Future Travel Experience is excited to unveil the FTE Airport Transformation Power List EMEA 2023. Here we shine a light on those who are pioneering new approaches that have the potential to improve travel for passengers and make the industry safer, more efficient and commercially successful. The EMEA edition champions the most transformative change enablers within the airline and airport industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for their outstanding efforts to lead how their organisation has embraced innovation. In recognition of their leadership and achievements, each member of the Power List will receive a complimentary “Golden Ticket” to the co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing, taking place in Dublin on 23-25 May 2023. Three of the nominees will be “Highly Commended” and three will be awarded with an “Outstanding Achievement” trophy during an official awards ceremony at the show on 24 May, which will provide the perfect opportunity for us to announce and honour our nominees and winners, among industry friends and colleagues.
After extensive research into each candidate, we believe the following 10 executives have been at the forefront of innovation, driving transformational change for their organisations and the wider industry.
Emanuele Calà, Vice President Innovation & Quality, Aeroporti di Roma (ADR)
Emanuele Calà is the driving force behind Aeroporti di Roma’s (ADR) ‘Innovation Hub’, which opened in October 2022 at the heart of Fiumicino Airport’s Terminal 1 with the main goal of “putting the passenger at the centre by anticipating their needs”. This is, importantly, delivering real, meaningful engagement with startups – something Future Travel Experience champions strongly via the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub. A first ‘Call for Ideas’ saw the implementation of 10 projects selected from over 100 applications. Building on its acceleration programme, ADR recently launched a second ‘Call for Ideas’, which will offer eight successful applicants the opportunity to work on their projects directly from the ADR Innovation Hub.
The company’s latest initiative is the launch of ADR Ventures – an additional tool to help startups, which will finance the development of projects in areas with high innovation potential, operating from the Innovation Hub. This further illustrates ADR’s open innovation strategy and determination to play its part in “ensuring the development of an advanced ecosystem for innovation in the sector”. It is not only about providing finance, but also sharing know-how and skills to foster the development and growth of new companies and entrepreneurs to enhance digital transformation.
During the upcoming co-located FTE EMEA/FTE Ancillary & Retailing, ADR’s Emanuele Calà will take part in a session focused on ‘Leveraging technology and innovation to create unique and inspiring customer experiences – inspiration from industry leaders & disruptors in parallel sectors.’ Find out more and register to attend >>
Amparo Brea Álvarez, Director of Innovation, Sustainability and Client Experience, Aena
Aena’s innovation and digital transformation revolve around the use of technology to improve current business and to develop new businesses. The airport operator manages 46 airports in Spain and aims to be an international leader in the use of digital tools with the objective of optimising the passenger experience, increasing operational efficiency and developing new businesses around sustainable mobility.
The vision for Aena’s innovation and digital transformation comprises three strategic programmes. Firstly, it is focused on deploying technologies to simplify the passenger journey and make it a seamless process, with no waiting times and no contact. Secondly, it is automating airport management processes and developing towards ‘as-a-service’ models. Thirdly, it is exploring new business areas related to sustainable mobility.
Among the technologies Aena is exploring to further enhance the traveller experience are biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, and Augmented and Virtual Reality. For example, facial recognition technology has been implemented at Menorca, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas and Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat airports; the Aena Maps tool enables passengers to know their current location, look for points of interest, calculate the best route, and see distances and travel times required; while the Food to Fly pre-order service allows travellers to order their meal and collect it at the airport.
The airport operator is also embracing innovation through the Aena Ventures startup accelerator.
As Director of Innovation, Sustainability and Client Experience, Amparo Brea Álvarez is recognised for her leadership in fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, while promoting the company’s sustainability and climate change policies.
Ersin Inankul, Chief Digital & Commercial Officer, Istanbul Airport
Istanbul Airport is committed to an end-to-end fully digital passenger experience and instrumental to those efforts is Ersin Inankul in a role that combines Digital and Commercial functions to facilitate the smooth acceleration of digital transformation efforts. Indeed, a digital state of mind is applied to all Istanbul Airport business decisions, with the main focus being to bring innovative technology solutions to both aviation activities and the passenger experience.
The airport is embracing the Metaverse, with a virtual room that is a replica of its world-first ‘Youth Lounge’ – an area designed specifically for Gen Z travellers.
Additionally, Istanbul Airport’s passenger processing systems are reinforced with biometric solutions that incorporate facial recognition technology. Smart cameras retrieve passengers’ biometric data from check-in desks and self-service kiosks, processing the data for use at various control points, such as security, border control, lounges, retail stores and boarding gates.
