2018 Predictions: Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports

Transport: customers must come top of the innovation agenda
2018 Predictions: Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports
The end of queues: plans are afoot to transform the airport experience
By Paul Griffiths
Sun 24 Dec 2017 03:21 PM

At Dubai Airports, having a long-term view is a necessity and each year gives us the opportunity to track progress and reaffirm our approach.

While we are mindful of short-term fluctuations due to social-economic factors, we must also consider macro-economic factors and emerging trends that will shape our world 10 years from today.

As a case in point we achieved 89 million passengers in 2017, despite numerous challenges to growth including laptop bans, visa restrictions, geo-political issues and the resulting fluctuations in consumer confidence and demand. In 2018 traffic across both of our airports, DXB and DWC, is projected to exceed 91 million.

In the long term, our geocentric location, our open skies policy that promotes traffic expansion, and Dubai as a leading centre for trade, commerce and tourism, will spur traffic growth. Accordingly, we are solidifying plans to accommodate increased passenger numbers and growing cargo volumes.

While we continue to invest in cost-effective connection services and infrastructure, scale cannot and will not be our sole focus going forward. Our DXB Plus programme, for example, is designed to generate an additional 28 million passengers per year without building anything. Technology and process will boost DXB’s capacity to 118 million by 2023.

This approach flies in the face of traditional thinking. Historically the industry’s approach to expansion has been all about investing in bigger facilities to accommodate more passengers.  Current legacy thinking has also produced a series of vertical solutions for our customers to pass through horizontally – during which they are massed together into queues.  This is not modern thinking.

Today’s most successful companies start with the customer. Examples of this abound; Uber, Amazon, Facebook, eBay, all take what customers hate about taxis, shopping, communication and selling stuff – and eliminate all the hassle from their chosen industry. The aviation industry is shamefully behind. What is needed across our sector globally is breakthrough thinking with the customer at its centre, and that is at the top of Dubai Airports’ agenda.

As an industry, we need to foster an environment that is genuinely collaborative. An environment that uses a common language, has common objectives and does not hide behind boundaries.

We need to eliminate weak links. The most intrusive processes in travel revolve around documentation, validation and security. And these occur multiple times during a single journey. The processes on the ground are the weakest part of the aviation supply chain. Legacy thinking would lead to the conclusion that the industry must strengthen the weaker links. Forward thinking would suggest that we eliminate them all together. The power of the customer to select the most convenient components of their end-to-end journey must drive the design of airport infrastructure and technology.

The adoption of global industry standards for initiatives such as a single biometric footprint, will transform the customer experience, by enabling a one-time capture of data which can then be used at multiple points in the customer journey in a seamless and non-intrusive way. Imagine an airport with no check-in, no immigration, and discrete, non-intrusive security, all enabled by a single identity database, securely held in the cloud and available to those who need evidence of our identity as we travel. The possibility then emerges to re-order the entire travel process around customer service rather than around the convenience of everyone else in the supply chain.

And if we extend our thinking around making the links between ground and air more efficient, then maybe we don’t need an airport terminal at all. Why not make the start of that journey at multiple points of convenience near where people live or work? Why not disaggregate the airport terminal and build multiple smaller, convenient entry points into an airport transit system that can take customers from their homes or places of work directly to their plane? It would enable the bypassing of all the changes of mode, baggage issues, queues, multiple documentation and security checks and long walking distances – all the things we hate when we travel.

Personal mobility is also in the midst of a revolution. Fast airport links will no longer be part of a mass transit system. Pods will be able to take customers from their chosen point of entry directly to their plane in a matter of a few minutes – without leaving their seat. A seamless, door-to-door solution will make the entire journey experience faster, more relaxing and more efficient.

It lies within our grasp.

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