The design of a new airport terminal is always an opportunity to introduce new trends that streamline and facilitate airport processes. A passenger’s experience depends to a large extent on how they overcome each of these processes – it is an obstacle course that ends with their taking a seat on the aeroplane, the moment when they can finally relax and forget about everything that has happened.
Our world is changing rapidly due to the widespread use of technology, and airports are leading the way in these changes.
Our world is changing rapidly due to the widespread use of technology, and airports are leading the way in these changes. In some cases, they can even transport users to a futuristic setting, almost as if they were in a new episode of the famous television series “Black Mirror”. Automated solutions for airport processes are already being implemented, providing an uninterrupted flow of people through the various stages. There are applications that deal with passenger check-in, self baggage drop, facial and fingerprint recognition, and e-boarding kiosks, as well as technology that enables the detection of explosives using scanners, and messages via Bluetooth about the deals being offered in the terminal’s businesses. However, we must not fall into the trap of implementing the latest technology solutions without taking into account factors such as airline involvement and user behaviour.
We can identify three separate groups with different interests that have to be accommodated by the service offered and the solution chosen:
- Passengers and users. They are used to using the infrastructure in a certain way, which differs a lot from one place to another. The country is a very important factor.
- Entities involved in the processes (airlines, police, immigration authorities). They seek convenience and security in their actions.
- Airport operators. They are more focused on the efficiency of the operation and the ease with which the infrastructure can be maintained.
Experience tells us that groups 2 and 3 will opt for automated processes to the greatest extent possible, with no support from staff, whereas group 1 will “suffer” the effects of implementing this strategy. However, in many cases this does not actually involve any suffering – instead, passengers enjoy the degree of independence it gives to their travel experience. However, group 1 encompasses many different types of passengers, and we should not forget this diversity. In addition, the use of new technology requires a period of learning, managed by groups 2 and 3, who have to educate and guide group 1.
To use a geometric metaphor, this triangle should seek a more equilateral shape, which guarantees the common good, and steer clear of the usual isosceles configurations, where one of the three sides is adversely affected. This is one of the major challenges currently being faced by airport design.