Americans Are Starting to Fly Again

States around the country are taking their first steps to safely reopen our economy and to start rebuilding a sense of normal life. This Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in North America — a well-deserved benchmark that we’ve made it through a difficult start of this year. This typically marks the beginning of our busy travel season, and while COVID-19 has quieted the typical buzz in our airport terminals and dramatically reduced the crowds, we are finally seeing an uptick in passengers who want to travel again.

Despite the challenges we still face, the Transportation Security Administration expects more than 350,000 people to travel through our airports this Memorial Day weekend. That is a far cry from the 2.7 million air travelers who passed through our airports last Memorial Day weekend, but it nearly doubles our traffic from weeks prior. Airports welcome these early signs of a rebound, and they are ready to help passengers navigate the new normal as we work to adapt to the future of travel together. If you’re traveling this Memorial Day weekend, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Arrive early: Airports around the U.S. have enhanced safety standards and measures for all passengers. This could mean more delays as you travel through security checkpoints. Be sure to arrive early so you are able to make it to your gate and flight on time.
  • Adhere to physical distancing: Remember to keep your physical distance (6 feet) when going through checkpoints, shopping at concessions shops, or standing in line at customer service. By keeping your distance, you can help stop the spread of germs and keep you and others in your party healthy.
  • Wear a facial covering: Many states and local governments as well as airlines are requiring that masks be worn when occupying a public space. Please be sure to bring a facial covering with you to the airport and wear it throughout your duration there. For facial coverings to be worn properly they must cover your nose, mouth, and chin.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout your time while traveling. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away in a trash bin. Avoid touching your face.
  • Be patient: We are all learning these lessons together, so please understand that our dedicated workforce is doing everything in their power to adapt to these new requirements as quickly as possible to ensure the travel experience remains as seamless as it can be in the face of new health and safety guidelines.

As the nation continues to open up and more people begin to travel, implementing these best practices will help to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Our airports are eager to welcome you back.

Scott Pelley to Keynote Airports Council Annual Conference

Meet our 2020 Annual Conference Keynote

Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA) this week revealed that Scott Pelley, the award-winning 60 Minutes correspondent and former CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor will deliver the keynote address at the 2020 ACI-NA Annual Conference and Exhibition on September 14.  Set to be held September 12 – 15, 2020, in Grand Rapids Michigan, this year’s conference will bring together more than 2,000 delegates from across the airport industry to exchange ideas and promote innovative solutions to emerging challenges.

After covering some of the most compelling and important national stories of the last 20 years,  Pelley is one of the most recognizable faces in American journalism today. In its first season, The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, won a Peabody Award and was the only network evening news broadcast to grow its audience. Taking over for Katie Couric, he gained an additional 821,000 viewers in his first nine months in the anchor chair. Few journalists have made as wide and as deep a mark on broadcast news as Pelley has. He is known for covering everything from breaking national news stories to politics and wars. Since he brought that experience to 60 Minutes in 2004, half of all the major awards won by the broadcast have been for stories reported by Pelley.

Pelley also formerly served as CBS’ chief White House correspondent, where he covered the biggest domestic stories of the 1990’s. As an Emmy Award-winning journalist, he has covered the major events and moving stories that have captured the attention of the American people. He has interviewed world leaders such as President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his presentations incorporate poignant stories gained from more than 300 60 Minutes features.

During Pelley’s time as chief White House correspondent, he covered the investigation of President Clinton, breaking many original stories in the process. He has also reported on a wide array of domestic and foreign stories from the White House, covering events ranging from child homelessness in Florida to the aftermath of Japan’s natural disaster.

The Washington Times wrote, “The legacy of Edward R. Murrow lives at CBS in the daring, long-range investigations of Scott Pelley.” The Baltimore Sun called Pelley the “single face of the broadcast,” noting that he is trusted with the “biggest interviews and stories.” Allen Neuharth, founder of USA Today, noted that “Pelley threw hardballs” in his 2007 interview with President Bush, and Bob Woodward, writing in The Washington Post said, “Scott Pelley nailed the crucial question” in his interview with former CIA Director, George Tenet. Salon.com said, “He restores a little of our faith in TV news while performing hugely-important, world-bettering reports along the way.”

Pelley has won three George Foster Peabody Awards, a George Polk Award, two Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, five Edward R. Murrow Awards, the Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Award, the Writers Guild of America Award, a Loeb Award, and a duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton, among others.