On the commercial side, Istanbul Airport has established its own digital marketplace – istbuy.com – which utilises Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This enables the airport to deliver campaigns and special offers customised according to passengers’ behaviours in commercial stores, using different technologies, including notifications via beacons and instant offers with Augmented Reality.
With a mobile-centric approach, the airport’s ‘Digital Passenger Journey’ is integrated with the Istanbul Airport app, with the aim of ensuring passengers start their digital journey before even arriving at the airport.
Innovative AI solutions also include an automated, self-service voice assistant, which is integrated with airport information systems.
Wolfgang Standhaft, Chief Information Officer, Fraport
Wolfgang Standhaft is leading Fraport’s merger of IT, digitalisation and transformation. Fraport’s Digital Factory is key to its innovation efforts. The strategic objective of this virtual organisational unit is to further increase the level of digital maturity within the Fraport Group and to drive forward digital transformation alongside customer processes.
The progressive approach of the Digital Factory is to identify market innovations early on and facilitate the implementation of compelling digital solutions for Fraport. Indeed, it is partnering with various startups to launch pilot projects.
Since launching the Digital Factory, Fraport has been working with the Plug and Play Tech Center, the world’s largest early-stage investor, accelerator and corporate innovation platform headquartered in California. Utilising access to this platform with more than 30,000 technology and startup companies, the team is rapidly developing solutions for mastering operational challenges, not only at Frankfurt Airport but also internationally by the likes of Fraport USA.
The ultimate objective is to boost Fraport Group’s digital maturity and competitiveness. “By developing and deploying creative digital solutions today, we are helping to shape tomorrow’s world of travel.”
Suhail Kadri, Senior Vice President, Technology & Innovation, Hamad International Airport
Hamad International Airport was firmly in the global spotlight last November and December during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Its preparations included significant investment in customer-centric innovative technologies to provide a fast, seamless travel experience. In November 2022, Hamad International Airport unveiled Phase A of its airport expansion plan, consisting of one expansive terminal that enables travellers to seamlessly transfer from one area to another.
Suhail Kadri is leading the airport’s continuing innovation efforts as it this year moves into Phase B of its expansion, with plans to increase capacity to over 70 million passengers and construct two new concourses within the existing terminal.
A central pillar of the airport’s digital strategy is the recent launch of a next-generation Wi-Fi service, which is designed to fit well within its strategy of seamless travel and strengthen its commitment to being “the leading global digital airport”. The high-performance Wi-Fi 6 connectivity across the entirety of the airport lays the foundation for enhanced operations with better insights to provide an enhanced passenger experience.
In addition to his position as Senior Vice President, Technology & Innovation at Hamad International Airport, Suhail Kadri is Chair of the ACI World IT Standing Committee. Alongside delivering the airport’s vision of a frictionless passenger experience, he is therefore also recognised on the FTE Airport Transformation Power List EMEA 2023 for his strong leadership role within the industry.
The co-located FTE EMEA and FTE Ancillary & Retailing, taking place at the RDS in Dublin on 23-25 May 2023, will be a mega-event where the worlds of digital, commercial and CX will collide. One registration provides access to both events, where attendees will hear inspirational presentations from a number of the leading airports listed here including Aeroporti di Roma and Hamad International Airport, plus many more speakers from inside and outside the industry. Find out more and register to attend >>
Lennert l’Amie, Chief Information Officer, Royal Schiphol Group
Lennert l’Amie was appointed CIO of Royal Schiphol Group – a Corporate Partner of the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub – in February 2023, with a philosophy that “technology and data are crucial to continue to meet the challenges ahead, from passenger experience to the pressure on the labour market”.
He is playing a key role in furthering Schiphol Group’s Vision 2050. This looks “over the horizon” with three categories of innovation – Earth (incremental innovations), Moon (transformational innovations) and Mars (disruptive innovations). The emphasis is on “aiming for the Moon and Mars” with a central plan for fully autonomous airside operations by 2050.
Schiphol is also looking to the future of baggage with “disruptive, high quality baggage services to make optimal use of our capacity”. Indeed, in the baggage space, it has just announced a collaboration with security technology company Pangiam to develop a new way to screen hand baggage quickly and safely. The new technology, powered by Artificial Intelligence, is expected to enable travellers to go through security checks faster, without compromising on safety.
Other transformational efforts include Digital Identity and becoming a multimodal hub with seamless transport connections.
David Krieff, Chief Information Systems Officer, Groupe ADP
Groupe ADP is strengthening its cooperation with Paris-Saclay Agglomeration Community to develop synergies in innovation and research. As part of this, Groupe ADP’s ambition is for Paris-Orly is to be a pioneer in decarbonisation, with the objective of net-zero emissions for all ground operations by 2030.
