Airports are at a crossroads, challenged to make decisions that will shape a strong future in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward from a severely disrupted airport ecosystem requires a new way of thinking that incorporates agility at the core of all efforts.
What does agility involve? How can agility prepare airports for rebounds in air travel and effective response to heightened passenger expectations? In the following Q&A, Tim Morrison, Aviation Director, WSP in the UK, discusses how this capability can facilitate sustained positive change and support performance for years to come.
What is agility in the context of an airport, and why is it essential?
Tim Morrison: Agility is the power to adapt and adjust in a timely way; it is also the ability to anticipate and be responsive to customer needs. Agility requires an airport planning strategy that builds in flexibility.
An agile airport combines several key actions: embracing digitization to improve operations and continuously advance the passenger experience; adapting to different economic models; and deploying Modern Methods of Construction [MMC] during redevelopment—all within an overarching decarbonization wrapper.
To be fully agile towards achieving optimal continuous service, each of these facets must reach their full potential. Taking a Future Ready1 perspective will enable the best possible impact. Future Ready considers key trends—related to society, climate, resources, and technology—when making decisions to support today’s and tomorrow’s needs.
Airports are dynamic ecosystems, able to respond to change while also being catalysts for change. This dynamism has already been demonstrated in various ways, such as their finance structure, be it public or private or a combination of them; the application of technology enabling seamless home-airport-destination travel experiences as well as contactless security and CT [computerized tomography] scanning; and the generation of opportunities to advance the airport experience rather than encouraging passengers to rush through, to and from the gate. Airports have long embraced DfMA [Design for Manufacture and Assembly]; this MMC philosophy is the best way to expand and redevelop airports whilst maintaining operations. Utilizing pre-assembled modules—a kit of parts—is key. Looking into the future, facilities should embrace re-using a given kit of parts over and over again in different configurations to suit varying spatial requirements. This re-use practice, a natural extension of the MMC approach, enables projects to drive down the use of raw materials and reinforces the circular economy mindset too.