Pelley received a 1996 Emmy Award for his work on the TWA Flight 800 disaster and a 1994 Emmy Award for his reporting on the Branch Davidian conflict. While his 2007 Darfur report was honored with another. Pelley has been a correspondent on many prestigious news teams who have, in total, won 37 national Emmy Awards.

Members of Congress Announce Framework for Infrastructure Bill That Includes a PFC Increase

Last week, ACI-NA welcomed the news of an infrastructure investment framework – called the “Moving Forward Framework” – which was announced by a group of Members of Congress, led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The start of the new year represents an important opportunity for Members to announce their top policy priorities and we are pleased that improving airport infrastructure across the U.S. is a high priority for so many Members, as well as the American people.

The Moving Forward Framework calls for raising the federal cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and indexing it for inflation. If enacted into law, a lift on local PFCs would allow airports to fund necessary infrastructure improvements, including repairing aging facilities and making expansions to accommodate record-breaking passenger traffic.

In his remarks, Chairman DeFazio highlighted how airports are in dire need of infrastructure upgrades and addressed the fact that the very same airlines who are comfortable with increasing baggage fees oppose an updated Passenger Facility Charge because they know it will increase airline competition in many airports. You can watch his remarks here.

Immediately following their announcement, ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke thanked the group, and specifically Chairman DeFazio, for their leadership.

“The House Democrats’ infrastructure framework recognizes the time has finally come to increase the woefully outdated PFC,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke. “A long-overdue adjustment to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) will provide the lift America’s airports need to take off into the future. Unlike a $40 bag fee that just pads an airline’s bottom line, a modernized PFC will help our terminally challenged airports make transformative investments in new infrastructure that will improve the passenger experience for millions of travelers. I am particularly thankful for the leadership of Chairman DeFazio, the father of the PFC, for making this one of his top legislative priorities.”

Burke also joined American Association of Airport Executives President and CEO Todd Hauptli and Airport Consultant Council President T.J. Schultz in a joint letter thanking Chairman DeFazio for his leadership on this issue. In the letter they write:

“…we strongly support proposals in the House Democrats’ infrastructure framework that call for raising the federal cap on local PFCs and indexing it for inflation. We are grateful for your leadership. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues to advance legislation that would help airports finance critical projects and repair our nation’s infrastructure.”

Just this month independent research from RAND Corporation confirmed the best way to fix America’s airports is by modernizing the PFC. Further, according to a recent ACI-NA study, U.S. airports face more than $128 billion in infrastructure needs by 2023, with over 56 percent of the needs inside aging terminals. President Trump has repeatedly called for renewed investment in American airports, so we will be listening closely for any references to infrastructure investments in his State of the Union address.

We look forward to working closely with Congress to get this framework over the finish line so that we can finally empower airports to improve their infrastructure and continue to meet the demands of the traveling public.

Houston Airports Strengthen Veterans Community

As community partners, airports are continually embracing opportunities that recognize the immense contributions veterans make to our communities and empower them as they move beyond their military service.

Houston Airport System is one of several airports across North America leading the effort to bring the Edge4Vets jobs training program to prepare and connect veterans to jobs that can lead to careers in aviation.  This work is incredibly important in Texas, which boosts one of the largest veteran populations in the United States. Edge4Vets is part of Airports Council International – North America’s “Workforce of the Future” initiative.

Developed by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University in New York, Edge4Vet is operating at several airports currently, including Houston, LAX, Greenville/Spartanburg, Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, Edmonton, Memphis, Jackson, MS.

The program combines a workshop series with online training to help veterans do what business leaders say they most – that is, learn how to translate their strengths from the military, including values and skills, into “tools” for civilian success. The program enlists HR executives and hiring managers from partner companies, including airport authority departments and stakeholder companies, to attend the Edge4Vets workshop and serve as “mentors” to offer feedback to the veterans as Edge4Vets teaches the participants how to create a Plan4Success.

The Plan4Success guides them in the creation of statements in four areas – vision, values, skills and action – that identify their strengths and gives them an opportunity in clear, concise language to express how they will APPLY their military strengths to land a job that can lead to a career for the life they want.

Houston introduced Edge4Vets in 2018 as a pilot and now is working with partners in its employer network – that includes Houston businesses as well as airport employers – to grow and expand the scope and reach of the program.

