Dwight Pullen, Senior Vice President, National Director, Skanska USA Aviation Center of Excellence
“Passengers want to have control over their airport journey, and technology is helping to make that happen.”
1.- More than 20 years of industry experience, primarily in the aviation sector, is an important background for you to make a forecast on aviation construction market throughout the U.S. What is your analysis for the coming future?
Many airports were designed before we could imagine a world with the way modern airlines operate and the way travelers use airports. With ridership expected to increase dramatically, with the FAA reporting 1 billion passengers expected by 2029, now is the time to upgrade airport facilities to accommodate this anticipated growth.
2.- On Skanska’s website we can read Skanska partners with the busiest airports and largest airlines and aerospace companies to transform the aviation industry of today for tomorrow’s travelers. How will tomorrow’s travelers be and what will be their needs?
Airports have recognized the need to tune into the passenger experience. Technology is helping to streamline the airport journey, from arrival at the airport to departure and baggage claim. As ridership continues to grow, both simplifying and enhancing the airport journey will be key. Everything from ridesharing services to mobile check-in and more, as passengers continue to rely more and more on technology to have better control of their journey, airports need to evolve as well.
3.- The renovation of New York City’s LaGuardia Airport is the first major U.S. aviation project delivered using a public-private partnership (P3) model, which is being led by a design-build joint venture of Skanska and Walsh Construction. Over the past several years, U.S. P3 structures have evolved in the airport environment. Is now the best formula for the construction of this kind of infrastructures?
Over the last 10 to 15 years, alternative delivery methods, including construction management at-risk (CMAR), design-build, and facility specific public-private partnerships, have provided more price and schedule certainty, while also establishing collaboration as the path to success.
The public-private partnership model is an emerging delivery method, which is growing in interest due to demand for new infrastructure and funding limitations to build. We have seen many advantages using this delivery method, including that private sector partners are paid to develop, fund, design, operate and maintain the infrastructure for concession periods of 30 to 50 years or more. This is typically an off-the-books financing, which frees up capacity for the airport to finance other needed infrastructure.
Not every project is the same and airport operators and airlines have a lot of delivery methods to consider as they determine the best paths forward for individual projects. The theme that ties them all together is collaboration – methods that put the project team at the same table are preferred.
4.- There is a wide research of passenger experiences that focuses on the greater role technology will play in the airport of the future, that will allow to largely eradicate the waiting. In your opinion, what are the new and emerging technologies that have the potential to improve the customer experience?
There are several technologies being piloted right now, including biometrics, which uses facial recognition to check a passenger in. For this to be incorporated in airports in the U.S., it will take a lot of collaboration amongst airports and airlines. We know that the congestion that occurs at security checkpoint is a point of frustration for passengers. This technology can help alleviate the bottlenecking that occurs. In terms of technology that is already being implemented, I believe we will continue to see growth in mobile flight status notifications, as well as baggage location status updates to mobile devices. There are millions of baggage mishandling reports filed each year. This can go a long way in enhancing the passenger experience.
5.- It could be contradictory that we are working to make faster flights, to shorten the waiting at airports, but we want the passenger experience to be as satisfactory as possible by combining the latest technology with the cultural idiosyncrasy of each airport. Will the passengers of the future have time enough to enjoy these new experiences ?
Passengers want to have control over their airport journey, and technology is helping to make that happen. Those airports that evolve with their passengers will be the ones with satisfied customers. That means creating opportunities that makes each stop along the airport journey simplified and accommodating to their needs.
6.- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported in 2012 that airline passenger travel will double over the next 20 years. By 2029, 1 billion passengers will travel through the nation’s airports, reaching 1.14 billion in 2035. Are America’s airports ready to take on the growing number of passengers?
There is a tremendous need to modernize and expand our nation’s airports. Most of today’s airports were built to accommodate passenger needs of their eras and not designed to evolve to meet the future needs of all stakeholders. While the aviation industry boasts technologically advanced and economically efficient aircrafts, the associated infrastructure has not kept up. From a construction perspective, with this anticipated growth, construction teams now more than ever must be thinking about working efficiently to deliver a project on time and in a way that ensures efficient flight operations, passenger access and more.