LAX CEO: We Need to Bring the Passenger Facility Charge Back to its Original Buying Power

Last week, Los Angeles World Airports Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint addressed the Washington Aero Club at a lunch event in Washington, D.C. In her speech, Flint described Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX) current $14 billion investment project and how it will help to relieve congestion and improve the LAX travel experience for passengers.

She also discussed how airports across the country are using technology to improve efficiency and ease long lines.

Finally, she urged Congress to return the Passenger Facility Charge to its original buying power by updating it to be $8.50. She noted that it’s been two decades since the PFC was updated and that it’s well overdue that we modernize it to keep up with inflation.

Excerpts from her speech are below.  Her full remarks are available here.

Flint on the need to modernize the PFC:

A new level of investment in infrastructure is needed and for airports this can be real by bringing the Passenger Facility Charge to its original buying power.

“It is time. It has been two decades that the PFC has been unchanged even though there have been 26 models of the iPod, which was released the same year. It has been so long that the styles have even come back – parachute pants and tracksuits are back in again.

The ask is to increase the PFC from $4.50 to $8.50 and index it for inflation in the future. That will make a difference for airports of all sizes – large, medium, and small.”

Flint on LAX’s infrastructure projects:

We are making a $14 billion investment in an Automated People Mover train system, roadways, a Consolidated Rent-A-Car facility that will combine the 20 separate facilities that burden our neighborhoods and roadways, a connection to regional rail, and modernizing each terminal.

“And we are beginning the environmental review to improve the airfield, build a new concourse off of Terminal 1, and a new Terminal 9, which requires billions of additional dollars.”

Flint on airports improving efficiency through biometrics:

Back to my 16 year old and her airport expectations. For her, wifi and cellular are like air – as they have become for all of us. Her face is everything.

“I am talking about biometric aircraft boarding gates, self-baggage drop, TSA and CBP screening – all biometrically enabled at LAX today. While privacy and data security must have high bars, the efficiency of biometrics is astounding. We boarded an A380 using biometric facial boarding in 20 minutes.”

Flint on the future of the airport industry:

Airport by airport, working with our partners in airlines and throughout the industry, we need to be excited, energetic and chase the next evolution. We need to push for our airports to be more innovative, sustainable, to be stewards for local communities, to bring the joy and certainty back to air travel, and together get the funding to invest and let our industry shine. At Los Angeles World Airports our vision is Gold Standard Airports … Delivered.  The U.S. deserves that vision for each and every one of our airports.”

Infrastructure Week 2019: 20th Century Airports in a 21st Century World

Today marks the official start to Infrastructure Week 2019, the long-celebrated week each year when the infrastructure community comes together and engages in a broad conversation about the importance of modern infrastructure.  For us, every week is Infrastructure Week (we’re not the first ones to make that joke and we won’t be the last…), but we’re proud to join in and represent airports in such an important dialogue this week.

As part of our participation in Infrastructure Week, ACI-NA will continue to amplify our important message about the need to invest in America’s aging airports.  Beginning today, passengers in airports will have the opportunity to hear directly from ACI-NA on the benefits of an improved and modernized airport system.  Watch by clicking below.

We couldn’t think of a better way to get our message in front of those who stand to benefit the most from the improved passenger experience, increased airline competition and lower airfares, and enhanced safety and security that will come when we meet the nearly $130 billion in infrastructure needs of America’s airports over the next five years.

We are proud to count CNN Airport Network as a valued ACI-NA member and an active participant in our Beyond the Runway Coalition.  CNN Airport Network’s tremendous support for our industry is greatly appreciated as we ramp up our efforts to engage in a broad conversation about the importance of modern airports to local communities.

For the latest on Infrastructure Week, visit the Centerlines NOW blog or following along on social media using #InfrastructureWeek #BuildForTomorrow.

Concessions – Tailored and Transformed

DIGITAL AND MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES ENHANCE TRAVELERS’ EXPERIENCES, MAXIMIZE REVENUE

By Sheryl Jackson

While technology plays a large role in many different aspects of the airport industry from operations and security to customer service, airport concessions have just begun their digital transformation in recent years.

While the transformation may be recent, airport leadership and concessionaires realize the impact it can have on the industry. Between 50 and 75 percent of airports plan to develop or use mobile applications to enhance travelers’ experience and to maximize revenue by 2020, according to a study conducted by an airline industry technology company. These efforts include the use of airport beacons and sensors to tailor offers and promotions to smart devices for items such as food, beverage, duty-free merchandise and delivery of food or merchandise to the gate.

CONVENIENCE: GOOD FOR BUSINESS, CUSTOMER

“The main driver of innovation, technological or other, is customers; wants and needs,” said Gregg Paradies, President and CEO of Paradies Lagardère. “For instance, there is an increased expectation by travelers that the convenience delivered by technology in their everyday life is going to be available at the airport,” he said. “Along the same lines, our airport partners expect us to embrace innovation so we can properly align with their goals. Ultimately, for us, it’s just part of how we want to continue to deliver first-class customer service.”

