September 6, 2018

Technology Trends for Airports and Airlines in 2018 and Beyond

According to the International Airport Transport Association (IATA), the global passenger traffic last year increased by 7.6% from 2016, which was well-above the annual average growth rate of 5.5%. The number of people that took to the skies increased in 2017 and this trend will continue well into the future. But what about the trends for technological use in airports and the airline industry?

I have traveled a lot through airports and by air. Most of the times my experience at airports and in airlines has been a pleasant one. However, there’s room for improvement, especially at airports. I believe that this gap in customer expectation can be filled with the help of modern technology. Modern technology has great potential to help every aspect of the airport experience, from streamlining voyages to improving customer satisfaction and increasing airport revenues.

The Need for Increasing Technology at Airports

All the eager travelers should be great news for aviation industry including for airports, airlines, and even car rental companies. However, the stratospheric growth, set against a backdrop of straining infrastructure, is putting a serious strain on travel customer satisfaction. The good news is that the industry is finding ways to keep travelers happy despite the threat of long security lines, packed parking lots, and cramped overhead compartments, mostly through the use of modern technology.

To unlock the full potential of modern technology, airports have to connect people, smart devices, applications, and businesses intelligently. This will enable new business models for every aviation sector, from passenger and freight businesses all the way through to airport stores and restaurants.

Some areas where modern technology can help airports include:

  • Connected fleets
  • Retail
  • Operation rooms

In the next 5 months and beyond, airports and airlines will have to identify the new and emerging technologies that have the potential to improve the customer experience and enhance operational efficiency both on the ground and in-flight. To make life easy for airports and airlines around the world, we have researched and identified 7 technology trends that will potentially change the aviation industry in 2018 and beyond.


Biometrics could soon start to have a truly transformative impact in the airport transport sector as it is beginning to gain traction across the industry. There are examples of biometric-enabled process around the world. Biometric technology is being increasingly integrated into consumer devices such as iPhone X, which features facial recognition technology, and this should help to familiarize the public with the technology, which in turn will encourage to embrace the technology while travelling.


A buzzword today, blockchain is a technology still relatively in its early days yet many in the aviation industry see blockchain having great potential at airports and in airlines. Generally associated with cryptocurrency, blockchain provides a secure digital ledger of transactions and agreements and holds potential in any project that involves the sharing of data.

Interesting developments in this area occurred in 2017 as Lufthansa announced a partnership to explore blockchain-based distribution, Air New Zealand revealed that it is exploring blockchain for baggage, retail, distribution, and loyalty use cases while British Airways, Heathrow Airport, Geneva Airport, Miami International Airport and SITA Lab teamed up to look into how blockchain technology can help to create a ‘single source of truth’ for flight data.

Artificial Intelligence

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that 2017 was the first-time artificial intelligence (AI) really came to the fore in the air transport industry. With many airlines across the globe offering their customers support through such means, chatbots that can answer the basic questions are fast becoming a commonplace in the aviation industry.

Robotics and Self-Service

From Tokyo’s Narita International Airport to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, customer-facing robots are starting to pop up at airports around the world. Recently, Incheon International Airport in Seoul partnered with electronics giant LG to test two prototypes: the multilingual Airport Guide Robot, which provides boarding information and directions, and the Cleaning Robot which does exactly what the name suggests.

In addition to the above, there are further opportunities for automation and robotics on the horizon. However, we will have to wait for these developments to take shape.


Technological advancements are helping to bring a revolution in the baggage space. While self-service bag drop at airports is already widespread, a new wave of developments is starting to completely redefine baggage handling as we know it. For example, Lufthansa has partnered with BAGTAG in a move that allows passengers flying with Lufthansa, Swiss, and Australian Airlines to purchase a re-usable, electronic bag tag, instead of having to have traditional paper bag tags attached to their suitcases every time they fly.

The BAGTAG device can be attached to suitcases using fastening screws and a mounting plate. There are other technological advancements as well that are helping to bring about a revolution in the bagging space.

Translation Technology

Air New Zealand is exploring the potential of live translation using Google Pixel Buds both inflight and at the airport. The Pixel Buds Bluetooth earphones support live translation between forty languages and this has already caught the attention of Air New Zealand, which is using the technology on a trial basis onboard its aircraft and in the airport terminal.

Augmented Reality

Another technology that has great potential in the aviation industry is augmented reality (AR). Gatwick Airport in the UK recently unveiled blue dot navigation and augmented reality wayfinding, which allows passengers to use the camera function on their device to view AR directions to wherever they need to go within the terminal.

by Bobby J Davidson

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