Changing Fast and Slow

The Malthusian Trap of Airports
July 9, 2019

Over the past weeks I traveled through six US airports of which five are in the US top ten busiest, combined processing almost half a billion passengers in 2018. Once again, I observed passengers ‘standing in line forever to be helped quickly’, while large parts of airport capacity were not being used

The D-word 

Disruption is a dirty word in aviation. Very dirty. While some companies gladly describe their solutions as being ‘disruptive’, possibly because in general it suggests a level of ‘coolness’, airport and airline executives cringe. Maybe ‘innovation’ is less threatening. Maybe ‘change’. Maybe ‘slow change’.

Change in Decade Increments

The first self-service check-in kiosks were deployed over twenty years ago and became common ten years later. Ten years ago, self-service bag drop was introduced and today is being installed at prime airport locations. Biometric passenger border processing was introduced at Amsterdam Schiphol in 2001! 

Uberizing

To start using underutilized check-in capacity, airports increasingly need to embrace the d-word and forcefully uberize the underutilized capacity. This uberization is known as ‘common-use’ at airports and it really is common sense to do it via self-service. I’ll get back to uberizing and biometrics next time. 

Fast and Slow

Over the coming years a Malthusian trap, where passenger growth outpaces airport capacity, can be avoided. Slow change is not bad, as long as proven, decade-old, solutions are implemented fast. 

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