Making the purchase of food, retail items or services in an airport more convenient is not only good for the airport customers, but also for the airport and concessionaires, pointed out Liz Grzechowiak, Assistant Director of Concessions and Business Development at Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission. “It’s all about revenue growth because when you reduce the length of lines, more people are likely to purchase because they don’t perceive a long wait and throughput is increased,” she said. “Technology such as point-of-service ordering and pay stations and mobile order and pay apps make it easy for customers to get food quickly and improve customer service.”

ESTABLISHING STRATEGY, BOOSTING REVENUE

Technology can also help in the back of a restaurant, explains Grzechowiak. “Smashburger is implementing new cooking technology that reduces the cooking time for their burgers, which also speeds delivery of food,” she said. Another emerging technology that she has seen demonstrated is robots in the kitchen – sautéing, stirring and performing other repetitive tasks that reduce the number of line cooks needed. “This will be a valuable technology as food service vendors look for ways to handle today’s difficult labor market.” Not only will fewer line cooks be needed, but employees can spend time taking and filling orders rather than handling tasks in the kitchen.

Paradies’ technology strategy is built on three dimensions: the transactional, the functional and the experiential, said Paradies. The first one is about user-friendly payment solutions, the second one helps our stores operate with speed, accuracy and reliability, and the third one is all about using technology to create fun and “cool” factors in airport retail and dining. “We believe that executing on these three dimensions delivers the ultimate customer experience and drives higher revenues.”

Examples of Paradies’ use of technology include payment options such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, Mobile POS and Samsung Pay. “We were also the first to partner with Grab, an app that allows travelers to pre-order meals at airport restaurants, and we’re working to leverage the partnership in our retail stores,” said Paradies. “We also have a Server Pager system in our restaurants to assist with orders and to help travelers check out faster, and Vino Volo has developed a proprietary app that combines a customer rewards program with the ability to locate stores and products.”

In the retail arena, visitors to TripAdvisor stores can use a touchscreen that brings the world’s largest travel website to a traveler’s fingertips, allowing them to plan their visit or the next leg of their journey while in our store, said Paradies. Not only is this a valuable service for visitors, but it creates a reason to enter the store and spend time in it, creating more opportunities for sales.

Another example of how technology can increase revenue, Paradies points to his company’s Mobile POS, which allows for menu orders to be taken and payment processed remotely while customers line up at peak times. The orders are instantly sent to the kitchen staff for preparation while the customer is in line. “This solution was tested at DCA at several of Paradies Lagardère’s bars and restaurants, such as Wow Bao and Washington Pour Bar in 2016 and 2017,” he said. “After it was used during the lunch and dinner rush periods for several weeks, sales went up at Wow Bao by 10 percent and at Washington Pour Bar by almost 17 percent as a result of faster order processing and delivery of menu items to the consumer.”

Grzechowiak said that kiosks used by McDonalds at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have also resulted in higher sales. “Although employees might forget to suggest additional menu items to customers, the kiosks suggest another item with every order, and images entice customers to add bacon to their sandwich or add a dessert to the order,” she said. “Human behavior also plays a part in this result because I might say no to bacon when I’m asked by an employee because I don’t want to be judged as someone who doesn’t eat healthy; however, a kiosk doesn’t judge!”

DIGITALLY ENHANCED INTERNAL DELIVERIES

Food delivery within the airport is a fast-growing convenience made possible by technology, points out Grzechowiak. “As airports and their concessionaires consider these services, be aware of how each might differ and what additional support they need to succeed,” she suggested. Grab is an application-based program that allows people to order and pay for food from a participating restaurant via mobile phone and then pick up the food with no wait.

At Your Gate is an actual delivery service for food and retail items that has been pilot tested at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “The test was limited to our employees, and it was successful,” said Grzechowiak. “Although there is a $2.99 delivery fee, many of our employees choose to pay it to save time since they might spend as much as 28 minutes of their 30-minute lunch break walking to a restaurant, waiting in line, waiting for food and walking back to their post if they are not close to food service areas.” Now, employees can order food for delivery and enjoy their full 30-minute lunch break, she added.

While Grab does not require physical space at the airport, At Your Gate does require space from which employees operate, said Grzechowiak. “It is also important for each of these services to have marketing support from the airport and its airlines to make sure that customers know about the services and understand how to access them.”

‘TIME’ FOR TECHNOLOGY

Technology will continue to play an important role throughout airport interactions with customers because “time” is the most precious commodity, said Dominic Lowe, Executive Vice President of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Airports. “To effectively serve the customer, however, technology must be relevant, simple to use and connect seamlessly,” he said.

Lowe said that this means that airports, concession operators and service vendors need to work together to create a connected infrastructure that supports all digital touchpoints – mobile phones, point-of-service applications, airport directories, retail catalogs and food menus. “While mobile technology is important, we have to remember that mobile is beyond a phone – it extends to tablets and wearables.”

As more applications are adopted and new technologies introduced, it is important for airports and concessionaires to make sure that the technology is agnostic, which means it can connect to other applications or platforms easily to share content and information, said Lowe. “We must work together to get customers what they want – easy access to information, shorter wait times and a way to find and obtain the product or services they need.”

