Behind a simple definition is a vast set of elements that work together towards the same goal: To bring passengers to their destination. From a small landing strip to the busiest airport in the world, airlines, passenger and handling services, maintenance engineers, security personnel and many others all work towards this same goal. But what is the distinguishing feature when it comes to fulfilling this objective?
If we ask the question ‘What makes an airport function properly?’ the most common answers refer to punctuality and security line wait times, and those answers are right. From the passenger’s standpoint, the airport experience should be as pleasant as possible, which requires a quick entry, a comfortable waiting area, excellent services, knowing when boarding will begin, and leaving on time.
Airports’ challenge is to manage passenger movement safely and efficiently.
Airport security changed worldwide in the wake of the September 11 attacks: entry and identification controls became more exhaustive and certain items and liquids were prohibited on planes. All of these measures affected the way we understand our relationship with passengers.
Good airport management should focus all efforts on improving passenger security and on transmitting a feeling of safety (as opposed to frustration and danger).
Security agents play a vital role in transmitting these feelings to every passenger who places his or her personal items on the belts and passes through the metal detectors. There’s a very fine line between respect and tranquility in a job well done during the brief moment when the passenger and security agent cross paths.
After security, the passenger continues on to the terminal. There he or she can enjoy a range of services while waiting to embark, including restaurants, leisure and resting areas and large selection of stores and boutiques.
It’s important for the plane to leave on time so that the wait—albeit more pleasant thanks the services available in the terminal—doesn’t become tedious and boring. This is made possible through efficient coordination of all parties involved. When it’s time for take-off, the plane should be checked, fuelled, clean and safe, passenger services should be prepared, and the crew, passengers, luggage and cargo should all be on board. The airport’s role is to provide a structure with information systems, installations and infrastructure that provides support for all parties in this uniquely dynamic environment. Every day there are around 1,200 flights and 185,000 passengers moving through 200 boarding gates at Heathrow Airport in London.
It’s safe to say that, except in cases of extreme weather, an airport never stops. Airports must work to improve and adapt to new technologies and legislation while also handling more prosaic tasks such as maintenance and cleaning, as passengers arrive and depart in a safe, environmentally-friendly facility.
Smart airport: (Ferrovial Airports) Infrastructure that connects people with a world that is friendlier, cleaner, more modern and more global.