Airport directors are constantly making decisions about their operations, a responsibility that is akin to running a city within a city. Decisions on infrastructure updates and costs, meeting compliance standards, ensuring travelers are safe, and improving the passenger’s overall travel experience, must be made constantly. And as travel requirements and demands for a more seamless experience arise, airports must consider how these decisions will evolve in the future. 

Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airport Councils International, North America (ACI-NA) recently moderated a panel of airport directors to get their take on how airports are evolving. Airport leaders from the Chicago Department of Aviation, Miami-Dade Aviation Department, and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority came together to discuss the challenges they’ve faced and how they are preparing their airports for the future at the 2019 Aviation Summit.

Implementing Biometrics Solutions to Improve Customer Experience at the Gate

John E. Potter, President and CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) recently highlighted the development of a biometric solution that improves the customer experience at the gate, while also supporting U.S. Customs Border and Protection (CBP) requirements to biometrically verify the identity of departing international travelers. Potter noted that while CBP provided guidelines for a biometric solution, it didn’t encompass the entire needs of MWAA and didn’t take into consideration the space constraints that the airport was facing.

Potter challenged his team to develop its own biometric solution, using CPB specifications, that wouldn’t impact the limited space they had. In 2018, MWAA introduced its solution – one that leverages an iPad app and camera technology. “We are boarding A380’s in 21 to 23 minutes…all while improving the customer experience at the gate,” Potter says. The system is also fully integrated with certain airline ticketing systems, creating even more efficiencies. 

“Now, the CBP can focus its efforts on biometric entry. Technology is freeing up agents to do other things, which is ‘a win-win’ for everyone,” Potter concludes.

Embracing Environmental Initiatives for Airport Sustainability

Energy efficiency is the key to the future of airports and Miami International Airport (MIA) has made a commitment to drive environmental sustainability in every aspect of the airport’s operations. “For us, it is a part of the overall investment strategy,” said Lester Sola, Director and CEO, Miami-Dade Aviation Department. That means every decision needs to consider if there is an opportunity to introduce sustainability factors.

Launched in 2015, the sustainability program addresses air conditioning and ventilation upgrades, water conservation retrofits, energy-efficient LED lighting, solar panel installations, and more. Today, the airport is running one of the largest energy-saving programs ever in the eastern U.S. and the sustainability initiatives are working towards saving 35 million kilowatt hours of energy each year. MIA has also reduced its annual carbon emissions by the equivalent of 5,110 automobiles and water consumption equal to 28 million gallons of water or 43 Olympic-size swimming pools.

“We are building for the future, in a responsible way,” Sola concludes.

Applying Sustainability Best Practices to One of the World’s Busiest Airports

Chicago is also known as a green city, which includes sustainability programs at Chicago O’Hare International and Chicago Midway. The Chicago Department of Aviation was the first to develop sustainable guidelines for design and construction at airports. Sustainability practices are “ingrained in everything we do, from the construction to the concessions program,” according to Jaime Rhee, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation. With O’Hare International Airport currently undergoing an $8.5B terminal expansion, Rhee says now is the time to update its guidelines to include terminals in those sustainability best practices. 

“We take pride in being innovative and really addressing the way that we look at a project,” Rhee said. “It’s not just building a terminal, but an opportunity for us to reduce our footprint and incorporate new types of technologies that are emerging, as well as best practices.” 

One of the most effective ways to futureproof our airports is to adopt best practices that align with a forward-thinking strategy. Biometrics and sustainability are two great examples of how airports are leveraging global trends to modernize their operations.

Shany Seawright

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.