As everyone looks toward the future of technology in concessions, Paradies points out that technology that enhances the traveler experience will be paramount, whether it’s tools to make it easier to make purchases, or order meals, to entertainment. An example of entertainment made possible by technology is his company’s partnership with JFK Terminal 4 that enabled the deployment of PeriscapeVR, the first-ever interactive virtual reality center of its kind in an airport – offering travelers an interactive and blissful escape, he said. “Also, I think it’s fair to say that smartphones are here to stay and will likely become the preferred vehicle for payment. This will not only make interactions with the consumer more fluid, it will also create an opportunity to enhance the intimacy between concessionaires and the traveling consumer through better and faster access to data.”

Paradies does caution airports, vendors and concessionaires about adopting trendy or cool technology. “I would advise against technology for technology’s sake,” he said. “Paradies Lagardère is doing our research on the needs of our airport partners and travelers throughout North America. We’re excited about what technology and innovation can offer. But we want to make sure it fits the needs of our partners and our customers.”

SLC – Designing for the Future

By Bill Wyatt, Executive Director, Salt Lake City International Airport

I’m often asked why, after a week of retiring from the Port of Portland (PDX), I decided to accept an offer to go back to work as the new executive director of the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

The reason is simple: SLC is building what will be the first new hub airport in the country in the 21st century. We’re not talking a remodel or an expansion, but an entirely new airport. The new airport will secure SLC’s position as a global aviation hub that will serve and grow with the region for decades to come.

As with many airports, SLC is experiencing tremendous passenger growth and operating in facilities that are over-utilized and well past their prime. The history of SLC goes back to 1961, when Terminal 1 first opened. Over the years, we added Terminal 2, additional concourses and an International Terminal. Our newest building is the International Terminal, which was constructed more than 20 years ago.

Our facilities were originally built to accommodate 10 million passengers and, today, SLC is seeing upward of 25 million passengers each year. We have become a thriving hub airport for Delta Air Lines and today are Delta’s fourth largest hub.

Our passengers experience congestion at SLC daily, whether it’s curbside, in the parking garage or when trying to find a seat in gate hold areas and restaurants. Plus, the lack of available gates limit new air service to SLC.

But that will all change the fall of 2020, when the first phase of The New SLC Redevelopment Project opens with a parking garage with double the capacity, one central terminal with 16 security lanes and portions of two new concourses. Once we open the first phase, the process to build the second phase begins with the demolition of current facilities, which allow construction to the east to commence. Come 2025, the entire project will be complete and passengers will travel through an entirely new, modern airport.

The advantage to building a new airport is that you can design for the future. The New SLC will be more efficient and more sustainable. The new concourses are designed in a parallel configuration, which will eliminate aircraft bottlenecks, so airlines can get their planes back in the air faster.

We are also aiming for a LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and plan to achieve this through a variety of ways, such as converting all airline ground service equipment to electric by 2023. The use of natural light will also help to achieve our energy goals.

Those who have arrived at Salt Lake City may have experienced a phenomenon that is unique to our airport and which we are addressing in the new terminal. Thousands of young men and women travel around the world on missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and depart from our airport. SLC is also the place where friends and families come to greet these missionaries when they return home. It’s not unusual to see large gatherings at the luggage carousels with family and friends holding signs welcoming back their loved ones. This also presents a challenge to passengers attempting to get their luggage. In the new terminal, we will have a Meeter-Greeter Room where those waiting for passengers to arrive – whether they be military personnel, missionaries or a winning sports team – can relax in a comfortable setting.

But beyond the brick and mortar, the new airport has been designed to leave a lasting impression on travelers. Art and other elements will provide a sense of place through the use of sandstone, copper colors and native plants. The design incorporates plenty of windows to provide views of the mountains from many vantage points throughout the airport, including from an outdoor deck from Delta’s Sky Club.

Passengers will be wowed by massive art installations, such as The Canyon, which is being integrated on both walls of the airport terminal. The Canyon evokes the Salt Lake City landscape and spans roughly the size of a football field.

An expanded concessions program with 29 retail stores was recently announced and includes a mix of local, regional and national brands, including new brands such as Coach, Frye and Mac. The restaurant program announcement is coming soon and is expected to be just as impressive.

And the good news keeps on coming. The $3.6 billion-plus airport is being built without one cent of local tax payer dollars. For years, SLC was the only large-size, hub airport in the country to be debt free. That has since changed, but the foresight of those planning this project allowed the project to begin with savings. It will all pay off in the end. A recent economic impact study showed the project is contributing approximately $5.5 billion to the local economy.

SLC is currently one of the nation’s most cost-effective airports for airline operations and plans to maintain one of the lowest CPEs in the country for a hub operation.

So you can see why my plans to retire have been put on hold – so that I can be part of this remarkable program that will make traveling through SLC truly unforgettable.

Checked Facts: Airports Are Not Taxpayer Funded

Benjamin Franklin said there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.  If there’s one more thing we can be certain of on April 15, it’s the airlines continuing to spread misinformation about how America’s airports are funded.

It is common misconception that airports are funded with taxpayer dollars.  In reality, infrastructure projects at airports in the United States are funded through three key mechanisms: federal grants through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) local user fee, and tenant rents and fees.

No matter how many times the airlines repeat it, the PFC is not tax. The PFC is a local user fee that airports rely on to repair aging facilities, improve aviation safety, improve the passenger experience, create more airline competition to lower airfares, and accommodate rising demand.  With nearly $130 billion in infrastructure needs over the next five years, the PFC is the cheapest and most sustainable option available.

