Airports 2.0:
Why planning for tomorrow requires critical decisions today

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By Ross McKenzie

THE PHILIPPINES is undergoing a massive $180 billion infrastructure program. A portion of the funding will go to improving airports. That’s because airports are not only seen as transit points in the country, but as enablers of economic growth, particularly in its capital city of Manila.

New and redeveloped airports in regional areas are also providing a catalyst for tourism and business growth away from the capital. Other infrastructure developments, such as rail networks, are equally critical to enabling the success of these new airports.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) annual passenger forecast for the Greater Capital Region in the Philippines is expected to rise from $49.8 million in 2020 to $106.7 million in 2040. This growth forecast is now driving new investments and modernisation programmes to provide for future demand and to avoid further disruption to existing hubs which are already at capacity.

Downward pressure globally on airline ticket prices, however, means that development needs to be done as cost-effectively as possible. In Manila, where airlines will soon have a choice on where to land, this becomes especially important to private developers looking to ensure future revenues.

Ensuring profitability also means that owners must innovate and find new approaches to be more efficient and responsive to passenger needs. By looking into today’s travel experience through a customer-centric lens, solutions can be developed to eliminate passenger pain points and improve the overall air travel experience. If done thoughtfully, customers that are happy with their end-to-end travel tend to spend more, and this can translate into benefits, such as customer loyalty and improved revenue from non-aviation activities.

The ideal airport of the future is more complex than a rudimentary set of improvements — a wide range of factors are needed to be considered in terms of getting the planning and design right. Smart technology provides opportunities to create both cost-effective and customer-friendly development. However, this will require creativity and a willingness to move outside conventional development norms and practices.

Airport owners and operators can balance the competing needs of preparing for the future, while catering to the customer expectations of today through the lens of these five major trends:

Although airports have positively enabled globalization, they can only survive and thrive if they have the support of their local community.

By embracing the opportunities of digitisation, passenger pain points and frustrations can be alleviated and even eliminated.

By integrating airports with as many different modes of transport as possible, and by embracing the efficiency opportunities offered by autonomous vehicles, airports can revolutionize how the passengers get to airports, how they travel around it, and how they get safely to their destination.

It’s not enough to be innovative, efficient and sustainable; airport operators must also integrate the needs of customers into their terminal design decisions.

The obligations and regulatory requirements on the global aviation industry will only increase as the world confronts the challenge of climate change.


Ross McKenzie is based in Manila and is the executive director and heads the Arcadis Philippines business. Originally a structural engineer from New Zealand, Mr. McKenzie has travelled and worked around the world working within the engineering and management consulting industries. His experience includes buildings and hydropower projects, such as the design of two run of the river schemes in Mindanao, Philippines, a 35-storey tower in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and a private school redevelopment in London.

Mr. McKenzie initially joined Arcadis to support regional operational performance and transitioned to his role leading the Philippines business in April 2018. His focus with the business has been to engage with the people to create a supportive and collaborative culture and to expand the business through diversification.