A Summary of the Airport Panel Discussion of June 4th, 2020


Last week we hosted an Airport Panel Discussion on ‘Improving The Passenger Journey Through the Application of Rich Data'. A topic that is widely discussed, airlines and airports spent over 50 billion US Dollars in 2018 on IT to support passenger journey improvements.

Our panelists represented four of the most innovative airports around the world; Eduardo Valencia from Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport  (MSP), a CIO with over 15 years of executive IT leadership. Jonathan DeJesus, a Senior Customer Programs Manager at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) who has spent his entire career working in the aviation industry. Esben Kolind, the Head of Operational & Business Analysis at Copenhagen Airport (CPH) where he is responsible for delivering detailed analysis and planning assistance to Operational departments, and Dave Wilson, the Director of Innovation from Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) who supports airport leaders and staff in the development of the vision and strategy for the Airport’s investments in technology. They provided invaluable insight into what life has been like these last few months in the airport industry and discussed what they are focused on for the future as it relates to enhancing the passenger journey using data.


“What do you feel is most crucial to gain passengers confidence to travel again?”


All panelists agreed that there are three main variables that passengers need to see evidence of at the airports in order to feel confident and those are; cleanliness, personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing, and the ability to interact with minimal touch.

“Confidence will come back in the context of how reasonably assured people are that they are not going to be affected by travel.”  – Eduardo Valencia, MSP

People can travel confidently when airports create a reality and perception of an environment that is not going to be affecting them adversely. This also should be demonstrated at the point when the passenger is buying a ticket; airports should focus on removing the concern then by communicating to passengers through social media or mobile apps that it’s perfectly safe at airports.


What is the key piece of information you’d need to make journeys better for your customers?


In research studies about what causes passenger stress levels the main three stressors are:

  1. How long it’s going to take to go through security 
  2. The boarding process 
  3. Waiting at the baggage claim

By providing passengers with as much information as possible it can relieve stress and uncertainty.

“We need to take it a step further and make a tailored passenger journey providing individual passenger information through closer collaboration with the airlines and insights on the individual passenger needs.” – Esben Kolind, CPH

“The key piece of information is who they are and what they want.” – Eduardo Valencia, MSP

Airports should invest in personas and profiles and benchmark against those to see if the initiatives are working. Being customer centric is the holy grail.


What is the biggest opportunity for using detailed data in your airport ecosystem?


To optimize your processes, the panelists agree that you really need to be as detailed as possible with the data.

“Using all available operational data to optimize all airport processes to make the airport as efficient as possible, lowering the cost of operation for airlines and ultimately be more competitive in the competition with other airports.” – Esben Kolind, CPH

In studies showing what matters most to passenger at airports, the top 4 are almost always:

  1. Checkpoint time
  2. Check-in time
  3. Bathrooms
  4. Wayfinding

“You’ll see these same things over and over and if you’re customer-centric, you are always looking for ways to optimize these.” – Eduardo Valencia, MSP



What are your strategies to improve engagement and collaboration with stakeholders?


Stakeholders hold a lot of responsibility across the airport and having open dialogue and ongoing discussions with airline partners, concessionaires, support groups, etc., will help ensure that issues are being addresses collaboratively.

“DFW openly shares access to our wait times system with TSA. Recently when adjustments were needed to address the social distancing effect on our accuracy, it was TSA who brought it to our attention as their staff utilizes it quite frequently to aid with their operation.” – Jonathan DeJesus, DFW


What is the most important challenge to overcome when implementing new technologies?


The gap between implementation of technology and benefits realized from the resulting data can often seem wide. Getting buy-in early on from stakeholders is a crucial aspect of implanting new technologies and this can be challenging and slow down results. Getting the front-end users involved during scope development and throughout implementation can help speed up the transition to asset turnover and adaptation/utilization.

“Installing a passenger flow monitoring system is easy, it’s the change management effort to bring value from the collected data that comes after that’s the hardest part.” -  Esben Kolind, CPH


In Conclusion


Providing passengers with confidence of cleanliness and the ability to maintain social distancing will be among the most important requirements of airports as we move forward into the post-COVID-19 world. This is a new way to travel and live that we’ve never seen before, and with these changes, come new benefits of technology to help optimize airport layouts. Airlines will have similar concerns from passengers that will need to be addressed prior to having passengers buy tickets. Is there a risk of getting stuck at your destination? If my destination cancels flights, will I get a refund? Do I need additional insurance when traveling? These are the questions that will be coming from travelers and we must be ready to provide them with the answers.