Here’s why:  The PFC empowers those who know the most about the local airport needs, infrastructure investments, and safety upgrades to make the best decisions for the airport while balancing the passenger’s interests. The PFC is collected locally and, unlike other aviation-related fees and taxes, stays local. It never gets passed to Washington, D.C. The PFC is the only funding tool that maximizes this kind of critical local control.  The airlines’ erroneous “tax” argument doesn’t hold water.

Today’s modern conservative movement is diverse and often fractious, so it can be hard to find unanimity on almost any issue. But when it comes to support for the PFC, conservative think tanks and advocacy groups speak with a clear voice in support of this quintessential user fee.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action, Reason Foundation, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, and Citizen Outreach are some of the leading anti-tax and free market organizations that agree the PFC is a local user fee.

User fees represent a better way to pay for infrastructure. Under this system, the people who actually use the airport bear the burden of upkeep and modernization. That is the most fair and equitable way to fund it – passengers who don’t use the airport will never be asked to pay for it. Americans certainly deserve to keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible.  How else would they be able to pay all those exorbitant airline bag fees?

SFO enhances passenger experience with new outdoor terrace

Improving the customer experience is top of mind for airports of all sizes across North America. As passenger needs change, airports are beginning to phase our unnecessary, under-utilized or redundant features, like payphones, banking services and smoking rooms, while continually expanding and enhancing passenger experience programs and amenities for airport users.

Passengers can expect to see a variety of new and expanded airport services and amenities appearing in North American airport terminals. According to our Guest Experience Management and Passenger Amenities Survey, the fastest-growing amenities include nursing mothers’ rooms and pods, post-security pet relief facilities, children’s play areas, adult changing and washroom facilities and airfield observation areas.

Of the 69 airport respondents to our survey in 2017, 19 said they had observation/spectator terraces. As of Feb. 6, we can add one more airport to that list.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has opened its first of two outdoor terrace and observation decks. This new 2,997-square-foot, open-air outdoor terrace gives passengers a 180-degree view of the airfield. The terrace is only available to passengers with boarding passes and is located at the end of the International Terminal, Boarding Area G. Ten-foot bird-safe glass panels shield passengers from wind without obscuring the view.

“This outdoor terrace gives our guests a relaxing oasis within our terminals and invites travelers to rediscover the excitement and magic of air travel,” said SFO Airport Director Ivar C. Satero.

The new terrace was part of a $55 million upgrade to the airport’s International Terminal facilities. SFO also plans to construct a second observation deck later this year and located pre-security in Terminal 2.

Philadelphia International Airport Offers a Helping Hand to Federal Employees

The 35-day government shutdown impacted thousands of federal employees across the country, leaving many without the resources to properly care for their families. Individuals, organizations and airports sprung into action in their local communities to help those affected. One of those airports was Philadelphia International Airport.

In the Jan. 25 episode of the “Taking Off with Chellie Cameron” podcast, Philadelphia Division of Aviation CEO Chellie Cameron spoke with community partners about the resources and opportunities available to help federal employees in the area impacted by the government shutdown. Representatives from the airport, TSA Philadelphia, PHL Airline Managers Council, MarketPlace Philadelphia joined Cameron to talk about the initiatives they led to offer support.

“The airport is really a big family,” Clarence LeJeune of MarketPlace Philadelphia said. “So when things happen as in a family, everybody kind of gets together and figure out how we can help. And the shutdown has been a concern for everyone.”

MarketPlace Philadelphia organized a weekly “Meals on Monday” event to feed more than 500 employees.  Airlines and their industry partners hosted a sit-down lunch for all federal government workers. Fresh Grocer, Wawa, ShopRite, Philadelphia CVB donated coupons, gift cards and other items to help those affected.

Philadelphia International Airport has also opened a food bank to help employees and their families. Mahoney explained that they’re not only collecting food, but baby items, household products, pet food and other items that programs like food stamps will not cover.

“When one of our family members is in need, this community comes together,” Cameron said.

The food pantry at Philadelphia International Airport will remain open through Thursday for those in the area who need assistance.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

Will Technology Solve the Capacity Crisis?

Passenger numbers are expected to double by 2035.
IoT queue measurement technology enables airports to keep waiting times from growing.

By Marc Rauch, Xovis

The airport industry stays on the rise, while a capacity crisis is on the horizon. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects 7.2 billion passengers to travel in 2035, almost twice as much as today.

As many airports are landlocked and can’t just go bigger, the climbing passenger numbers further complicate the fight against long queues and waiting times. Already today, passengers at major US airports sometimes have to slog through a queue for over an hour. As a result, passengers spend less: according to an industry survey, an extra 10 minutes spent in a queue at security reduces a passenger’s spending on retail by 30 percent. How can airports prevent queues and waiting times from growing along with passenger numbers? Is there a way to streamline passenger flows within existing capacities to increase both passenger satisfaction and revenues?

REAL-TIME DATA AGAINST WAITING TIMES

There is good news: queue and passenger flow measurement technologies pave the way for preventing queues from building up and frustrating passengers. Not surprisingly, RFPs for queue measurement systems have been sprouting lately. More and more North-American airports count on robust real-time data from an IoT system with 3D sensors and software solutions: Ceiling-mounted 3D sensors count and track all passengers anonymously. The software receives data streams from the sensors and calculates the KPIs such as queue lengths, waiting times, process times and passenger throughput. The real-time data can be accessed by airport staff members and shared with passengers.

