This year’s Passenger Terminal Conference (Twitter: #PTE2013) was packed to the rafters with interesting talks. In fact, the biggest challenge was to decide which of the simultaneously offered presentations to attend: they were all interesting. As a result of being spoilt for choice, I jumped around and visited a range of presentations from various conference streams – ranging from Airport Design and Planning, through to Customer Service, Passenger Experience, Commercial Development and Strategic Planning.
As I bounced between sessions, I noted that there was an air of convergence and commonality between the various areas of specialty with the industry. This is likely an indication of the maturation of various ideas, and a possible sign that a common vision for the “Terminal of the Future” is within reach. In particular, the following themes emerged from this year’s conference, based on the presentations I attended:
- The proliferation of mobile technology. There is an industry wide strategic move towards the utilization of mobile, and mobile related (e.g. NFC) technology. In SITA’s vision beyond 2015, Catherine Mayer described the need to start looking beyond mobile to ensure that passengers feel “in control” and are provided with seamless travel opportunities.
- A focus on passenger experience. This year, it was no longer a question of whether passenger experience was important, it was assumed that it was. As Philip Wagnert from SAS articulated: “Customer satisfaction is money in the bank”. The focus on the passenger was touched on from all angles: technology, design, planning, retail, and even the environment.
- A need to address communication between stakeholders. This theme was articulated quite subtly, but there was evidence from various aviation stakeholders that the future of “seamless travel” will necessitate increased communication and co-operation. At Incheon, Jung (Cristina) Mi Lim reported that opening communication channels across stakeholders was at the heart of continued airport service improvements. From a pragmatic perspective, the facilitation of improved communication relies on the development of industry wide data standards: Alaistair Deacon (Amor Group) presentation sketched out a high-level approach towards this goal.
- Strategic growth in the middle east. The middle east is channeling “unconstrained growth” to position the region as the hub for global air travel. The strategically strong geographical location and free flow of resources will cement the area as the go-between of choice for world-wide travel.
- Convergence of ideas about the future travel experience. It is generally agreed that the future travel experience needs to be “simpler” and “streamlined”. This observation was articulated from various angles: Kiran Merchant from Port Authority of NY & NJ reported on the results of a workshop with over 90 industry leaders in September last year. It was interesting that the results from this perspective overlapped greatly with some of the findings from my own research. From an architectural perspective, there was consensus that terminal design needs to become simpler and more flexible. David Holm from Cox Architecture and Mark Wolfe from Hassell both gave different perspectives on the need to make terminals more flexible, and more integrated into the increasingly urban cities that we live in. Again, their results resonated with the research outcomes from my own work, although they originated from different vantage points.
The general conference atmosphere was collegiate and very positive – no doubt an indication that the future of air travel is on the verge of being shaken up … the time for “moon shots” is surely near, and as travelers, we will all be better off for it.
Looking forward to the conference in Barcelona next year!
Source: notes from numerous presentations at Passenger Terminal Conference, Geneva Switzaerland April 2013.