Airport traffic is back, and passenger expectations for greater digital experiences are higher than ever before. As such, airports are undeniably under pressure to shift from being simply public infrastructure to a seamless part of the whole passenger journey. Ensuring a smooth travel experience has already compelled airports to progress their digital transformation, turning to AI for a helping hand.

From baggage handling with AI-powered tracking to traffic management through automated flow management, airport infrastructure has recently embraced advanced technology to enhance its core operations and improve the customer experience.

Kanu Aravind, head of digital and innovation at IBS Software

For airports to continue to firmly situate themselves as modern and efficient hubs for travelling and retail, it is imperative that technology continues to be embraced, and even accelerated.

A technology program that starts from adapting the legacy infrastructure underpinning airport operations and embraces innovative technologies will bring the best benefits for airports.

Personalising the passenger experience

For airports, traveller enjoyment relies on the quality of customer experience that they can deliver. Fundamentally, poor experiences result in reduced loyalty, and a smaller, less engaged consumer base.

Keeping the customer experience at the centre is critical, and with heightened digital expectations AI can be used to meet the needs of passengers by providing experiences that feel curated and personalised. Technology has the potential to build a customer-centric culture for airport visitors.

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Collaboration can be fostered with retailers, airlines and service providers to create the most integrated, and personal experience for the consumer. AI has the power to take the collection of rich passenger data further, specifically by utilising data analytics solutions.

Technology has the potential to build a customer-centric culture for airport visitors.

Airports and their service providers can use these solutions to achieve enhanced personalised travel and retail experiences for each customer, based on passenger demographics and preferences.

A personalised experience can manifest through the offerings of tailored travel information, assistance for individuals with special requirements, and access – including specific offers – to the best spaces in the airport for relaxation or commerce.

With this personalised experience offering, airports have the power to go beyond just being a place where an individual waits for their plane.

Risk reduction and operational efficiencies

AI can improve more than the customer experience. It can also be applied to the risk detection processes in airports, by detecting anomalies, predicting potential risks before they occur, and providing early warnings to airport personnel.

More specifically, airports can implement data analytics solutions to scour various data sources, and build monitoring algorithms to identify risks, leaving the human end user to decide the next steps after detection. By enhancing security operations and processes, AI can improve airports’ capabilities to keep travellers safe, especially as passenger levels continue to grow.

AI can be a firm helping hand in the automation and optimisation of an airport’s internal operations and processes. It can aid in managing delays with easier staff scheduling, optimising passenger flow, or reducing queue waiting times.

Airports must view the implementation of AI alongside the need to modernise their foundational operational systems.

Advanced technology can also be used to provide clear, real-time insights for airport personnel to make informed decisions. With the right insights, the choices made will maximise productivity, minimise downtime, and overall improve airports’ capacity to handle growing passenger volumes more effectively.

However, it is essential to emphasise that many core operational systems are founded on legacy technology and an infrastructure that cannot maximise the full potential of AI solutions. For passengers to truly benefit from the most efficient and effective airport operations, airports must view the implementation of AI alongside the need to modernise their foundational operational systems.

Leaving legacy tech behind to innovate with AI

Outdated legacy technology is majorly limiting the digitisation potential of airports. Legacy systems that underpin an airport’s infrastructure are often difficult to maintain, cannot integrate easily with AI and therefore are not maximising the valuable investments being made into AI and advanced solutions.

If legacy infrastructure remains, airports will find they are at risk of operational hazards like cybersecurity threats, while enforcing a negative customer experience, and failing to meet consumers’ demands.

Airports will find they must follow in the footsteps of AI itself, learning from the world around them, and changing their approaches based on the needs of their customers. But without an upgraded technology infrastructure, airports risk limiting their ability to innovate by sticking to legacy technologies that are incapable of hosting advanced solutions.

With the help of AI-enhanced benefits, fuelled by an updated technology stack, airports can become a modern hub of travel and retail that isn’t ignored by the passenger, but anticipated.