MSP: SMOOTH OPERATIONS AFTER SUPER BOWL LII

As the host airport for Super Bowl LII, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) pleasantly surprised passengers with shorter than expected waiting times the Monday after the Super Bowl. The airport broke its single-day record up to that time for the number of passengers screened, with 60,455 passengers going through its security checkpoints. This was nearly double the airport’s average day and well above the 40,000-plus that are screened daily during the busy spring break period.

3D sensors at security checkpoints helped smooth operations, measuring queue length, waiting time, and process time per security lane as well as other KPIs. “We aim to create a seamless passenger experience, using passenger flow technology to link together every touchpoint of the departure lobby area, the checkpoint locations, and all the way to the gate,”  said Eduardo Valencia, Vice President, Chief Information Officer at Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates MSP and six general aviation airports.

“The real-time data the sensors provide is shared with all of the stakeholders and helps the Transportation Security Administration manage its security lines more efficiently,” said Phil Burke, Director of MSP Operations for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. “The system is also useful to passengers, who can choose the shortest lines based on wait times displayed on digital signs in the departure lobbies.”

MSP is one of four US airports that process more than 38 million passengers per year and count on a combination of 3D sensors and software solutions. Many more US airports and authorities are currently conducting trials to find the right queue and passenger flow measurement system.

THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OF PASSENGER FLOWS AND QUEUES

Some airports are using tracking systems to help with passenger flows and queues. IoT systems in particular, combined with 3D sensors and software solutions measure KPIs such as waiting times, process times and passenger throughput. For example, Swissbased Xovis has equipped 352 sites (from check-in to gates, and from gates to taxi ranks) at 66 international airports with the Xovis Passenger Tracking System (PTS). Airport operators around the globe also use this system to monitor the fulfilment of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and to compare standard and new processes at security checkpoints (e.g. automated vs. conventional screening).

At landlocked Dubai International Airport (DXB), the third largest airport in the world, over 5,000 staff members use the data on their mobile phones and tablets to react upon identified bottlenecks. If the waiting time in a certain area exceeds a defined threshold, the team is alerted and can send more staff members and open more counters. DXB has reduced waiting times by a remarkable 10 per cent during the first three months of 2017. “This automated system provides us with timelier and more accurate data more quickly than the manual system that was used previously. As a result, the operations team and other organizations that work across the airport now have a bird’s eye view of bottlenecks, allowing them to better manage staffing levels and lanes, and improve the overall customer experience. We have more work to do in this area, but we are pleased with progress to date,” said Frank McCrorie, Senior Vice President of Operations at DXB.

BENEFITS FOR ALL AIRPORT STAKEHOLDERS

Smaller airports also aim at streamlining processes with a combination of 3D sensors and software solutions. Helsinki Airport (HEL) is an important hub for air traffic between Europe and Asia and serves as a good example to visualize the positive impact a reliable queue measurement system can have. Currently, HEL increases its annual passenger throughput from 19 million to 30 million. Antti Tikkanen, Business Analyst within the Digitalization Program at Finavia, the operator of HEL, describes how the airport benefits from the system: “Our 900 million Euro ($1.05 billion USD) Development Program includes both the optimized utilization of existing facilities and the adding of new sections. Having a technology in place to move the increasing number of passengers efficiently is key to improving the passenger experience. We now have the required real-time data to communicate effectively with all stakeholders and to keep queue lengths and waiting times as short as possible.”

A.I. FOR A SEAMLESS TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

With the right IoT queue measurement system up and running, airports can actively tackle the capacity crisis and shape the digital transformation on their premises. A.I.-powered 3D sensors will further perfect the accuracy of the gathered real-time data and enable new applications, in particular where anonymous passenger tracking over long distances leads to new insights. In the end, passengers will benefit the most from a seamless travel experience. As they save time from shorter queues, they are likely to spend more money in other areas of the airport.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marc Rauch is Managing Director for Xovis USA in Boston, MA. Prior to joining Xovis, Marc worked for more than 10 years in various capacities for Xovis’ first customer, Zurich Airport. Founded in 2008, Swiss home-based Xovis has evolved from a three-man start-up to a high-tech company with more than 80 employees. Since its opening in September 2017, Xovis’ US office has grown from a one-man show to a team of five highly motivated and skilled employees.

BNA Is Ever-Expanding

By Douglas E. Kreulen, A.A.E., President and CEO, Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority

Nashville is on fire – there really is no other way to describe it. Always a great place to live, the city is now receiving an unprecedented level of attention from all across the country and beyond. National Geographic Traveller U.K. included Nashville on its “Cool List,” Business Insider named Nashville as one of the “33 Trips Everyone Should Take in the U.S. in 2018,” Forbes “The 20 Happiest Cities to Work in Right Now” list included Nashville, and the lists and accolades just go on and on. The word is out, and the world is coming here to see for themselves. In fact, according to recent U.S. Census estimates, 94 people are moving to Nashville every single day.