The plan is to implement concrete innovation projects in terms of both decarbonisation and transformation of airport operations, which will be tested directly in real-life situations at the airport, or at its future ‘Green Lab’ open innovation space, which will open in the second quarter of 2024. This physical space, located in the heart of the airport, will be a hub of innovation and a meeting place for innovators. It will be a real technological showroom and a place to accelerate projects by startups. Furthermore, it will be open to passengers and to the entire airport ecosystem.
Meanwhile, as part of its ‘2025 Pioneers’ vision, Groupe ADP aims to make its airports multimodal and create energy hubs designed and operated in a sustainable way.
Groupe ADP is also exploring the future of mobility and, together with Skyports, last November launched a passenger terminal testbed for future electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) at Pontoise-Cormeilles airfield in Paris. Inauguration of the new terminal means the full passenger journey, as close as possible to the configuration expected in 2024, can be tested – from accessing the terminal through to boarding the aircraft. It will be used as a testbed to prepare the experimentation planned for 2024 and the upcoming launch of passenger services.
As Chief Information Systems Officer and member of the group Executive Committee, David Krieff will no doubt be instrumental in shaping the innovation-focused approach to Groupe ADP’s vision.
Omar Binadai, Executive Vice President – Technology and Infrastructure, Dubai Airports
Omar Binadai took up the role as Executive Vice President – Technology and Infrastructure at Dubai Airports in October 2022, having played an important role in the delivery of the multibillion-dollar Phase 2 and Phase 3 expansions of Dubai International Airport. He is leading the transformation of Dubai Airports’ technology solutions in line with the growing impact that technology now has on infrastructure.
Dubai Airports’ focus on ensuring a seamless travel experience for passengers across all touchpoints includes significant investment in “customer service excellence”. The new customer contact centre provides “always-on access” via a range of technology-enabled services for travellers.
Artificial Intelligence is another area of innovation through the biometric-based fast-track passport control service that has been deployed at 122 smart gates. This forms a key contribution towards enhancing customer experience and efforts to “make Dubai one of the smartest cities in the world”.
Meanwhile, there are plans to expand the ‘DXB&more’ mobile food & beverage and retail ordering service at Dubai International Airport into an all-encompassing digital DXB experience, bringing together digital entertainment partners, more shopping and live experiences for passengers already at the airport and those who are due to travel.
Nick Woods, Chief Information Officer, Manchester Airports Group
Nick Woods has played a key role in the £1.3 billion Manchester Airport Transformation Programme (MAN-TP) – a 10-year vision to revolutionise the customer experience. Central to this has been constant exploration of innovations and new technologies that can be applied to enhance the passenger journey.
The final phase of MAN-TP – a £440 million investment to transform the passenger experience with state-of-the-art technology across all stages of the passenger journey from check-in to baggage reclaim – has recently been announced and will be complete in 2025.
Digital transformation efforts include the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and digitisation of equipment such as baggage systems.
The strategy spearheaded by Woods sees digital technology as inseparable from Manchester Airports Group’s continuous efforts to further enhance operational efficiency across its portfolio of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports.
Eric Schneckenberger, Group CIO, VINCI Airports
Under the leadership of Eric Schneckenberger, Group CIO, innovation forms a major part of VINCI Airports’ strategy to improve airport infrastructure and management across its network of 65 airports in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
VINCI Airports has three Centres of Excellence for Innovation at London Gatwick, Lyon-Saint Exupéry and Lisbon.
London Gatwick is an Innovation Centre of Excellence for airfield operations and sustainability. The airport operates the most efficient single-runway in the world and leads VINCI Airports’ innovation efforts to further improve capacity and performance. There is also a dedicated focus on sustainability, including waste management technology and recycling. Data capture at every phase of airfield operations, alongside the use of Machine Learning, further optimises in real-time both airport operations and the allocation of resources.
Lyon-Saint Exupéry is an Innovation Centre of Excellence for customer engagement and experience. In Lyon, VINCI Airports works on how to improve passengers’ overall travel experience. Among the many initiatives at Lyon-Saint Exupéry, VINCI Airports has launched Mona, a travel companion based on facial recognition.
Lisbon Airport is an Innovation Centre of Excellence for smart terminal operations and technology, and is working to reduce or even remove queuing and to improve all forms of flows of people, vehicles and baggage in terminals, without compromising safety or security. Biometric and single token travel is a priority for the Lisbon Centre of Innovation Excellence.
While a number of members of the VINCI Airports family, including the innovation team, have contributed to these projects, as VINCI Airports’ Group CIO, Eric Schneckenberger is recognised on the Power List for his technology-focused leadership.