Dubai is building a new mega-airport that is expected to be able to handle 120 million annual passengers. Depending on the actual passenger volume that travels through Dubai, that would place it among the world’s largest airports (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport are the world’s biggest in passenger volume with more than 96 million passengers in 2014 and 86 million-plus, respectively, according to the Airport Council International’s most recent figures.)
But unlike airports in other geographies, Dubai is thinking smarter, not bigger. And the sophisticated use of Big Data and analytics are an essential part of its strategy.
For example, executives behind the new airport are planning to use advanced analytics to assign gates more dynamically by scheduling flights with high percentages of common passengers as physically close to one another as possible.
Meanwhile, part of the popularity of the Dubai airport is the shopping opportunities that attract some travelers. But shopping in an airport also cuts into the time passengers have available for making connecting flights. To help improve the traveler experience, the airport has introduced a new program under which retailers can scan passengers’ boarding passes and provide them notifications about departure gates, boarding times, and the amount of time that’s needed to move from their current location to their assigned gate.
Dubai Airport’s applications signal future use cases of Big Data and analytics in airport operations. For instance, the use of Internet of Things (IoT) data transmitted by airplane gear, baggage handling systems, airport security, and other parts of an airport’s operations center can be used to help keep airline crews, airport employees, and passengers notified about equipment and other types of issues that may result in delays or impact other aspects of the passenger experience. According to the SITA 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey, 86% of airlines involved in the study expect IoT to deliver clear benefits over the next three years while more than one-third (37%) of airlines have already allocated budget to it.
Meanwhile, other airports are using Big Data and analytics for other opportunities beyond strengthening operational efficiency. For instance, London Gatwick Airport is using passengers’ biometric data obtained from iris scans to track passenger movement across all parts of the airport – from car parking to retail activity and check-in, to better understand the customer journey and to provide passengers with personalized experiences.