As aviation industry professionals, you know how this type of popularity and growth can put major demands on transportation facilities. The challenge is to anticipate and address those demands so as to best serve the aviation needs of the community.

The story of passenger growth at Nashville International Airport (BNA) has followed an irregular path. Nashville’s current terminal opened in 1987, built to accommodate the hub then-operated by American Airlines. Driven by that hub activity, BNA grew to serve more than 10 million passengers by 1992, though only 15 percent of which were origin and destination travelers. In the next year, however, American began reducing operations at BNA and ultimately “de-hubbed” from our airport, causing a steady decline in overall passenger traffic. As it turned out, the high water mark of 1992 would remain the passenger record at BNA for the next 21 years.

But the city and region continued to prosper, solid and steady, and passenger traffic grew likewise. With the end of the recession in 2009, Nashville boomed and growth surged, along with steep increases in air travel. Since then, we’ve been on a tear. By 2013, BNA finally surpassed that 1992 passenger record, and we would add an additional million passengers or more in each of the following five years, reflecting annual growth rates as high as 11 percent. Most recently, in our Fiscal Year 2018, BNA surpassed 14.9 million passengers, a ten percent increase, with nearly 90 percent origin and destination traffic.

This torrid growth required a response. Today’s passenger numbers are years ahead of the forecast found in our last master plan. It was clear to our Board of Commissioners and executive team that expansion plans needed to be finalized – and accelerated – to accommodate the region’s aviation needs.

So in 2016, after additional passenger analysis and forecasting, research and planning, we launched BNA Vision, our dynamic growth and expansion plan for Nashville International Airport. Upon its completion in 2023, BNA Vision will include a parking and transportation center, a new Concourse D, an expanded central terminal, an airport administration building, a possible hotel and transit connection, and a state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility, among other features.

This billion-dollar project will be completed in phases, as to limit inconvenience and allow the airport to continue all operations. Current projects under construction include a terminal garage and transportation center; a second garage with an airport administrative office complex on top; Concourse D and ticketing wing expansion; and a terminal apron and taxilane expansion to accommodate the construction of our future International Arrivals Facility.

Our focus is on expanding and renovating BNA, and we’re working at a swift pace to add more than 500,000 square feet to our terminal. But the cranes and construction only tell half the story. Expansion for us also means adding air service to make certain we are taking Nashvillians to as many places as we can in the world while also bringing the world to Nashville.

In May of this year, transatlantic service returned to BNA after a 20-year hiatus. The long sought-after and highly anticipated service to London’s Heathrow Airport via British Airways was largely made possible thanks to the support from our community, business leaders, state and city officials and our Board of Commissioners. This new services truly opens Nashville up to the world with Heathrow serving as a gateway to so much of Europe and Asia. As our airport grows, and as Music City expands its increasingly recognized brand, we anticipate adding more international service to meet local demands and that of travelers worldwide.

And while we bring these dramatic changes to our airport facilities, it is vital that we maintain the sense of place and top-notch customer service our travelers expect. Nashville is truly a unique city – from the extraordinary food scene to the live music day and night for which we’re known. It is important to us that the moment you step foot off that plane you know you’re in Music City. This is top-of-mind with every decision we make during construction – the warm and welcoming vibe, the concession offerings, and especially the music. Our live music in the terminal program recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and touts more than 700 performances a year in six performance areas throughout the terminal, and we plan to add more. Nashville is southern hospitality at its best, and we want to make sure those values remain embodied in our approach to customer service.

So we’ve taken on a big challenge – expand the airport while maintaining that “Nashville feel.” We’re confident we will accomplish our goals thanks to the thousands of our hardworking colleagues and partners from all over Middle Tennessee. These are the people who make the aviation industry go. The people who show up every day, arriving before the sun rises and working until long after it sets, to open our storefronts and music stages, provide passenger safety and make sure our baggage systems are running while tackling so many other tasks necessary to make a modern airport function. Because of their commitment and dedication, we know the best days at BNA are in front of us.

And in this fashion, we’ll provide our world-class city with the world-class airport it deserves.

What’s On Trend for 2019?

By Sandy Smith

As airports continue to focus on an improved customer experience, they are looking beyond and outside of the box to pinpoint areas that could use improvement – even though there might not be any obvious need for changes. Figuring out what travelers need – before they have figured it out themselves – is what sets airports apart and leads to an airport becoming an experience and adventure, not just a waypoint.

Getting travelers in and out smoothly and providing creature comforts can make or break a traveler’s perception of the airport, too. This important leg of the customer journey requires skilled service providers who bring unique services. These valuable partners can provide much needed services when there’s been a flight delay or a connection missed. And they might just employ the first human a traveler speaks to on their journey.

The coming year will see these service providers continue to grow in importance to the traveler experience. HMSHost and Uber – both Platinum Plus ACI-NA members – are more than ready for the task ahead and want to help you be ready as well.

Food & Beverage and Retail Morphing Into Immersive Experiences

HMSHost Shares Insights from the Front Lines

Recently Steve Johnson picked up the phone to hear a story from a happy customer.

