffing and refreshments for queueing passengers, but they understand that their passengers are left ‘frustrated before they’ve even started their trip’ and are calling the wait times ‘unacceptable’.

Virgin Atlantic has experienced significant increases of up to 20% in traveller numbers to the UK, possibly due to increased opportunities to benefit from Sterling exchange rates, and events such as the Royal Wedding, but it operates 23 flights per day into London Heathrow and its meet and greet service is doing little to help ease and improve passenger experience.

The latest figures show that Heathrow’s UK Border Force sometimes falls far short of its commitment under its Service Level Agreement (SLA) to pass 95% of its non-EEA passengers within 45 minutes. There was just one day during July 2018 when this SLA was met.

With airports in other countries performing to a greater extent, there is a growing concern that this news about ‘unacceptable’ immigration processing times across the UK are poorly timed, particularly with uncertainty already surrounding the first half of 2019 as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Although all aviation industry participants understand the importance of security and immigration in today’s current climate, questions are being raised and pressure placed on the UK government to streamline immigration processes as quickly as possible.