Airport Technology: 9 Innovations For Airports To Focus on For 2022

October 7, 2021

Technological innovations are likely to be the driving force behind airport revenues and success in 2022. A study by Airports Council International (ACI) found that customer satisfaction has the most significant positive impact on non-aeronautical revenue for airports, surpassing even increases in traffic or retail space.

Additionally, the Millennial generation is the largest in history - over 72 million in the U.S. alone - and will hit their peak spending years for the coming decade. As the first “digital native” generation, Millennials expect technology to give them instant access and seamless experiences. 

For business executives in charge of airport design, it’s critical to stay on top of the newest airport technology. Let’s explore the top nine innovations for airports to focus on for 2022.

The Importance of Airport and Airline Modernization

Airport and airline modernization is crucial for customer satisfaction but also for enhancing the safety of everyone at airports or on airplanes. Due to COVID-19, the aviation industry lost $118 billion, and passenger traffic was down 61%. 

As people return to traveling, tech innovations are crucial to bringing people and businesses back to airports. Studies show that travelers’ impression of airport technology and airline tech strongly affects their overall satisfaction and confidence in air travel. By adopting the newest innovations, airports can set themselves apart and directly increase their revenue.

9 Airport Innovations to Focus On

As we navigate a post-Covid world of travel, we need to ensure we have systems in place to keep customers safe, comfortable, and on time. Here are the top nine innovations moving the needle on customer satisfaction in the airport industry. 

1: Relaxing Television Entertainment

Airports are typically busy and loud. But with unavoidable wait times, passengers look for and expect high-quality entertainment options. Recent studies show that using “digital distraction” for customers waiting in lines or terminals can significantly improve their overall experience and satisfaction. 

Atmosphere TV for airports provides this exact service. Atmosphere TV is a streaming TV service that provides entertainment specifically designed to delight and captivate viewers without adding to the volume in the airport.

Atmosphere's suite has channels that are perfect for everyone of every age and every mood. All the content avoids politics and other polarizing topics that may cause frustration to travelers. You can choose from channels like:

  • Escape TV: gorgeous nature videos from around the world 
  • Chive TV: a selection of the most exciting, jaw-dropping viral videos online
  • Beach Bum TV: captivating videos of beaches, water sports, and activities
  • WAVE.tv: a partner channel featuring the best videos in sports today

Recently, Atmosphere has also launched Atmosphere News - the world’s first audio-optional news channel. The content is opinion-free, unbiased, and full of JUST the facts - perfect for airports full of busy travelers.

Atmosphere News

Check it out here.

2: Digital Parking

As travelers make their way back to airports, new parking solutions are critical. 2020 saw an explosion in car ownership, and according to a study by McKinsey, the trend isn’t slowing down. 

Digital parking solutions are gaining popularity, and experts are predicting they will soon become the norm. When you throw in the statistic that 58% of all non-aeronautical airport revenue comes from parking, you can see why parking innovations are critical for an airport’s bottom line.

Many airports are still using traditional paper parking stubs, which are easy to lose and require person-to-person contact. Digital parking can support your airport’s post-Covid safety precautions by introducing a seamless and contactless parking experience.

Experts on digital parking solutions explain that digital and smart parking can increase revenue and add revenue streams. Here are a few ways this can work:

  • By reserving a parking spot through an app, drivers can fill even difficult-to-find parking spots more efficiently, leading to maximized lots.
  • Airports can set up payments on a tiered payment system, putting a premium on reservations for closer parking spots, etc.
  • Drivers can quickly find their parking spots, reducing traffic, wait times, and customer dissatisfaction.

For example, Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) recently implemented digital parking with GOairports. GOairports allows travelers to pre-book a parking spot at the airport while giving them the best price possible.

3: Biometrics/Facial Recognition 

Biometrics and facial recognition help make checking in at the airport easier for travelers, fast-tracking security, customs, and boarding. Biometric technology removes the need for travelers to show their travel documents such as ID and boarding passes, fast-tracking the security and boarding process. Since the successful implementation at security checkpoints, it's now being used at baggage drops as well.

Since 2019, several airlines have implemented biometrics. British Airways has seen success at Heathrow, Orlando, and JFK. The Atlanta airport’s Delta Terminal F was the first biometric terminal in the United States. 

Over three million UK passengers have used facial recognition on domestic flights, and a quarter-million passengers have used this technology on international flights from the US to the UK.

4: Robotics for Luggage Transportation

Hundreds of passengers check their baggage before getting on the plane to their final destination. Once travelers drop their bags at the luggage drop, agents handle the bags at the drop location. Then bags go to the ground staff, who load them onto the plane. Ground staff also unload all bags at the final destination and get them to the baggage claim. 

All of this changing of hands creates vulnerability for human error and creates unsafe ergonomic working conditions.