It was her 10th wedding anniversary and her husband wanted to celebrate at his favorite restaurant. The restaurant, Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi, just happened to be one of HMSHost’s restaurants in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

That story was just one more piece of evidence of the changing face of airport food. As President and CEO of HMSHost, Johnson has had a front row seat to see hot dogs and pizza give way to a true dining experience – if that’s what the traveler wants. As he looks at 2019, it is clear that the traveler is firmly in control and HMSHost and airports are there to ensure that they get what they want. Top of that list: feeling like they’re actually in the city in which the airport resides.

“If you’re looking at where we’re headed in restaurants and food and beverage, we’re focused on an immersive, cultural experience,” Johnson said. “Local brands were the beginning of this process, where you’re trying to create a sense of place, a local feel.”

Food is no longer about filling the tanks after a long day of traveling or grabbing a sandwich for the plane. It’s about creating a dining experience that is worth bragging about.

“If it’s not Instagrammable, it’s not important,” Johnson said. “If they can take a picture of a well-done particular plate, something that their friends would not be able to experience, then we’ve done something.”

The move toward local brands has brought an evolution in HMSHost, too. The company has gone from operating around 100 brands eight years ago to well over 320. Instead of having one restaurant and bar in every airport, it will bring in local name plates, local foods. But that has brought changes, too.

“It took a few years to figure out how to translate local brands to airports,” Johnson said. “It’s a completely different business. Your timeframes are really different. Menus and processes have to change. You go into a 400-square-foot kitchen compared to 2,000. We also found that some of the best local restaurants had no standards or recipes. We had to start from scratch.”

NEW MEANING OF LOCAL

Locally harvested has grown alongside the local branding, and that trend will continue to expand into the coming year. Johnson attributes that to millennials, who want to know where their food comes from. It is an aspect of the overall evolution to more healthy options in the airport.

“Millennials look at things differently and they’re driving some of these changes toward a clean diet with less processed food,” Johnson said. “You make a pizza differently today. It used to be that every pizza made in an airport was from frozen dough. Today, it’s wheat flour, procured locally and made and cooked the same day. It’s made the process more complicated, but certainly more enjoyable.”

These days, most meats, dairies and proteins are procured less than 100 miles from each airport, Johnson said. “It’s changed our supply chain, but for the better.”

TECHNOLOGY DEMANDS

While the move toward local has created opportunities for memorable dining experiences, it has presented HMSHost with a dilemma: integrating technology into its operations. Since it operates restaurants under brand names, customers might be somewhat confused. Take Starbucks, for instance. Outside the airport, the customer can use the Starbucks app to preorder a drink. Not so inside the airport. But Johnson is determined to fix that in 2019.

“Mobile order and pay is probably the biggest gap in what we have today,” Johnson said. “You could be sitting in your office and pull out your phone and book a flight, call an Uber, go through TSA and board with your phone. When you land, you book your hotel and call another Uber. You can check into your hotel room with your phone. In that traveler journey, the only thing you can’t do is order a meal.”

It is a huge hurdle with 2,000 restaurants and 320 brands. “We need to be able to connect to their app through our system,” he said. “That digital journey and handshake is quite complicated.”

The company pilot tested 10 Starbucks with mobile order and pay in 2018 and expects to expand that more fully in 2019.

“You can order your Frappuccino as you come through security. It will tell you your drink will be ready in 12 minutes. You’ll be able to walk up, grab your drink and go. That’s the piece that we want to replicate to as many of our locations throughout the airport as possible.”

It is just one more way that HMSHost is attempting to meet the needs of the traveling customer. It is a juggling act, to be sure. For every person who wants to eat healthy, there is one who wants a treat while traveling. For every person wanting to take a respite and linger over a meal, there is another who needs to grab something in those few minutes on a layover. For every person who wants to be left alone to work (and recharge their phones and spirits) at a restaurant, there is another who enjoys the community table where they can meet fellow travelers. Community tables, by the way, are proving popular. “We don’t build a restaurant without them anymore,” Johnson said. So too are electrical plugs and WiFi; both are essential in every new construction, Johnson said.

Ultimately, it is about giving “customers the choice to decide what’s important,” he said.

He anticipates that choice may be available within the restaurant, too. “I envision the future where you ask, ‘Would you like full service or self service?’ The customers will be in full control of their dining experiences and can leave at their leisure. They won’t be dependent upon anyone to bring the check or return the credit card.”

Smoothing out any bumps throughout the traveler’s day is one of the most important roles that HMSHost plays for its airport and airline partners, Johnson said.

“If you think of a customer’s journey, they have shown up an hour and a half ahead of time, stood in line for 15 minutes to check their bag, gone through TSA and stood another 10-15 minutes. They’re pretty frustrated by the time they get to us. We get the brunt of it sometimes. It’s our job to understand that we can make or break the airport experience.”

Ultimately, the world of airport food has changed dramatically and Johnson finds himself hearing more stories like the anniversary trip for airport sushi.

“When I got into this business 20 years ago, if I told someone I worked in the food business in airports, they would make a face and say, ‘Did you lose a bet?’ When I say that today, they get a gleam in their eye and tell me about a great restaurant in a certain city. It’s no longer a punishment to eat at the airport. It can be a great thrill.”

And it is one that HMSHost is pushing to continue into 2019.

 

Ground and Air Transportation Goals Coming Together

Alignment Is in Commitment to the Customer, Says Uber

While airports focus on creating a happy customer experience onsite, Uber is focused on getting travelers out of the airport. Those goals aren’t as opposing as it might seem.

