Airport World editor, Joe Bates, reflects on the enabling power of new technology at the same time as not forgetting the importance of the human touch in air travel.
The IT crowd
If I am being perfectly honest here, given the choice, I would always prefer to communicate with someone face-to-face or by telephone rather than through the use of technology, which clearly is the preferred choice of doing things today, including for many airports and airlines.
Indeed, when I booked a family holiday a few months ago, I did everything online and didn’t speak to anyone during the entire process. How fantastic and convenient I thought, until I had a query about a payment taken from my account, which took 10 days to resolve because there was literally no telephone number on the website for me to call!
Putting things right involved me sending five emails and filling in several forms for them to “investigate my grievance” – a process not helped by the fact that the airline blamed the travel website for the error and the travel website blamed the airline – when surely a simple phone call to someone explaining the issue could have sorted everything out in in five minutes?
In marked contrast to this long and complicated process, while on holiday, I wanted to hire a wheelchair for my dad, and all it took was one phone call to the local tourist board and five minutes later there was a wheelchair ready for me to pick up.
What did I learn from this experience? Well, apart from the obvious about how technology is transforming the way we travel and live our daily lives, it showed me that however brilliant and enabling new technology can be, we must not lose sight of the importance of human interaction in the travel process.
Terri Morrissey and Dr Richard Plenty actually touch on this point and provide their thoughts on artificial intelligence and robots in the workplace in their regular ‘People matters’ column.
Anyway, focusing on all the good things about new technology, this ‘IT innovation’ themed issue contains a number of articles showing how the world’s airport continue to be pioneers in terms of the trialling, development and adoption of new technology.
ACI World’s former head of passenger and airport services, Arturo García-Alonso, sets the scene by looking at what new technologies are on the horizon and what we can expect to be commonplace at airports in 10 to 15 years’ time.
We also find out more about how Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport has become the first gateway to move its entire operations to the cloud; Toronto Pearson’s efforts to improve passenger flows; and how Formula 1 techniques are being used to fast track better airport design.
We turn the spotlight on the latest autonomous vehicle trials at airports; learn about how GIS mapping technology has benefitted Reno-Tahoe International Airport; and consider whether the time is right to modernise today’s mostly manual and fragmented cargo distribution processes by going digital.
Elsewhere in the magazine you can read about the importance of building people friendly terminals that enhance passenger journeys; Charlotte Douglas’ stormwater management solution; and the creation of an innovative new brand experience at Orlando Sanford.
Our main airport feature is on Bogotá–El Dorado, where OPAIN CEO, Álavaro González, tells us more about his gateway’s future development plans and how he is looking forward to Colombia’s capital city hosting the upcoming ACI-Latin America & Caribbean (ACI-LAC) Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition.
We also hear from ACI World director general, Angela Gittens, who talks about ACI’s efforts to develop products and services to help airports prepare for and mitigate cyber-attacks; review the recent SMART Airports & Regions Conference and Exhibition in El Paso; and discover the latest industry news on our World Business Partner pages.
I know I am preaching to the converted, but it never fails to amaze me how airports continue to innovate and impress when it comes to IT, airport design and a host of other key issues on a daily basis.