Robotics for luggage transportation can help solve these issues. Experts predict that using robotics for luggage handling will help speed up the process, eliminate human error and baggage damage, and improve safety conditions for ground staff. 

One of the best examples of this innovation is the autonomous baggage handling system, FLEET, in use at The Hauge Airport in the Netherlands and Hong Kong International Airport. The autonomous vehicles pick up baggage directly from the passenger and safely deliver each piece of luggage to their final destination on the correct airplane.

FLEET can handle up to 450 bags per hour. While there aren’t any official statistics yet, it’s proven to eliminate the need to fix conveyors, and Rotterdam has seen luggage improvements. 

In 2019, the Dallas airport adopted the same system to help transfer luggage in their international terminal. Solutions like this should only increase in the coming months and years.

5: Digital Advertising

Advertising and announcements are both critical elements of an airport’s ecosystem. But announcements can get drowned out by noise, and advertising can be expensive.

Digital advertising is the signage of the future for airports. Instead of printing signs throughout the airport, digital ads are more appealing and cost less than printing hundreds of signs. With digital advertising, you can save money while making money.

Atmosphere offers an advertising solution that allows companies to advertise directly on airport TVs. These “digital signs” are perfect for eye-catching displays, and airports can seamlessly display third-party advertisers alongside flight updates, boarding calls, and public safety announcements.

6: 5G Internet

New developments in 5G technology allow airports to lower data latency, increase internet reliability, and connect multiple devices per user. 4G can manage 100,000 devices per square meter, while 5G can manage one million per square meter. 

Manchester Airport was the first airport in the United Kingdom to offer 5G internet. Passengers experienced up to four times faster download speeds than 4G. 

Travelers use the internet to download movies, podcasts, and more, for long flights and airport wait times. Switching to 5G is becoming the new norm for airports, as the more speedy internet also helps international travelers avoid roaming charges through their mobile carriers.

7: Self-Driving Wheelchairs

Travelers who need assistance getting around the airport and to their flight rely on wheelchairs and other people to assist them. While this isn't too burdensome when traveling with others, it can be challenging on their own.

Improvements for assisting travelers with mobility needs are crucial. The way airports are doing this is with self-driving wheelchairs. 

A recent trial for this technology is All Nippon Airways' partnership with Panasonic Corporation. This collaboration has tested personal mobility self-driving wheelchairs. The goal is to increase accessibility for passengers in airports, specifically, Tokyo Narita International Airport

Abu Dhabi Airport has completed trials for this innovation as well. Their trial included around 60 people using self-driving wheelchairs throughout the airport to see how easy it would be to get around the airport, including lounges, security, crowded areas, and gate areas. 

Not only are self-driving wheelchairs great options for passengers with mobility issues in general, but for those who have connecting flights, they'll be able to get around the airport quickly without having to wait for assistance from a staff member. 

8: VR

Inflight entertainment is crucial for most passengers regardless of how short or long their flight is. Whether they choose to watch shows or movies or play video games, over 60% of airline passengers believe inflight entertainment and WIFI are a necessity, not a luxury. 

Virtual Reality is proliferating technology - nearly 93.3 million people use VR and AR (augmented reality) at least once per month. Combine this usage number with the fact that 54% of passengers play video games during travel, and you’ll find that the addition of VR as an airport or flight amenity could be very well-received.

And VR isn’t just for video games, either. Movies are adopting technology to provide an exciting, immersive experience. Over 40% of passengers watch movies during travel, especially long haul trips. Making them more entertaining helps to pass the time and can improve the overall travel experience, giving you happy customers that create a social buzz on your behalf.

At JFK Airport for example, they’ve created a VR lounge that allows you to book blocks of time to get an escape from reality and create an immersive experience worth writing home about.

9: UV Cleaning Technology 

Even before COVID-19, airports and airplanes were a hub for bacteria and viruses simply due to the large number of people passing through every day.

Multiple trials, like the one conducted at Incheon International Airport in South Korea, show that UV lights can help inactivate several contagious viruses and bacterias when used correctly. 

Some airlines use UV cleaning onboard their aircraft, and some airports add UV lights to their cleaning robots or other cleaning systems. Qatar Airways is one of the airlines leading UV cleaning, after adopting six UV cabin cleaning systems in 2020. 

In the United States, Pittsburgh International Airport was the first to test out UV lights on cleaning robots. The lights help clean the floor of the airport, making it safer for travelers. 

Conclusion

As the airline industry returns from pandemic dips, technological innovations will be critical to its recovery. 

Travelers increasingly expect seamless airport technology to support their travel experiences, and customer satisfaction, in turn, affects every airport's bottom line.

Atmosphere can help you with your airport innovations for 2022 by providing streaming entertainment and digital signage.

Get familiar with the top tech innovations for 2022 and set your airport on the path to success.

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