“Uber and airports are aligned around our commitment to the customer,” said Marcus Womack, Uber’s Director of Product Management. “We believe Uber, airports and airlines can and should be working together to solve the points of friction throughout the passenger journey.”

And for good reason. “Simply, customers have come to expect to have the option to take an Uber or other app-based rides to and from the airport,” he said.

Airports, with their dependable passenger load, are equally as important to Uber drivers. That’s why Uber has focused on expanding its partnerships around the globe. Currently, the company is in 500 airports around the world.

Solving issues for passengers, drivers and airports is a significant goal for Uber in 2019.

IMPROVING THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Airports haven’t always kept up with this rapidly evolving transition to ridesharing. The result has brought frustration for travelers, especially as they arrive at their destination airport. “We know that a big pain point for passengers is they don’t know where to find the pickup point. Further, they might not know when to request their ride if they don’t trust the driver’s ETA. This is often a function of staging lot location, congestion on the roadways, or confusing decision points for drivers in getting to the correct pickup location. Partnering together, Uber and airports can address this challenge to elevate the customer experience.”

Uber will focus on three areas to improve the experience for travelers in the coming year, Womack said. “First, we want to make it easier to find the pickup point through better wayfinding and signage. Once at the pickup point we want to make finding your driver fast and efficient. And most importantly, we want to reduce customer waiting times throughout the process and make it a stress-free experience.”

There are benefits to airports as well, such as improved efficiency and a reduction in environmental footprint.

Recently, Uber partnered with several ACI-NA members to define standards for a TNC wayfinding icon and nomenclature at airports. The result of extensive survey data, the consortium distilled a clear, uncluttered icon showing a car and a map pin situated on smartphone screen, and identified “Ride App Pickup” as descriptive, simple, and neutral nomenclature. “We are actively working with airports now to implement this new standard,” Womack said.

Uber tools could help with airport traffic congestion, as well. The company has developed multiple programs that could speed passengers’ trips in and out of the airport. UberPOOL pairs travelers with others while Uber’s Rematch allows drivers who drop off a departing passenger to immediately find a passenger who just landed.

Driver satisfaction and ease is equally important to Uber, which has been working with airports to improve staging areas for its drivers, Womack said. “We want to make sure staging lots have appropriate facilities for drivers to rest, use the washroom, and even get a snack. Partnering with airports to provide these essentials is key.”

PARTNERSHIP POTENTIAL

Uber’s relationship with airports has had some bumps along the way, especially early in its disruptive launch. But the new Uber brings with it a “change in tone and culture” Womack said. Increasing partnership opportunities with airports is a goal. The company has organized a team focused solely on building those partnerships and creating new products to create that experience. It means more frequent conversations about how Uber can help “reduce congestion, participate in landside redevelopment projects to improve efficiency, and plan for the way our customers will want to travel in the future. We know airports plan in five- to 30-year cycles, and we’re eager to join the discussion on the evolution.”

Those are not just words. Already, Uber has named Toronto Pearson International Airport as its first Innovation Hub.

“Uber’s commitment is to configure the airport with the best and most appropriate technology available, utilizing YYZ – an airport where we recently launched peer-to-peer ridesharing – as a pilot for new products we’re building that decrease congestion, drive down wait times, and increase throughput,” Womack said.

Consider Uber just another form of transportation, a relationship not unlike that of the airline to the airport. “Think about how an airline operates with respect to branding, dedicated parts of the terminal to serve its customers, and its preferential or exclusive use gates,” Womack said. “In many cases what we seek isn’t all that different. Our ideal operating environment would include some level of (a) dedicated pickup zones, (b) elevated passenger experiences, (c) amenities for drivers, (d) active traffic management for pickup zones, and (e) reasonable pick up/drop off fees that reflect the cost of our operation to the airport and the value provided to customers.”

It is a two-way street, too. “We are thinking deeply about tomorrow’s travel experience and partnering with select airports throughout the world where we will invest significantly in operational excellence, best-in-class product technology, and an elevated passenger experience where you may find Uber lounges or other amenities to improve or at least de-stress the travel day.”

Uber’s new e-bike Jump showcases how much the company is expanding into all facets of transportation. “For riders, imagine a one-stop shop where you can figure out the best, most affordable transit option for you – whether that’s a car, public transportation, a bike, or some combination.”

SOLVING BIGGER CHALLENGES

Together, Uber and airports can solve bigger issues that extend well beyond the passenger pick-up and drop-off. Uber recently launched a pilot EV Champions Initiative program in seven cities – Austin, Los Angeles, Montreal, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle – to help drivers understand more about electronic vehicles. It includes new in-app features built specifically for EV drivers. “We hope to work with airports to help us scale our efforts in the EV space, particularly as it relates to fast-charging infrastructure,” Womack said.

Ultimately, Womack believes that some of the greatest challenges facing airports are shared by Uber. “We recognize how the major shifts in transportation are having an impact on airports and cities across the globe. We share the goal of creating a great customer experience while working through the challenges of congestion and operational efficiency, all while balancing cost. These are similar challenges Uber faces. We’re committed to working together to deliver products and services optimized for today’s infrastructure while partnering together for a future with transportation options optimized for the future airport.”