Part of this expansion includes bringing in Goodwill Industries and its Operation GoodJOBS program as a partner to provide wrap-around support to veterans. Edge4Vets registers participants through a recruiting effort with support from the City of Houston, the Texas Veterans Commission and local schools, then Edge4Vets refers those who register to Goodwill for preparation in advance of the workshop.

Following the workshop, Edge4Vets channels participants back to Goodwill for personal support to refine their Plan4Success, hone their resume, and follow up on job interviews they lined up at the Edge4Vets workshop.

The combination of career preparation and this enhanced wrap-around support provided through the Edge4Vets/Goodwill partnership is giving Houston Airport System a powerful “one/two punch” to add talented veterans to the HAS workforce to strengthen the airport for the future.

The Countdown Begins: REAL ID Will Be Required for Air Travel in Exactly One Year

Earlier today, Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) President and CEO Kevin Burke teamed up with travel industry leaders and government officials to urge the traveling public to obtain REAL ID compliant identification.

The REAL ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005, implements a 9/11 Commission recommendation for the Federal Government to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses” as a way to enhance aviation security.

“Ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public is the top priority for airports – and REAL ID is an important component of our efforts,” Burke said. “We are encouraging the public to ensure you have a REAL ID compliant license by October 1st of next year. This will be critical to ensure you are able to travel.”

According to a recent study by the U.S. Travel Association, many Americans may not be aware all Americans will be required to have a REAL ID compliant license in order to board a commercial aircraft beginning on October 1, 2020 – just one year from today.

The purpose of this week’s event held at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC was to encourage the public to obtain proper identification before the rapidly approaching deadline. It also marks the start of a yearlong educational effort by TSA, airports, airlines, and other stakeholders about the importance of obtaining a REAL ID compliant license.

“We are working hard to ensure the public is aware of this fast approaching deadline,” Burke said. “Despite the ongoing efforts to raise awareness, we remain concerned about the small number of travelers who have obtained a REAL ID compliant licenses”

 

 

Some states and airports are already taking advantage of local opportunities to educate travelers. ACI-NA joined with our airline partners and other associations to send a joint letter to each governor of all 50 states and territories, encouraging them to launch public awareness campaigns to more effectively educate residents about REAL ID requirements.

In lieu of a REAL ID compliant license, air passengers are able to use other federally approved identification for air travel, including U.S. passports or Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI identification cards.

Burke was joined by Transportation Security Administration Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell, as well as officials from Airlines for America, the American Association of Airport Executives, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles commissioners.

You can learn more about the importance of REAL ID here. And don’t forget to save the date for October 1, 2020. Act now to ensure you have a REAL ID.

GSP Leads Efforts to Hire South Carolina Veterans

Independence Day is more than fireworks and cookouts.  It’s a special day we celebrate liberty and those who have helped secure the freedom we cherish today.

Honoring our veterans is a top priority for the airport industry.  That’s why ACI-NA partnered with Edge4Vets in 2014 with the shared goal of connecting America’s – and now Canada’s – veterans with airports across the country to place them in careers that utilize the valuable skills they learned while serving in the military.

Earlier this year, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) collaborated with Edge4Vets and the Upstate Warrior Solution to host a workshop for the region’s veterans.

“We are proud to bring Edge4Vets to South Carolina,” said Dave Edwards, GSP’s president and CEO. “This will be a good opportunity for Upstate employers to identify talent while mentoring veterans transitioning into the workforce or those looking for new opportunities.”

Several companies participated in the workshop, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, FedEx, United Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, airport concessionaires and Clemson University.

“Many veterans have valuable skills that are beneficial to employers, but they sometimes have difficulty selling themselves,” said Tom Murphy, Edge4Vets’ founder. “People serving in the military learn to work as a team and they sometimes don’t think in terms of their individual accomplishments and skillsets. Some also become so accustomed to using the language and lingo used in the military that civilian employers might not understand what they are saying. These slight adjustments can make a difference in a veteran landing a job and getting on a desirable career path.”

Get Involved

Is your airport interested in becoming an Edge4Vets partner? Airports across North America are partnering with Edge4Vets and ACI-NA to help connect veterans to aviation careers. Current participants include GSP, LAX, HOU, MIA, JFK, CVG, and more.

Contact Tom Murphy to learn more about hosting a workshop in your community. Edge4Vets is offered by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University. Learn more here.

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.

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.”