2020 & Beyond: Innovation and Future Trends for Airports and Aviation

02/26/2020 12:37 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

For residents of the Los Angeles Metro Area, the recent developments at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) have been notable.  The increase in construction corresponds to a surge in growth in the aviation industry. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts that the number of passengers transported by airlines will reach 8.2 billion in 2037, up from a projected 7.8 billion in 2036. The updated forecast is based on a 3.5% compound annual growth rate for the industry. When looking at the hard numbers, the actual annual growth in air travel has grown considerably more than 3.5% annually. According to Statista.com, the year 2017 saw a whopping 8.1% increase in passenger demand. As consumer demands rise for air travel, so do their standards as well as the need for speed and efficiency. Moderated by Matt Ross, senior vice president of AvAirPros, our February aviation panel explored ways in which designers and developers are harnessing technology and modernizing infrastructure in order to accommodate growing numbers.

One challenge, from a design perspective, is very similar to the challenges met on other project sites. Robert Schultz, P.E., A.A.E., and chief airport planner for Los Angeles World Airports highlight the need to design spaces for flexibility. This was noted by multiple panelists as an obstacle in aviation facilities across the spectrum. He added that in general, the focus moving forward is to add flexibility, but to also create more positive travel experience while enhancing how the airport staff interacts with customers. Designers are leveraging technology, as well as the data acquired from technology in order to curate these experiences and spaces. Patrick Lammerding, deputy executive director of Hollywood Burbank Airport added that the observation of airport visitors has been paramount the evolution of airport design. This is done by accounting for the entire experience from entering the terminal to boarding the plane. Designers use data points such as what concessions are frequently visited, how long the customer spends at a concession or dining location, what additional amenities are used and more. All of these factors shape how airports are designed.

The use of space and the efficiency of a facility is also crucial to passenger flow – important for both safety and a positive customer experience. All panelists noted that each Southern California airport has its own unique limitations, many of them involving space, or a lack thereof, for our region’s many travelers. Stephanine Gunawan-Piraner, senior civil engineer at Long Beach Airport, pointed to new ticketing lobbies, which include self-service kiosks and common-use ticketing space. These allows airlines to expand and contract service as needed and allows airports to use space more efficiently. An airline that has a large number of passengers will need more of these kiosks and can use them in order to move through the airport more quickly. For off-peak traffic times, these systems are not so urgently required, and the space can be utilized for other airlines as needed. Another development is the evolution from multiple, individual terminals serving one concourse. The direction is shifting to terminal processors serving multiple concourses. This can be done through real-time traffic monitoring by consolidating and connecting terminals to provide more operational flexibility.

Other innovations include investment into biometric identification systems, automated bag drop systems and overall improvements to security screenings and digital passenger services. A common theme across all panelists was the need to save time. Don Ostler, program manager for Southwest Airlines at LAX gave a startling statistic regarding time. He shared with the audience that major airlines such as Southwest, can save over 70 operating hours per day across their fleet by simply shaving one second off of each flight turnaround. Kaveh Dabiran, west region director for United Airlines also noted the extreme priority placed on time by larger airlines – every second counts in this industry. As demand continues to rise, the innovations in technology will no doubt continually see integration into the aviation world.

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