Aviation Consultancy Reveals ‘The Airport of the Future’


Specialist international aviation market research and marketing consultancy, Research For Travel, predicts “air travel will become more enjoyable once more” – with no queuing at check-in, emigration, security, boarding and immigration; more time to shop, eat and drink; lower fares due to reduced airport and airline costs…and no problems with lost luggage!

Airports of the future need to “change dramatically” over the next 15 years to satisfy modern travellers. Research For Travel predicts flying will again be fun in a new era of airline travel by 2025 with:

  • „ “Trusted travellers” bypassing security
  • „  Rapid, high-tech emigration and immigration
  • „  No shops at airports, just showrooms
  •   Airports operating 24 hours a day
  •   Totally new boarding procedures
  • „  No check-in desks or check-in luggage.

Based on its 25 years’ wealth of research and feedback, Research For Travel believes: “Passengers no longer enjoy air travel, especially those based in Europe and the USA. They regard flying as expensive, stressful, time-consuming and uncomfortable.”

At the same time, “airlines are also finding it very difficult to make profits” so will have to cut costs – and airports will struggle to cope with a rapid increase in passenger numbers.

In response, Research For Travel concludes: “The aviation industry therefore faces a difficult future. Airports and airlines will need to adapt.”

No Check-In Desks

Analysing its key trends for the future, Research For Travel notes that ‘No Check-In Desks’ are already happening with a trend towards online check-in and self-check-in machines/kiosks at airports. “Regular travellers appreciate the speed and ease with which they can check-in, choose a seat and obtain a boarding pass via the internet, in the comfort of their office or home,” it says. Qantas and easyJet are noted as early trendsetters.

Emigration and Immigration Bypass

The move to bypass traditional emigration and immigration procedures is also already underway. With INSPASS in the USA, the Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS) at London Heathrow, IACS at Changi in Singapore, ‘U-Airport’ at Incheon in Seoul, South Korea and SmartGate between Australia and New Zealand, regular travellers can enrol for a special card. Residents of Hong Kong simply flash their identity card, confirmed with a thumb print.

Trusted Traveller Bypassing Security

Exempting “Trusted Travellers” from security checks meanwhile addresses “an aspect of flying that passengers hate” – as both time-consuming and humiliating.

The key question is how to avoid security checks? Incheon’s ‘U-Airport’ is leading the way with e-Passports and security vetting with biometric-based technology admitting approved passengers to a special lane.

No Check-In Luggage

Reducing check-in luggage is another sign of the times, with some airlines already starting to charge hefty surcharges.

“We predict that this policy will strengthen and develop such that by 2025 passengers will not be allowed any check-in luggage,” says Research For Travel. “They will have to take hand luggage only, or ship their baggage by cargo – this system already exists.”

Swifter Aircraft Boarding

“Aircraft boarding will have to change to make it quicker and more pleasant.” A new method pioneered in the USA “takes about half the time”, with only one person from a given row taking their seat at a time. Passengers board according to every other row of window seats on one side of the plane, starting from the back, then by mirror image on the other side.

Airport Showrooms

Traditional airport shopping is becoming passé, replaced by online purchasing at showrooms, not shops. Already certain airports have introduced “You Shop, We Drop” programmes, whereby passengers buy items that are delivered to their homes. “If companies like Amazon and Taobao were to get involved in airport retailing then the showroom concept would develop very quickly,” says Research For Travel.

Automated Immigration

Immigration is another area showing dramatic change, with automated immigration procedures being installed in airports across the world including Hong Kong, JFK, Heathrow, Schiphol, Incheon, Changi and Auckland.

Immigration can also take place in the airport before departure, or on the plane itself – as recently introduced by Garuda for premium class passengers.

Relaxation of Airport Curfews

With increasing congestion and limited means of expansion, Research For Travel also predicts “great pressure on Governments to lift curfews” and allow airports to operate 24 hours a day. “A development that will hasten the ending of curfews is improvement in aircraft noise”, noting significantly reduced noise from the A380.

Governments are also going to have to relinquish military control of air space to facilitate more flight traffic.

What will this all mean to the aviation industry, airports, airlines and passengers?

Research For Travel says airports will be able to handle 25-35 per cent more passengers and more airlines – earning more revenue, with reduced costs of baggage handling, check-in and security plus more space for retail and food and beverage.

Airlines will benefit with more passengers, more flights and more cargo, with reduced fuel, landing and handling charges.

Finally, Research For Travel predicts “air travel will become more enjoyable once more” – with no queuing at check-in, emigration, security, boarding and immigration; more time to shop, eat and drink; lower fares due to reduced airport and airline costs…and no problems with lost luggage!


About Research for Travel

Research For Travel specialises in market research and marketing consultancy for the travel industry. In 25 years, its directors have carried out projects throughout Europe, the USA and Canada, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, South America and Australasia. It conducts surveys among the many customer groups that are important to airlines - business and leisure travellers, corporate travel departments, OTAs, travel agents, airports, food and beverage operators, retailers, etc. For airports the directors have 25 years’ experience of interviewing key decision-makers in airlines worldwide, and also passengers and customers of retail and food and beverage at airports. It also undertakes cargo surveys. Its airline clients include Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Thai Airways, BA, Lufthansa, KLM/Air France, SAS, AA, Delta and Continental. Airport clients include Hong Kong, Singapore, Amsterdam Schiphol, Frankfurt, BAA, Copenhagen, Vienna, Zurich, Boston, Newark, JFK, Miami and Denver.

Led by managing director Roger Thomas, Research For Travel operates from offices in the United Kingdom, China and Hong Kong.