The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enforced in May 2018 — (January 2020 for the UK GDPR) — and while consumers dealt with an influx of GDPR opt-in emails, businesses weathered a frenzy of preparation and concern. Fast forward to today, and what has been the lasting impact of GDPR on airports?
GDPR brought about a positive revolution in data handling, which businesses initially saw as a challenge.
Even before GDPR, Heathrow Airport was fined £120,000 for a security breach. Then came GDPR, and the British Airways data breach resulted in a £20 million fine in 2018 (lowered considerably from £183 million that the Information Commissioner’s Office initially proposed). It was a stark reminder of the consequences of non-compliance. European agencies slapped fines totalling €56 million for GDPR violations in just nine months.
Proactive adherence to GDPR became crucial to avoid severe fines, public misuse claims, damage to brand reputation, and potential compensation claims.
Under GDPR regulations, all EU airports must ensure that the collection, storage, and distribution of passenger data remains secure and protected. The Passenger Name Record (PNR) system, originally used to share flight details with global security and border agencies, had to adapt to stringent GDPR rules:
As explained by DPAS Chief Data Protection Officer, Nigel Gooding, GDPR’s scope is global and affects all international airport operators, regardless of where passengers are based.
As airports ventured into ecommerce, collecting passenger data became even more crucial to personalise experiences and made GDPR’s reach more extensive. And while GDPR seemed like a hurdle for airport marketers, it became an opportunity for growth.
The push for clean data — accurate, current, and relevant — reshaped marketing strategies. Brands started valuing quality over quantity, realising that outdated or irrelevant data could harm machine learning systems. Post-GDPR, many found:
Marketers began to appreciate clean data’s potential for insights into customer behaviours and purchasing patterns.
Since its implementation, GDPR has had a significant impact on businesses worldwide. Airports are recognising that compliance isn’t just about staying on the right side of the law — it’s about operating in a way that respects passengers’ data and prioritises security, gaining their trust. GDPR has transformed business approaches in:
Technology — like Rezcomm’s integrated system for ecommerce solutions — has emerged to ease GDPR compliance for airports. These systems offer transparent auditing, data management, and evidence of adherence, ensuring that airports effortlessly navigate the GDPR landscape.
While initially daunting, GDPR has cultivated an environment of trust, transparency, and innovation for airports worldwide, and Rezcomm has helped keep their passenger’s data safe. If you have further inquiries regarding GDPR’s lasting impact, our Rezcomm Data Protection Officer (DPO) and team will happily advise where they can.