Tensions between increasing passenger numbers and limited airport expansion will lead to airport-based services being further decentralized, according to Lufthansa Group senior director-product management ground & digital services Bjorn Becker.

Speaking at Future Travel Experience Europe in Dublin, Becker said passenger numbers are set to double to 7.2 billion by 2035, but airports only have plans to increase capacity by 20%-60%.

“The expected capacity shortage can only be mastered with fundamental structural improvements at the airport,” he said.

Becker believes this crunch will force a rethink of airport processes. He said this will take two forms. Some airport-based services will be shifted offsite, while others will need to be performed with increased efficiency on-site.

“80% of service transactions are independent from airport infrastructure,” Becker said. “We need to push services away from the airport to be able to take care of the passenger numbers. We need to increase the efficiency of airports.”

This decentralization away from the airport will be made possible through increased automation and digital self-servicing. Self-service will play an important role in on site processes, too, as passenger growth and retail spend need to be decoupled from airport space requirements.

Becker said the productivity of airport infrastructure needs to double, while still delivering a good and efficient passenger experience at a low cost. He gave the example of Lufthansa’s biometric boarding trial in the US, which has cut processing times by half.

“We are looking at further airports, further touch points and we are looking at biometric bag drops,” he said. “Normal self-bag drop takes 110 seconds. With this, we have a process time of around 10-15 secs at the [check-in] baggage belt which is critical infrastructure.”

Victoria Moores victoria.moores@informa.com