The Aviation industry is no stranger to change. Since the early days of commercial air travel, the aviation landscape has been moulded by economic influences, government regulations, scientific breakthroughs and the forces of world events. Much of this change, however, has been reactive and incremental. As the world has changed, the industry has adapted in response. There has been little need for “moon-shots” or radical change. Until now.
Under the current terminal design paradigm, the relationship between the number of travelling passengers and the size of the terminal building is embedded in the historical Level of Service metrics. The exact space requirements prescribed by these metrics depend on a number of complex parameters – the critical point being that there is a direct relationship between passenger growth and terminal size: as one increases, so must the other.
As the price of air travel has declined, its uptake by the public has gone up at an approximately linear rate of growth. Looking forward over the next several decades, it is predicted that this rate of growth will change from linear, to almost exponential. It follows that this increase in passenger traffic will necessitate a corresponding increase in the size of the passenger terminal buildings.
Unfortunately, an exponential increase in terminal building size is not a practical reality in most cities. In many places, the lack of available land is itself a limiting factor. However, even in areas where land is physically available, it is believed that the costs associated with the creation and operation of significantly larger terminal buildings are not sustainable.
The aviation industry is at a point where innovation has become a necessity. The current reactive and incremental approach to change is not enough to create sustainable, and profitable, travel experiences for passengers. There is a need to exploit and consolidate the various independent advances in fields such as automation, standards development and personal technology and begin to think of passenger experience in new ways.
The time has come for the industry to take some moon shots.
Acknowledgement: The phrase “moon shots” is borrowed from the pen of Steven Levy.