by Tom McCormack, Chief Technology Officer, Western Sydney Airport
As technology continues to influence and shape every aspect of our day to day lives, airports have yet to fully leverage this emerging capability of technology to deliver a seamless and stress-free travel experience.
Over the last 20 to 30 years, airport operations remained largely unchanged – largely reliant on segregated technology systems and manual processes managed by in-person interaction. This has made it harder to respond to changing resource needs and increased strain during peak periods.
In recent years, small evolutionary changes to improve and simplify passenger flow through a terminal have started to become standard practice. Self-service check-in and baggage drops at automated kiosks are commonplace.
More recently, upgrades to security and passenger screening queueing ahead of departure are becoming more common and upon arrival in Australia, e-gates for immigration are a welcome change.
As we are designing Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, we’re thinking beyond these discrete systems upgrades and considering how tomorrow’s technology will come together with great design and customer service to create a stress-free experience for our customers.
Global challenges of air travel
From the moment passengers arrive, through check-in, security and immigration to the boarding gate, we want every stage to be fast and easy. Throughout an airport, there are more than 100 technology systems, ranging from baggage handling to airside access, building utilities to aircraft apron management, and customer information to freight management.
In a smart airport, these systems must communicate and work together effectively from your front door to the aerobridge. A 2019 survey of more than 1,000 Brits found that the single most stressful part of air travel was getting to the airport (63 per cent), followed by baggage collection (49 per cent), and passing through security and waiting for transfers (47 per cent).
Australian airports are prone to the same concerns. We all know the delight of the captain’s announcement upon landing that you are ten minutes ahead of schedule, only to discover there is no operator available to connect the aerobridge to the aircraft.
The desperation of the connecting flight dash between terminals, only to discover the flight has moved gates. These situations are frustrating and unnecessary.
That’s why we are putting ourselves in our passengers’ shoes, and taking advantage of the latest technology, so we can build the best airport possible.
An integrated transport journey
Western Sydney Airport is focused on designing and delivering a fit-for-purpose airport, digitally enabled at the terminal, for our passengers and airline customers.
What if we could identify you as a passenger even before you arrived, and you could place your bag on a conveyor belt, and walk through passenger screening without breaking your stride? You could be identified through digital means and smart devices, and be placed safely with other passengers on your flight with ease.
Upon arrival, your bag would be returned to you with precision, or could be easily transported to the office, your home or hotel for your convenience on a dedicated service.
On the landside, we are closely collaborating with Transport for NSW, Sydney Metro, Australian federal law enforcement agencies, the Department of Agriculture and a range of other organisations to deliver tightly integrated transport and logistical access for both customers and cargo.
Two new Sydney Metro train stations at the Airport Terminal and Airport Business Park, and integration with the new M12 motorway into and out of the airport precinct, will ensure passenger and freight arrival alike will be fast, more accurate and reliable from kerbside to the plane, safely, seamlessly and stress free.
While we are still early in the design journey, safety, privacy and security is front of mind. The requirements of running a smart and modern airport in a heavily regulated industry are complex.
Compliance with federal and state legislation is necessary, and while there’s a lot of work ahead, our team is committed to delivering the people of Western Sydney a game-changing airport that we can all be proud of.
Preparing for a post-covid reality
A smart airport for passengers and their families means a better passenger journey, a consistent service, real-time information and getting you where you need to go safely.
For airlines, efficient and smooth turnaround of aircraft is crucial to maximise asset usage, build profitable routes and demonstrate value for money.
According to IATA’s 20-year global forecast, while the aviation industry is resetting in a post COVID-19 reality, there will be 2.8 billion more passengers per year by 2039.
Opening in 2026, Western Sydney International stands ready as the full-service airport of choice for international, ultra-long haul and domestic travel on full-service airlines and low-cost carriers.
Within 20 years, one in two Sydneysiders will call Western Sydney home, and demand for passenger journeys in the Sydney region alone will more than double from 40 to 87 million.
Coupled with the power of technology to deliver a seamless, stress free travel experience – Western Sydney International will be the smart choice.