Yannick Beunardeau is VP Airport IT, EMEA at Amadeus, one of the top ten travel technology companies in the world. Here, he shares his thoughts on today’s airports sector and considers how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has driven airports’ relationship with the cloud
What is the biggest challenge facing airports today?
Uncertainty around travel restrictions, as well as the need to maintain safe and sustainable travel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to impact airports the world over. The pandemic has forced airports to adapt both passenger and flight processes with levels of responsiveness and flexibility that the industry hasn’t needed before. Attention is now turning to a technologyenabled future, one where the cloud and AI combine to deliver new levels of collaboration and efficiency between all players involved at the airport, and sustainability is brought to the forefront.
How can it be tackled?
Technological innovations specifically built with the airport in mind will be key to overcoming this challenge. Already, we have seen a definite shift to contactless technologies at a time when border control has become more time-consuming and maintaining social distancing and minimising physical contact is essential. Biometrics continue to roll out in airports across the world, and self-service-focused tech is helping keep passengers safe when taking to the skies. On the operational side, we foresee greater cloud data-sharing between airlines, airports and air traffic control, delivering better optimisation of resources and significantly improved disruption management.
What has the airports sector learned from the pandemic?
The pandemic has really drawn a clear distinction between the traditional on-premise approach to IT versus cloud computing. An airport cannot mothball a terminal easily if it takes months to provision a network in order to move airline service desks. Rolling out biometrics isn’t straightforward on premises. Even completing an IT project during COVID-19 has been much easier with the cloud. We’ve worked with airports all over the world to complete upgrades without our engineers needing to be on-site. Cloud is the modern foundation airports need to rapidly transform and benefit from new innovations such as AI and biometrics.
As an airport IT professional, what have you learned?
At Amadeus we appreciate that helping an airport to reach its potential using technology is probably only 50% about the underlying technology. The other half of the equation is a clear vision that stakeholders can agree on and support. A collaborative approach to transformation is an absolute necessity in the modern airport environment.
What do you most want to see happen in the airport sector?
I’d like to see airports and passengers worldwide reaping the benefits of the fully end-to-end biometric passenger experience. At Amadeus, we implemented Japan’s first example of this at Narita International Airport, Tokyo, in 2021. The increases in speed and efficiency combined with improved convenience, hygiene and safety will help build passenger confidence and aid the sector’s recovery. I’d also like to see recovery strategies focusing on sustainability and clear paths to carbon reduction. Both are models we expect many airports will be considering in 2022. AI