As we learned quickly in 2023, air travel is back – putting pressure on airports to unlock more capacity and faster, to handle more flights and passengers.
To manage rising passenger volumes, airports need to make better use of their staff resources as conditions unfold. With the dynamic nature of airport operations, they also need to ensure their aviation partners are continuously connected and in sync with decisions so that the airport can run to plan.
This all requires data. And while data is often plentiful in an airport, many teams do not have the tools to integrate, analyse, and interpret that data effectively. Legacy technology, manual data processes, and the prevalent use of Excel spreadsheets create hurdles for airports and their partners in making critical data-driven decisions.
In the midst of this challenge, the Airport Operational Database (AODB) emerges as the linchpin. Deemed for many years untouchable, these mission-critical systems are now in the spotlight. The realisation is dawning that tinkering with innovation at the edges will not suffice—it is akin to building on shaky ground.
Now, next-generation AODB systems are stepping in, offering more than just upgrades. They provide airports with an opportunity to lead in a data-driven era. Here are five ways next-gen AODB systems are moving airport performance beyond the basics and accelerating the journey toward a smarter, more automated airport of the future.
1. Interoperability: Connect more, know more, do more
Traditionally, the AODB has been the central data hub for flight-related information across various airport systems.
Advanced AODB systems now enhance interoperability, seamlessly connecting with real-time AIDX airline feeds, live schedule feeds from aggregators like Cirium and OAG, and wider ground handler and passenger processing systems via APIs. This streamlined connectivity empowers airports to expand their data reach, coordinate in real-time and better manage the schedule.
2. Passenger journey integration: Look beyond the flight
Flights do not operate in isolation. Modern AODB platforms like Veovo are beginning to go beyond traditional functions of managing the schedule alone, incorporating advanced features to connect with passenger movement analytics and baggage flows.
By identifying congestion points and delays, these platforms support optimised gate and baggage carousel assignments and feed into optimal check-in, security and border control capacity planning. As a result, punctuality and operational efficiency are improved throughout the passenger journey.
3. Common operating picture for the airport community: See it all at a glance
In busy airport operations, staff often juggle multiple responsibilities and make rapid decisions while on the move. An AODB with a mobile-ready, web-responsive interface enables easy access to data from anywhere by all airport stakeholders: airport operators, airlines, ground handlers and air traffic control.
Instead of users searching for information, smart rules will serve up the most important insight, following a manage-by-exception approach. They tailor and simplify the information based on each person’s role, helping them prioritise activities and make decisions faster.
4. Airport Performance dashboards: Track performance against the plan
Airports are dynamic environments where priorities constantly shift. By leveraging the power of AI and machine learning, coupled with insights from in-terminal and airside forecasts, the AODB transforms into a source of actionable information. It anticipates plan changes, mitigates disruptions, reduces costs, and enhances customer service.
In Europe, the Airport Operating Plan (AOP) has emerged as the gold standard in predictability – an operational blueprint shared across stakeholders. Serving as a command centre, it tracks performance in real time and explores scenarios and alternative schedules to identify optimal plans and ensure business continuity.
Machine learning continues to play a pivotal role in this journey, as it analyses deviations from the plan, learns from them, and improves the accuracy of subsequent plans – in a continual cycle of improvement. This iterative process not only enhances current operations but also lays the foundation for a smarter, more automated future.
5. Scalable and upgradable: Reduce time to innovation
Dated technology platforms not only hinder innovation, but also pose security and resiliency risks. Large and small airports are transitioning from infrequent system updates every 5-7 years to Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) models, ensuring new capabilities are consistently and seamlessly rolled out on a regular basis, often several times a year. This reduces time to innovation and enhances compliance with security and data protection advances.
An open architecture supporting APIs also comes into its own here, seamlessly connecting AODB data and airport performance KPIs with 3rd party tools, improving insight accessibility and fostering a tech innovation ecosystem. For example, APIs can power interactive airport maps displaying passenger traffic forecasts and live wait times, facilitating efficient navigation based on congestion patterns. Or integration with baggage handling systems can enable automated notifications to inform passengers in advance about baggage retrieval details.
The flexibility of the underlying infrastructure is also important. Investing in platforms that can seamlessly operate in both on-premise and cloud environments provides the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances and evolving business strategies.
The journey to Total Airport Management (TAM)
Shifting to a new-generation AODB is one of the most significant steps in an airport’s evolutionary journey. Powered by a dynamic, actionable information platform shaped by real time data, it propels airports beyond tactical, reactive decision-making focused on isolated processes. Instead, it fosters a more cohesive and proactive approach that aligns with broader airport priorities and performance goals.
These new-generation AODB systems are key to meeting the challenges of traffic growth for more efficient operations, better decision-making, lower costs and happier passengers. There is no time to lose so get in touch to arrange a call to explore how we can help you transform your airport performance.
Written by Hayden Davies, who leads our Product team. Hayden has over a decade of experience in managing sales, professional services and product teams in the airport technology sector.