Flying is becoming accessible to growing numbers of people. On one hand this is due to increasing prosperity, and on the other because of lower cost. The passengers and the airlines which carry them expect outstanding service from airports. For example, no long queues for checking-in or customs, but a smooth and brisk flow.
At the same time airports have to ensure that processing occurs safely. These developments are forcing airports to set up operational processes for passenger and flight handling in such a way that they can deal with more passengers, quickly, comfortably and safely, at the lowest possible cost.
Airports are seeking the solution for this mainly through self-service. It’s a trend which has been evolving for some time, and which represents the future according to Deerns’ airport specialists. "Checking-in at home, handing in your baggage at a drop-off unit. In some airports an RFID chip identification based on wireless transmission in your passport lets you go through a customs gate without having to be cleared by a customs officer," explains Anke Matijssen, Advisory Group Manager Airports Netherlands.
The self-service facilities ease the workload of the staff in the airport, and limit the space required. "For example, fewer check-in desks are needed, and thus less space is required for passengers waiting at the desks," adds International Airport Practice Director Daan Eijgendaal. "That has two benefits: the airport can handle more passengers in the same surface area, and it creates space for shops and hospitality outlets. That in particular is lucrative for airports, because they earn their income mainly through the exploitation of retail and hospitality."
Certain airports are further along the self-service route than others. Eijgendaal: "Nevertheless we see that facilities are often still disconnected. And that means the possibilities of the facilities are not being utilised fully. To take the RFID customs system as an example: it speeds up the customs process, needs less labour and saves space. But the system only really comes into its own if it shares the information about passengers with the airline, for instance.
"That’s because it’s important for the airline to know where the passenger is. Has a late passenger already cleared customs or not? If not, then the airline may decide to depart without him, avoiding the flight having to leave late. The real challenge for airports is thus to let new systems communicate with each other. At Deerns we call that Terminal Collaborative Decision Making (T-CDM)."
Deerns helps airports in all this. At home or abroad, in existing buildings or new builds. "We’re able to do that because of our far-reaching knowledge of aviation processes and systems. Knowledge we have built up in the 40 or so years we have been working for national and international airports. We also stand out because we look at the broader spectrum of an airport. For example, in the case of the RFID customs system, you also need to deal with the government and with privacy rules.
Right from the start we involve the airport’s most important users and stakeholders. Through dialogue sessions we evolve a Statement of Requirements and we work towards an optimum, feasible and affordable design. Our approach has led to the realisation of around 100 sustainable, safe and comfortable airports.
Deerns’ airport expertise in fact goes beyond systems for passenger and baggage handling. For instance, Deerns has developed airport-specific systems for ground lighting, aircraft ground handling, navigation and runway appliances and air traffic control, among others. Engineering for climate control, lighting, fire safety and other building-related systems in terminals and other airport buildings are also part of the portfolio.