Airport Innovation

Why innovate?

innovation banner

Many organisations see innovation as key to their survival. In some industries, it is true that if an organisation doesn’t change and innovate in response to the ever-changing markets and customer demands, it will not survive.

Airport passenger numbers have been growing in recent times. This obviously results in better financial performance for the airport owners or shareholders. However, the growth in traffic also brings challenges such as capacity constraints and opportunities such as providing a better passenger experience.

Airports are not immune to technological advances or the needs of an on-demand society (passengers) for better and more relevant information at their fingertips. This is just one example where airports are starting to pay attention to innovation.

The complex nature of the airport operation and the technologies involved lends itself well for innovation. However, innovation is not just good ideas, neither does it come from a team of people locked in a room. Other industries have shown us that it is much more than that. It has to be part of the overall strategy, a way of thinking and it’s not without investment or risk.

How will Airports benefit?

Airports, in the main part compete on their location and the routes they offer. This is the main reason why a passenger chooses to come to a particular airport. Going forward this alone may not be enough to attract passengers, especially if they have other choices of airports or even other modes of transport.

Implementing innovative ideas to increase the passenger experience could be a differentiator. Here are just some of the recent airport innovations:

  • Checking in passengers using iPads; instead of passengers waiting in line, the staff can wonder around and check them in (Tigerair)
  • RFID luggage tags for checked in bag tracking.; passengers can track their bags at all times at the airport (Delta Airlines)
  • Sleeping Pods; seats which can be turned into beds for transferring passengers who need to wait for their connecting flight (Helsinki Airport)
  • IMAX movie Theatre (Hong Kong Airport)


Airports can be complex places. Thousands of passengers travelling through them on a daily basis. These passengers are customers of not only the airport operators but also numerous other organisations such as airlines, retailers, government agencies etc. Each of these using different technologies and systems whilst gathering passenger data. All this data should be put to better use for operational effectiveness, driving commercial revenues and ultimately improving the passenger experience. However, this is easier said than done. To make it happen, innovation is required across all areas.