This past month saw airports, airlines and the broader continue to benefit from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and broader digitalization applications. At the same time, the industry remains focused on proving that Sustainable Aircraft Fuels (SAFs) can reduce the formation of contrails, which are clouds created by jet engines under certain atmospheric conditions and believed to contribute to atmospheric warming and cooling. Recognizing increasing demand, airlines are also taking to heart the results of the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) 2023 Global Passenger Survey which reflected air travelers’ priority on speed and convenience.
AI supporting better turnarounds
One airport which is applying AI to enhance the turnaround process and reduce flight delays is Eindhoven Airport. The turnaround process begins when an aircraft is parked and ends when it departs. Ground handling activities (i.e., boarding and disembarking passengers, catering, loading/unloading luggage, etc.) occur during that timeframe to prepare the aircraft for its next flight.
Working in cooperation with Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, Eindhoven is using Deep Turnaround Cameras on the apron to automatically detect the start and end times of the ground handling process. This enables planners to predict when a turnaround process will end and leverage advanced visibility showing when an aircraft is set to move on. This enables planners to determine which flights may require additional attention. While currently four aircraft stands are equipped with cameras, the airport’s plans are to place the cameras in all 14 of its stands by 2024.
According to Eindhoven Airport´s Chief Operations Officer Mirjam van den Bogaard, “Eindhoven Airport works continuously on the further optimization of airport processes. Deep Turnaround is a valuable instrument that contributes to this, both on the ground and in the air. The latter is something more long term. Our aim is to be able to predict as accurately as possible when aircraft can depart. There is still a lot to be gained for passengers, airlines, and our sustainability ambitions.”
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport’s Director of IT & Data Lennert L’Amie added, “The insights provided by data help to make the ground operation more predictable. We’ve collaborated with various stakeholders on Deep Turnaround to make the ground handling process more transparent. It is worthwhile to share this knowledge with other airports and learn from their experiences so that we can continue developing the product.”
The importance of digitalization for air cargo
With the broader application of digitalization, data quality within the air cargo sector is expected to improve. That is the observation of one of Harald Sieke, department head of the Center of Logistics and Mobility, Fraunhofer IML Aviation Logistics who spoke on the topic at the Air Cargo Southeast Asia event.
Many share Sieke’s opinion on the role of digitalization in air cargo data quality and agree that it can sometimes be “troublesome.” Sieke gave an example of this citing five partners working on predictive analytics projects which were provided to Fraunhofer IML Aviation Logistics. They showed a mixture of good and bad data with the good data benefitting from Artificial Intelligence (AI). He suggested the use of a structure for testing data quality such as IATA’s One Record standard. IATA is asking its partner airlines to follow the One Record standard beginning on January 1, 2026.
One Record is a standard for data sharing that creates a single record view of a shipment. The standard defines a common data model for shared data via standardized and secured web API.
Sieke added, “The quality of data should rise as digitalization is embedded further into the industry.”
Can SAF help reduce contrail formation?
Sustainable Aircraft Fuel (SAF) has long been a focus of the aviation industry with the primary goal of reducing carbon emissions. Now, however, SAF is also being considered for its role in reducing contrail formations which are believed to be contributing to global warming. At Boeing, an ecoDemonstrator flight-test program designed to measure how SAFs affect non-CO2 emissions is being conducted. The data it provides will be added to previous studies suggesting that cleaner burning jet fuels may prevent up to 70% of planet-warming contrails.
Over time, the clouds of soot particles form in a contrail under certain atmospheric conditions when water vapor from jet engines condenses. When more time passes, longer-lasting contrails can merge together and form heat-trapping contrail cirrus clouds which contribute to global warming.
To date, IATA has viewed SAF primarily for its role in reducing CO2 emissions and 65% of the abatement needed for the aviation industry to meet the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
As for its part, Boeing is also working with NASA and United Airlines to test how SAF affects non-CO2 emissions using an ecoDemonstrator Explorer 737-10 aircraft flying with 100% SAF provided by World Energy (Paramount, California) in one tank and conventional jet fuel in the other tank. Trailing the test aircraft will be NASA’s DC-8 airborne science lab aircraft. It will measure emissions produced by each fuel type and evaluate any resulting contrail ice particles. Additionally, NASA satellites will capture contrail formation images.
What is a top priority for passengers today?
Airlines, airports, and ground handlers are always striving to improve the passenger experience. An IATA survey of travelers provides insight into those factors prioritized by passengers. In its 2023 Global Passenger Survey, IATA found that passengers continue to rank speed and convenience as their top priorities. To achieve these goals, they are welcoming biometrics and off-airport processes according to the survey.
IATA’s Senior Vice President for Operations, Safety and Security Nick Careen noted, “Passengers have made it clear: they want to spend less time booking and move through the airport faster. And they are increasingly willing to use biometric data to complete more pre-departure tasks off airport to achieve this.”
Other outcomes of the survey were that passengers want:
- Convenience when they plan their travel and when choosing from where to depart – preferably closer to home – which they prioritized over ticket price.
- Preferred payment choices were credit/debit cards (73%), digital wallet (18%), and bank transfers (18%). In different regions, different payment methods were preferred over others. For example, credit/debit cards are most popular in Latin America (85%), Europe (81%) and North America (74%), and lowest in Africa (57%), whereas digital wallets were most preferred in the Asia-Pacific region (42%). Direct bank transfers were the most preferred payment in Africa (35%) and the Middle East (21%).
- A More convenient digital online visa process.
- More streamlined airport process with minimal wait times, and the ability to complete processing measures off-airport. When traveling with a carry-on bag, they want to move through the airport faster and move from the curb to the boarding gate in 30 minutes or less.
>> How do you anticipate passenger expectations and technologies will continue to transform the industry? Share your thoughts with us!