The average US airport is now over 40 years old and with makeovers not easy for many, more than a few of them are experiencing something akin to a midlife crisis.
Most are ill equipped to handle an ever-increasing number of travellers. Few, for example, offer seamless transportation to and from the facility and none were built to cater for the heightened security needs post-9/11.
Many airports have not been upgraded in years. But today, government investment in airports is on the uptick, and public-private partnerships – collaborative efforts used to finance, build and operate projects – offer developers an attractive new option.
Today, airports of all sizes are undergoing expansion and renovation, while countless others are in the planning stages. And the new facilities can’t come fast enough, as Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) has revealed that US airports need $128 billion in improvements in the next five years just to keep pace with current passenger and airline demands.
Factor in changes in mission to include retail and the airport becoming part of the destination, rather than just a portal, the needs and the numbers grow exponentially.
What does this mean in practice? An exciting blend of visionary design and advanced technology. New check-in areas, larger security checkpoints, more space for concessions and upgrades to lighting and flooring. Robotics for luggage handling. Wayfinding apps. Biometrics to reduce wait times.
At every step, the goal is an improved and expanded customer experience. From self-driving cars that improve airport access to self-service check-in to a seamless network of elevators, escalators and moving walks, the focus is on fast, efficient movement through increasingly complex facilities.
Moving more people, more efficiently
Certainly, the world changed since 9/11. Airports had to react quickly to those tragic events and dramatic changes were made, but most new security additions were shoehorned in to existing airport configurations, and they came at the expense of convenience for employees and travellers alike.
As a result of these changes, traffic flows changed and bottlenecks became commonplace – and all the time while the number of passengers continued to grow. These sacrifices, in the name of security, made sense, and worked in terms of security but not operational efficiency. However, today, we don’t have to make these kind of choices as we can be safe, secure and efficient.
Today’s designers recognise that it’s not just about moving more people through the facility. The goal is to make it more efficient for them to move through. Some of the largest airports in the US have lost passengers – their customers – as these airports are outdated and difficult to navigate through. Through modernisation and restoration, the airport becomes more efficient and the customer experience is greatly improved.
How can we make it better?
Inconvenience, delays, congestion: For today’s traveller, the traditional airport offers little to look forward to. In most cases, the best we can hope for is that the flight is on time.
In response, designers are taking a more customer-centric tack. Increasingly, they’re asking how the customer experience can be improved. Given the sprawl of most airports, safe, streamlined movement through the facility is an essential starting point.
As part of this process, many airports are investing in modernisation programmes, which include replacing escalators that are older than most of the people using them!
Few airports would consider a programme of complete truss removal, which is costly and requires extensive demolition. More importantly, it creates significant disruption for travellers – everything the airport is trying to avoid.
KONE EcoMod, an innovative modernisation solution, offers a solid alternative. Installed with minimal disruption, this solution allows airport operations to continue safely and without interruption.
One of the reasons KONE EcoMod has been so successful is because it allows airports to replace one unit at a time and keep the others in the same group moving.
Also, when you retain the truss, the construction footprint is smaller, and that is important for an airport where every square foot is valuable and disruption needs to be minimised.
The solution’s robust nature also contributes to its success. Not all escalators are created equal. KONE EcoMod is constructed to meet the industry’s public transportation standard, one that is designed to support loads considerably heavier than those at, say, shopping malls.
Lower life-time operation costs
Efficiency and safety are also improved with modernised equipment. The sleep mode/standby option that is available on KONE escalators, for example, is designed to conserve energy and extend the lifespan of units that are typically in operation 24/7.
In standby option, the escalator speed is slowed, until sensors mounted at both ends of the escalator sense approaching traffic, returning the unit to full speed before passengers can step on. Depending on individual escalator usage, the standby option can deliver energy savings of up to 30%.
Safety is also a concern with aging equipment in legacy infrastructures. As codes and technology evolve, new user protections become available. This is important as airports are unfamiliar environments to most people, and travelling through them with kids, for instance, can be a struggle for families.
Innovative design features maximise equipment uptime. The standard lube-free chain used in KONE EcoMod escalators reduces maintenance lubrication needs by up to 70% and reduces “out of operation” time associated with routine escalator clean-downs.
And with increased passenger numbers, the overnight service window is shrinking. However, if you minimise the duration of one of the longest escalator service tasks – lubrication – that really provides more flexibility to schedule escalator maintenance tasks during time slots that are best suited for the facility.
A smart approach to maximising equipment uptime
KONE’s 24/7 Connected Services uses IBM Watson IoT solutions to bring intelligent services to elevators and escalators, moving from reactive to proactive to predictive services.
With it you’ll see more insights become visible, fewer faults and detailed information on maintenance work. Temperature, noise, vibration and other sensors which can monitor performance take maintenance services to the next level.
IBM’s advanced analytics and cloud capabilities provides our service technicians with insights at their fingertips, peace of mind for customers and a better experience for people who use our equipment. The service brings clearer visibility and the ability to diagnose potential faults and repairs.