The airport of the future will be at the centre of vast new residential and commercial developments creating an aerotropolis, according to a leading airport expert.
Speaking at New Civil Engineer’s Airports 2017 conference, Weston Williamson and Partners associate partner Alex Kirkwood said that with the introduction of cleaner and quieter aircraft, the area around airports would become more attractive to developers.
“Typically, airports have been built beyond the city boundary and surrounded by undeveloped land, principally due to aircraft noise and poor air quality,” said Kirkwood. “But in future decades we will see an increase in aerotropolis development and airports will become catalysts for regional economic development, creating jobs and homes.”
Airports together with high speed rail stations would form the centre of developments, with private cars restricted to orbital road and underground park and ride stations. Electric buses and autonomous vehicles would transfer people to the airport and around the commercial development. Pedestrians and cyclists will be given priority over roads.
These measures, he said, would allow airport capacity to be increased.
Airports of the future will not only see baggage transfer available on town centre airport express services, but new digital technology for bag tag machines could be located in hotels, bus stations and transport hubs to allow a more stress free travelling experience.
Kirkwood said travellers in a lower state of stress were then more likely to spend time and money on the airport commercial offers.
New digital technology including apps on smartphones to give personalised ‘time to gate’ information, and biometric facial and iris recognition linked to passports would further help to ease the hassles of travelling.
“With the app if you wander too far away from your gate you’ll be informed about it,” he said. “Biometric technology will radically change the customer experience. Passenger’s facial image or iris details will be captured at the first touch point.
“All subsequent touch points will recognise the passenger and they will not be required to represent their travel documents.”
This ‘walkthrough’ customer experience is now being trialled at Brisbane Airport with Air New Zealand and Schiphol Airport with KLM.
He described security searches as a part of travelling which most people did not enjoy as it was slow and intrusive, but realised was necessary. However, new 3D scanners being adopted at an increasing number of airports did not require laptops and liquids to be removed from hand luggage. Furthermore he said research being undertaken at North-eastern University in the US was developing high-capacity sensors which can screen multiple travellers at a time. Potential prototypes could be ready for trails in 2020.
New layouts are also being tested with seating at the centre of the shopping ‘mall’ rather than the ‘outdated’ snaking corridor leading the passenger through the airport. The new layouts also include indoor parks with trees and plants.
“Our design approach is being developed within the broader context of sustainable transportation systems, city development and a holistic approach commercial, operational customer experience,” said Kirkwood.