Airport Angst – it doesn’t have to be this way…

To manage current demands and prepare for future demands, airport operators and border forces need to fully understand their operating environment and its heritage, write Mark Crego and Richard
Camman of Accenture.

If you’ve ever waited in an airport queue that’s ended up being longer than your flight, you’ve experienced first-hand the powerful impact of increasing numbers of travellers and more vigilant security measures.  Each year more than 700 million EU citizens and third-country nationals cross the EU’s external borders.  By 2030 the number of people at European airports could have increased by 80%, which will result in longer delays and queues for travellers if border checking procedures are not modernised in time.
Simultaneously the economic climate is driving an expectation to reduce operational costs and streamline processes at border crossings as national security agencies seek to increase safety requirements and consumer demand for improved airport services increase.
Airports are now under pressure from all sides to be flexible and cost-efficient while offering a positive traveller experience.
For any flight, take-off procedures are fundamental to being adequately prepared to safely reach the final destination.  To manage current, and prepare for future, demands airport operators and border forces need to fully assess their environment and its heritage – understanding the four factors that are driving ‘airport angst’.
1: Rapid technological change
New technologies create challenges but are largely a positive force for change.  Indeed, the European Commission is proposing legislation for a ‘smart borders’ initiative to simplify life for non-EU passport holders travelling to the European Union and to better monitor third-country nationals crossing the borders.[1] Whether taking advantage of ‘eGates’ to
reduce passport queues or employing biometrics to support accurate identification, new technologies require investment in both time and resources and are ignored at the peril of both airport operators and travellers.
2: Data overload
While the amount (and quality) of information on flights and passengers is increasing, airports often don’t have the tools and processes to make the best use of all this data. In the EU, eleven member states are currently implementing national entry/exit systems which systematically collect all entry and exit records of third-country nationals crossing their respective external borders.  However these national systems are not linked to similar systems in other member states[2] and collaboration across border management agencies remains sporadic.
3: Increased demand on border agencies
Every year more than 700 million EU citizens and third-country nationals cross the European Union’s external borders.  This number is expected to rise significantly in the future.  By 2030 the number of people at European airports could increase by 80%, which will result in longer delays and queues for travellers if border checking procedures are not
modernised in time.[3]
This escalation in airport traffic is placing great strain on border agencies, which struggle to keep waiting times low while operating on reduced budgets at a time of growing security concerns.
4: Daily operational challenges
Alongside all the challenges and constraints border agencies and airport operators face, they also need to be agile enough to deal with the unexpected when it arises.  Every day,
airports around the world handle crises as a result of weather conditions, maintenance issues, security threats and workforce challenges.  When these unplanned events occur serious consequences arise for both airports and travellers.
Analytics to the rescue
‘Analytics’ is fast emerging as a source of competitive advantage and is crucial to helping
airport authorities and border management agencies resolve the operating challenges they face.  Through analytics, executives can make informed decisions that bring better business outcomes to all stakeholders.  Today, analytics is being applied increasingly around day-to-day airport operations to improve business performance.  There are three
ways analytics can be applied to reduce ‘airport angst’:
Step 1: Drive operational efficiencies
Many airport operators and border management agencies are now using analytics to help achieve operational excellence by re-engineering key processes.  The first step in the journey is to undertake a formal assessment to identify the strategic and tactical areas requiring operational improvement and where new collaborative ways of working could introduce greater flexibility into the organisation.  Such flexibility means that airport employees can better accommodate unexpected demand from aircraft delays and flight cancellations, and scarce resources can be allocated to areas of most need.
Step 2: Design new processes through managed services
As recognised by a recent European Commission white paper,[4] only by first fully understanding the functions and day-to-day demands of check-in, immigrations, customs, baggage claim and retail can airports seize on opportunities to improve the customer experience, reduce waiting time and improve service.  Access to advanced analytics capabilities that enable better planning and forecasting is now vital to ensure all the end-to-end processes a busy airport requires are in place and operating to the highest standards.
Managed service contracts are becoming increasingly common amongst airport operators and border management agencies seeking to have their planning, forecasting and process modelling needs handled externally.  By outsourcing, operators can access analytics capabilities that will better plan and forecast the end-to-end processes a busy airport needs.
Step 3: Implement technology solutions for long-term improvements
Whether seeking automated border clearance (ABC) or employing the latest biometrics capabilities such as large-scale matching and face-recognition solutions, new technologies are without doubt helping to facilitate the movement of people and goods across borders while enhancing security.
The facilitation of biometric passports, smartcards, registered traveller cards and video analytics are all changing the face of airport and border operations as we have come to know them.
‘Cloud computing’ is also playing an increased role around resource planning and driving operational efficiencies by enabling the accessing and sharing of information across multiple organisations, stakeholders and geographies.
Take flight
Airports and border management agencies can reduce costs, increase security and drive
greater operational efficiencies by using the advances in analytic technologies now available to them – making ‘airport angst’ a thing of the past and getting you where you want to go faster, more easily and more safely.