After a two-year delay, Passenger Terminal Expo 2022 landed in Paris, bringing an estimated 2,000 aviation partners together to discuss the latest technologies, products, challenges, and solutions reshaping the future of air travel.
The conference inspired many of us to discuss topics (both old and new) with a fresh perspective, primarily due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the world. This was my first opportunity since 2020 to connect with colleagues in person so I was eager to hear about new plans, goals, challenges, and opportunities they saw on the horizon.
As I recalled many wonderful conversations in the Atrius booth and while walking the conference floor, a few common threads emerged. The industry response to COVID-19, the intense, tangible thirst passengers had for rediscovering experiences they might have once taken for granted, and the awareness of a persistent push for transparent and public carbon reduction strategies were topics at the tip of every tongue.
The pandemic is still on everyone’s mind and recovery is happening at different speeds in various parts of the world, but the tone of conversations has turned optimistic. Industry leaders are reflecting on the lessons learned in these turbulent times and recognizing opportunities to innovate around new passenger demands that arose during the pandemic. As our discussions moved beyond the pandemic, themes of rediscovery, collaboration, and sustainability took center stage.
In the same way we might celebrate the re-opening of our favorite restaurant once closed for renovation, passengers are rediscovering their local airports and preferred airlines with a new perspective. For people seeking new cultural experiences, airports are a showcase for everything a city or region offers. Dining, shopping, and special attractions infused with local flavor and style, terminals welcome us to foreign lands and can even make us feel like tourists in our own hometown. The theme of rediscovery was present throughout PTE and there was plenty of excitement surrounding the innovative ways airports and airlines are seeking to facilitate those experiences.
Technology has a big role in the rediscovery process, too. The past few years have accelerated the blending of the physical and digital worlds, creating new touchpoints in the passenger journey. These innovations are curating exciting, unique, and stress-free experiences. For example, contactless ordering, mobile apps, and self-serve kiosks reduce crowding in traditionally congested areas, enabling passengers to find what they need quickly and easily. Solutions that “know” users offer suggestions based on personal history and preferences for anything from food, entertainment, or the location of child-friendly areas. If a passenger is running late, using a wheelchair, or checking luggage, digital cues guide them towards the fastest check-in option or offer the most accessible route to their gate. Passenger demand for new ways to rediscover air travel is driving innovation across aviation, and leadership is responding with innovative solutions that influence the experience.
Airport and airline leaders are optimizing recent investments into customer-centric solutions to help passengers navigate from door to gate and beyond.
Concessions revenue routinely makes up one-third of airport revenue. So, it is important for airports operators to help passengers discover amenities, especially the ones they’ll pass en route to their gate. Airports represent the communities they serve, often displaying works by local artists or hiring area musicians to entertain travelers. Fusing functionality with community culture creates a “city-flavored” welcome to visitors and residents.
Airports and airlines aren’t holding back. They’re showing passengers what globetrotting looks, feels, tastes, and sounds like in a post-pandemic world. Leadership teams continue investing in people and technology to enhance passenger experiences. Working together, airport and airline staff are facilitating safe, efficient, stress-free, informative travel experiences for their passengers and employees.
“How was your trip?”
“Did you have good flights, any trouble connecting?”
“Was there time to get that coffee you like at the airport?”
We know the questions; our industry goal—and I’d argue responsibility—is positively impacting the answers:
“Great! The new airport app is amazing.”
“Yes, good flights, and no problems connecting. I had the gate, directions, and walk-time at my fingertips.”
“Yes, I got my coffee, and I didn’t even have to run back to the gate.”
The day-of-travel experience affects our thoughts and feelings about the entire trip instead of distinct parts of the customer journey. Passengers are especially likely to consider their time in the airport and on the airplane as one experience. Access to an ecosystem of shared spatial and point-of-interest data enables airports and airline operators to collaborate on building seamless traveler transitions with continual access to critical information.
Airports and airlines are partnering to meet their shared responsibility of delivering positive customer journeys. In the process they’re enhancing staff work environments and increasing non-aeronautical revenue.
Collaboration among all parties that affect passenger journeys is not just for the benefit of the customer – it helps reduce stress on airline ground staff and increases non-aeronautical revenue opportunities for the airport. The entire industry is expecting to see surging demand over the next five years and organizations are strategizing around how to efficiently handle an increase in travelers without the ability to simply increase their physical footprint. New opportunities for collaboration between airports and airlines will continue to be a critical part of those plans.
Sustainability in Aviation
As the global community continues grappling with the effects of rapid climate change, sustainability initiatives are no longer a philanthropic “nice to have” for any organization. Coupled with the deep scrutinization of the net impact of jet fuel on the environment and more intense pressure from passengers, shareholders, and governments, the aviation industry is embracing sustainability. Recent innovations in airline and airport spaces show leaders are listening and acting.
While it’s encouraging to see American Airlines and other market leaders supporting environmentally friendly aviation fuel investments, industry partners also need to address their non-flight operations. Assessing building energy usage is an excellent starting point.
Facility operations account for nearly 40% of the US total energy spend. Therefore, simple actions to optimize airports and airline-owned building performance is a significant first step toward sustainable air travel. LED lighting, smart building controls that monitor and optimize HVAC systems, and solutions to streamline and centralize building data are crucial.
I spoke with many people at the conference, all of whom shared an increased urgency and passion for building environmentally responsible operations. It is exciting and encouraging, and I’m eager to see the future of sustainable air travel.
Looking Beyond Passenger Terminal Expo 2022
My primary takeaway from Passenger Terminal Expo 2022 is that the two-year hiatus from in-person conferences strengthened our industry-wide commitment to service and curating vibrant passenger journeys.
Airport and airline teams are cultural ambassadors and gateways to new business, memories, and adventures. They’re building memorable and frictionless customer journeys by investing in advanced technology from dedicated partners.
Atrius connects the world’s most innovative airports and airlines. We’re transforming traveler and staff experiences by redefining aviation for passengers and operators at every stage of the travel journey.