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Theme: IT Innovation
Airport profile: Ontario (ONT)
Special report: Jeddah Airport City
Plus: ACI EUROPE’s Annual Congress & General Assembly

Never ending story

Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on the evolution of technology and aviation’s constant search for new IT-driven solutions.

Those of us old enough to have used typewriters, telex and facsimile (fax) machines at work will remember how the introduction of mobile phones, desktop computers and the internet changed everything.

We were truly bedazzled by the technology and what pushing a few buttons enabled us to do after being brought up in the pre-digital age, although admittedly those early mobiles were about the size of a shoebox and initial ‘dial-up’ access to the internet was slow and noisy!

Being overwhelmed by technology would never happen in 2022, of course, as times have changed and, today, children are virtually born attached to a computer… or perhaps, more accurately, a Smartphone, Xbox or PlayStation.

Indeed, the tech-savvy world we live in today means that people not only want to use the latest IT systems to make things easier and more convenient for themselves, they expect it, and in many cases, prefer it to human interaction. This represents an ongoing operational, financial and customer service challenge for airports, particularly in times like these when budgets are tight as aviation continues to recover from the global pandemic.

Having said that, SITA’s Air Transport IT Insights 2021 report shows that airports continue to invest in new technology, with 81% expected to spend the same or more on IT this year, with spending on the automation of passenger processing, seeing a significant rise.

Airports certainly haven’t been slow in embracing new technology over the years, particularly when it comes to the introduction of self-service check-in and baggage drop facilities and biometric enabled technologies such as e-gates.

And the pandemic itself has arguably led to the earlier than expected adoption of touchless technology at airports across the globe for everything from check-in and paying for parking to leaving customer feedback.

We have, for example, previously reported that Orlando International Airport’s soon-to-open new South Terminal C is set to showcase an array of hands-free technologies, and other new facilities will undoubtedly follow.

As you would expect, some of these technologies are covered in the ‘IT innovation’ themed section of this issue, which includes features about investing in sustainability; the possible need for a warp-speed mindset toward digitalisation; and the security risk of IoT devices in airports and the potential need for a joint approach to cyber and physical security to secure networks.

The themed section also contains a round-up of some of the latest IT news from across the globe and a forward-thinking piece from Amadeus’ Sarah Samuel who ponders whether it is time for Asia-Pacific airports to consider how they will look and digitally interact with passengers in the future.

Elsewhere in the issue, we report on the highlights of ACI EUROPE’s Annual Congress & General Assembly in Rome; provide a vertiport update; and discover more about Incheon International Airport’s customer service philosophy, focus and ambitions.

We also learn more about Jeddah Airport City, the highly ambitious development plan of King Abdulaziz International Airport.

As usual, we also hear from ACI World director general, Luis Felipe de Oliveira; discover the latest news from ACI’s World Business Partners; and discuss sustainability and technology in our popular ‘people matters’ column.

Our main interview is with Atif Elkadi, the CEO of Ontario International Airport in Southern California, who tells us more about the transformation in his gateway’s fortunes over the last five years and its impressive recovery from the global pandemic.

I hope you enjoy the issue and, now that global travel is very much back on the agenda, look forward to seeing you soon at an upcoming industry event somewhere around the world.

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