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ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, reflects on the launch of New Experience in Travel and Technologies (NEXTT), the latest joint ACI/IATA initiative.

Passenger and cargo travel processes will need to change dramatically in the near and distant future in light of projected air traffic growth.

Passenger traffic worldwide is expected to reach 22.3 billion by 2040 and air cargo volumes are forecasted to increase at an annualised rate of 2.5% for the same period.

Airports, airlines and stakeholders will increasingly be challenged to optimise the use of emerging technologies, processes and design developments.

ACI and its airport members work together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and their airline members to deliver this future to the coming travellers and shippers. Together we have launched the New Experience in Travel and Technologies (NEXTT) initiative.

The initiative seeks to provide a seamless journey by exploring increased off-site processing options; reducing or even eliminating queues; more efficiently using space and resources through enhanced deployments of artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and robotics; and, vastly improving the sharing of data between stakeholders.

The underpinning goal of NEXTT is to align the industry’s vision and find potential ways to better integrate systems and improve operations in the most secure, effective and sustainable manner for the benefit of passengers and the industry.

Specifically, NEXTT will investigate how passengers, cargo, baggage and aircraft move through the complete travel journey with a focus on change in three areas:

Off-airport activities: NEXTT will promote possibilities of transferring on-site processes to off-site options, such as security processing and baggage check and drop-off, to streamline the airport experience. Activities that historically require manual checks could now occur as a digital process, in turn improving the convenience for customers and alleviating bottlenecks at the airport.

Advanced processing technology: NEXTT will encourage industry stakeholders to investigate how advance processing technology, such as tracking and identification technology, automation and robotics can improve safety, security, the airport passenger experience and operational efficiency.

Interactive decision-making: NEXTT will promote the better use of data, predictive modelling and artificial intelligence to facilitate real-time decision-making, a key element in improving the passenger experience and optimising operational efficiency.

Other ACI initiatives that support the NEXTT philosophy include Airport Community Recommended Information Services (ACRIS), a framework for the exchange of data between stakeholders; airport beacons to facilitate wayfinding and general interactions with airport customers; biometric smart identification such as facial recognition to improve throughput; improved screening processes, facilitated through the ACI-IATA Smart Security programme; the Airport Service Quality Programme (ASQ), the global benchmarking programme measuring passengers’ satisfaction while they are travelling through an airport; and, the release of the ACI Airport Digital Transformation Best Practice.

We also work with governmental authorities to enhance their processes for clearing passengers and freight, improving safety, security, regulatory compliance and efficiency.

Today’s airports are no longer just places where airplanes take off and land. Instead, airports are vital economic generators providing gateways to their cities, states, regions and countries.

Airports operate in a competitive environment and are focused more than ever on increasing their community’s share of air travel and tourism, innovating and maintaining a strong focus on improving operations and the customer experience.

Now is the time for airport leaders throughout the globe to embrace NEXTT, as a means of leveraging the use of emerging technologies, processes and design developments.

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