10 cutting edge airport innovation ideas

By Hélène Dubos | Trends & Innovation

Dec 06
10 cutting edge airport innovation ideas

There’s no doubt that many travelers have a less than satisfactory relationship with airports. Whether it’s confusing layouts, uncomfortable seating or poor quality WiFi, the airport is seen by many as a necessary evil rather than a place to enjoy. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look at 10 unique airport innovation ideas in 2019 that show how these environments can be made a positive and enjoyable part of a trip.

10 airport innovation ideas in 2019

Here are 10 new ideas for airports which show how arrival and departure can be made better for passengers and airports alike.

1. Robot assistants

One of the most exciting new ideas for airports is the use of robot assistants in their terminals. An impressive example is AIRSTAR, a robot at Korea’s Incheon airport. Incheon airport claims it is the first fully functioning airport assistant robot and is designed to help passengers navigate the terminal, leading them to their destination, as well as answering questions. Passengers will find AIRSTAR robots at arrivals and departures, bag collection and check-in areas (read about other AI use cases in the airline industry here).

The robot uses a combination of voice recognition, artificial intelligence, and spatial awareness to navigate the airport. When a passenger is lost or confused, they can strike up a conversation with the multilingual robot or use its touch screen to ask for information. AIRSTAR even stops and slows down if it has moved too far ahead of the traveler it is leading.

2. Biometrics

Imagine walking from the airport taxi stand right through to your seat on the plane without breaking your stride. That’s the ultimate goal of biometrics, an exciting airport innovation being trialed at a number of sites around the world.

At London’s Heathrow, for example, trials are ongoing with a facial recognition service that would allow passengers to pass through check-in, security, and gates without needing to present their passport, ticket or other documentation.

3. Voice check-in

Why waste time queuing at a check-in desk or filling in tedious online forms when you can get your voice assistant to do it instead? One of the most innovative airport trends is the use of popular voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa which are partnering with a growing number of airlines such as Virgin to let their passengers check-in to flights using voice commands.

Passengers can ask their voice assistant for details about the flight, its status, number, and other information, as well as telling it to complete the check-in process for them. That means one less thing for busy passengers to do when catching a flight.

4. Food delivery within the terminal

While airports are getting busier with ever more passengers, there’s no room for restaurants to expand and accommodate the extra demand. And that’s why Dubai airport has become the first to trial food delivery within the terminal through the Deliveroo app - a unique airport innovation that really makes the most of new tech. Passengers can now get food delivered to them at their gate or in any other waiting area so they do not have to queue for food at a restaurant and find a place to sit.

To learn about other ways that airports can manage increased traffic, read our blog.

5. Virtual Reality

Let’s be frank, waiting in an airport can be dull - especially during a delay or a long layover. And that’s part of the reason that a number of airports (and airlines) have begun offering VR experiences to travelers in lounges and at gates. Not only do VR games, films and experiences keep passengers entertained, they also present a potential new revenue stream too - a real win-win.

6. Reusable luggage tags

If you fly frequently, queuing up to drop off luggage can be a frustrating experience. And that’s where airport technology products like ViewTag can help. The passenger purchases a reusable tag which they attach to their suitcase and then provide all check-in details - this is then sent to the tag and appears on a display.

This means that passengers don’t need to queue up to receive a paper tag - instead, they are fast-tracked at a separate desk where luggage is weighed and bag-drop is complete in seconds rather than minutes.

7. Green airports

With climate change at the top of the agenda, airports around the world are introducing initiatives to make their estates more energy efficient - or even carbon neutral. San Diego airport is leading the way here, with its Green Build initiative of infrastructure upgrades. The airport will use energy more efficiently while also installing an array of solar panels which will bring its carbon footprint down.

8. Chatbots

Chatbots are increasingly common in customer service (as we described in a recent blog) and are one of the most popular airport technology trends too. For example, London’s Gatwick airport has developed a Facebook messenger chatbot named Gail which will answer questions about flight times, give directions to lounges, bathrooms or cafes, and give users notifications about their flight status. The idea is to make the passenger experience more personalized and free up resources too.

9. Digital direction panels

Ever been trying to catch a flight connection, only to be confused by which direction you need to go to make your transfer? Prague airport aims to tackle this problem through the use of digital signs. The panels will contain more information than traditional direction signs and will display information in six languages (Czech, English, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Korean). What’s more, they will adapt the information shown depending on the composition of passengers on a flight.

For example, if a flight connection is heading to Moscow, the information displayed will be primarily written in Russian (although other languages will also be available). That means that passengers who are not so confident with Czech or English can still navigate the airport.

10. Personalized assistance for disabilities

Airports can be challenging environments for people with mobility, visual or hearing difficulties. Fortunately, an inspiring airport technology trend is to make use of the growing number of apps being designed to help tackle this issue. Take Aira, an app designed for blind people which helps them navigate airports independently. The app guides them to their gate, and can also lead them to restaurants and even read out menus.

Inspiring airport innovation ideas

As these 10 airport innovation ideas in 2019 show, cutting edge technology is helping make the traveler experience so much better, while also helping airports cut costs too. At Conztanz, we’re continuously working to help make the traveler experience more efficient, more personalized and more enjoyable. Learn about our work here.

For more airline innovation ideas, read our blog on the future of inflight shopping.