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How to drive airport innovation in a cost-controlled and cash-strapped airport

13 Apr 2022
Victoria Wallace

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated airports’ focus on innovative technology solutions to improve passenger flow, limit physical contact in the airport and enhance customer experience. But, despite this desire to drive airport innovations, most airport businesses are cash-strapped.

Yes, the willingness to innovate is certainly there. A recent poll by the International Airport Review shows that 100% of respondents believe innovation is more important during this period of industry recovery than pre-pandemic. However, 100% also reported the pandemic had impacted their innovation budget and resources.

So what can be done to drive airport innovations in a cost-controlled environment? Join us as we take a closer look…

Maximising the value of predictive technology

One way airports can manage cost-controlled airport innovation is through predictive technology. Implementing predictive analytics can optimise everything from airport security wait times to airport maintenance tasks and offers a broad range of benefits, including (but not limited to):

  • Quicker responses to current and future market demands
  • Improved planning and strategically-aligned decision making
  • Better monitoring of performance drivers
  • Improved efficiency and lower operating costs
  • Improved customer service and satisfaction
  • Increased market competitiveness
  • Improved profit margins

Here at Rezcomm, we take the guesswork out of innovation with industry-leading Analytics, Reporting, Forecasting and Business Intelligence modules that provide our airport partners with all of the data they need at their fingertips.

What’s more, we believe that in addition to optimising predictive technology, there’s the opportunity to drive airport innovations through interoperability. Sharing data helps form a common vision amongst airport departments, partners and stakeholders and gets everyone working together to drive innovation.

Maximising airport infrastructure

Another way to improve cost-controlled airport innovation is by looking at your airport’s critical infrastructure and identifying how you can repurpose assets in other areas.

In a recent panel session from the International Airport Review Summit 2022, panellists discussed the need to become asset managers and look at ways the airport can be diversified rather than solely focussing on the core activity of aviation.

A great example came from Fran Kauzlaric, Innovation Lead at Brussels Airport Company, who explained that during the pandemic, the airport’s large event hall was repurposed as a vaccination centre, and it diversified its predictive airport analytics technology for other uses.

He explained, “We asked as asset managers, what are the other assets that we could use, that we can innovate in, that can help not just us as an airport to survive the crisis, but also other companies? So, for example, we realised that the mathematical forecasting models that we use to predict passenger numbers could actually be used by hospitals to predict patient numbers. So we’ve launched a venture called Airport Intelligence that does precisely that, not just for hospitals but other event venues and other airports.”

At Rezcomm, we also worked tirelessly with our airport partners to find ways to diversify and generate revenue while the majority of flights were grounded. While some airports increased their cargo transportation operations, others focused on more unusual and innovative ventures. One example is Nuremberg Airport, which transformed a multistory car park into a cinema, utilising Rezcomm’s intuitive pre-book parking system.

The point we’re making here is that by maximising your airport’s critical infrastructure and repurposing assets, you’re not only optimising existing resources but also making your airport more resilient should another crisis arise in the future.

Using technology to increase passenger spend

During this recovery period, it will pay for airports to identify how they can increase passenger spend through technology, as non-aeronautical revenue from airport retail, restaurants and other concessions continue to prove key to survival.

We don’t need to tell you that a happy passenger will spend more at your airport – it’s obvious. But, with industry findings, such as JDPower’s North American Airport Satisfaction Survey, reporting high levels of satisfaction at the airport increases passenger spending up to 45% more in retail shops, it proves just how vital a positive passenger experience is to driving revenues.

So, how can you use technology to increase passenger spend?

Personalised passenger communications – Keeping passengers informed via social media, email, SMS and push notifications improves overall satisfaction and reduces the burden on airport customer service teams. It can also directly influence passenger spend, particularly when these communications are personalised with unique offers, upsells and cross-sells, based on customer data.

Seamless travel – Make the journey through the airport easier and quicker for passengers with Contactless Fast Tracking and Queueless Journeys to improve satisfaction and give passengers more time to spend money in your retail stores and restaurants.

Ecommerce – Enhancing your airport’s ecommerce technology can go a long way in driving passenger spend. From offering pre-book food, beverage and retail to facilitating convenient gate delivery, the options to improve passenger satisfaction, and unlock more revenue, are limitless.

The importance of stakeholder buy-in

When budgets and resources are dwindling, the best way to drive airport innovations is to make them everyone’s responsibility. Nurturing an innovation culture and making it part of every department and job role (guided by a trained central innovation team) is a great way to do more with less.

And it has its benefits too. As Suresh Khadakbhavi, Assistant Vice President of the Innovation Lab at Bangalore International Airport, explained at the International Airport Review Summit, “the people at the grass-root level, who are actually doing certain tasks, are the ones who encounter the problems”, so they are best-placed for coming up with a workable solution, and integral to the innovation process.

There’s also a lot to be said for securing stakeholder buy-in for airport innovations at the earliest opportunity. Whether it’s their skills, experience, acceptance or funding your airport requires, stakeholder buy-in is a major driving force of cost-controlled airport innovation. We’ve discussed it further in our article ‘How airport innovation teams secure stakeholder buy-in and funding for digital projects.’

Strategic responses to COVID-19 propagated in ongoing development

Finally, it’s important to recognise that airports’ strategic responses to COVID-19 can continue to benefit your airport going forward.

Let’s use the move from physical to digital touchpoints as an example. Biometrics and touchless technology are not new concepts to the airport industry. However, the pandemic accelerated their development for health purposes. At the same time, these technologies have dramatically reduced the wait and queuing times at all touchpoints at the airport, ultimately improving the passenger experience forever.

The same goes for airport ecommerce. With an increase in the number of people shopping online during the pandemic, many airports wisely invested in improving and diversifying their ecommerce offerings. But it doesn’t have to stop now passengers are returning to the airport. In fact, now is the time to ramp up your airport ecommerce technology to improve the passenger experience, increase your competitiveness and unlock valuable revenue (and data) for your airport.

Take an agile approach with the right innovation partner

We can all agree the COVID-19 pandemic came with many lessons – a key one being that airport innovations don’t necessarily need to take several years to implement. Even a cash-strapped airport can benefit from an agile approach to innovation, with the right technology partner beside them.

At Rezcomm, we offer a fresh, flexible and sustainable approach to innovation, giving you the chance to start small and expand in your own time. Reduce your operating costs (and risk) with zero set-up fees and use our pay-as-you-go service to drive cost-controlled airport innovation.

Interested in working with us? Download our marketplace brochure and book a meeting to discuss airport innovation strategies with our experts.