During the early days of aviation many airports were the focal points of their communities. People would visit just to have coffee or they would head to the observation deck for an up close look at the new modern marvels landing and taking off. As aviation began to grow so did the nations airport system and with that came larger more economically and environmentally efficient mega structures. Then the unthinkable happened in September 2001 and airport security turned into a military operation. In fact I am not sure TSA will ever gain the respect they deserve but pretty soon you may begin to like them and here’s why.
New technology. Things like facial recognition, biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), the Cloud and CCTV might make the TSA’s job a little easier, and for sure less intrusive and out of the customers direct experience. Technology may allow you to be scanned and screened without ever telling you. From what I have seen at Passenger Terminal Expo 2017, Airports Council International Annual Conference (ACI) and Future Travel Experience, ideas have now grown from concept to reality.
However, implementing change never happens quickly but what I like is that something really old, but really cool, is coming back to the airport. Bigger than any technology and more revenue producing than any new store or restaurant. Think back to the 80’s and 90’s. Remember getting off the airplane and seeing your loved ones waiting for you at the airport gate? How many loved the feeling of having someone waiting for you? Do you remember the feeling of getting off the plane and seeing your family and friends right away? They were able to walk with you to baggage claim and it always seemed that bags came quicker back then. I recall seeing couples crying as they gave their last good byes and grandparents making sure their grandchildren were safely aboard. Some of you may remember even feeling slighted when you had no one to greet you at the gate. But mostly I remember when I was 18 and my mother died while I was mid-air coming home from college. I remember getting off the plane and to see the faces of my father, sister, aunt and uncle at the end of the jet bridge which allowed me to crumble to the ground because they were there waiting to pick me up. Then after the funeral, when my father took me back to the airport to leave for school, I looked over my shoulder at the end of the jetbridge as I stepped into the plane only to see his face nodding to me as I boarded the plane to start the next chapter of my life.
Those events would never happen in today’s world. Going to the gate without actually flying is no longer the norm since we were forced to change after 9/11. That day tore apart aviation, family traditions and the excitement of arriving from somewhere far away. Those moments would never comeback nor could they be replicated in today’s world. But future technology in the airport is somehow making these special moments possible again. Airports are important revenue producers for local governments and because that is important there may be some serious value in letting people come back to the airport and enjoy meeting their families and maybe sharing a meal, or drink, in the airport. That brings me to the point of this blog. One of my favorite airports in the world is Pittsburgh International Airport, which recently announced that they will allow people who are not flying to go past security and enjoy airport amenities. Brilliant. Not sure how this came to pass but it had to be well coordinated between the airport, TSA and the airlines. Could this be a new trend? I hope this works because there are some really cool airports with cool things to experience. Minneapolis-St. Paul International has local food that should be enjoyed by everyone. Dallas- Ft. Worth has some beautiful public spaces. San Francisco International actually doubles as a real museum with airport curated art. Let’s not forget the shopping in Orlando International and sushi in Miami International. Heck, maybe one day we’ll have an actual marathon held at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson or Denver International! So long as we’re all safe, we should be together until departure and upon arrival.