Originally published January 25, 2020. Updated July 11, 2023
Every traveler has their own version of the nightmare airport story. These days, it often seems like hassles, delays, and frustrations are the norm, whereas a smooth, quick journey from the curb to the gate is a rare treat. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
Thankfully, airports of every size are putting major investments in streamlining and improving the entire passenger experience. Everything from the car park to security to the retail shops must be considered in this journey.
In order to operate optimally and improve the passenger experience, airports must be able to answer a number of critical questions every minute of every operating day:
How many passengers should they expect at any given time?
What is the average wait time for each passenger?
How many security lanes should be open and at what time?
How quickly do employees work to get passengers through the security checkpoints?
Was yesterday a high or low-performing day?
And this is just the beginning.
The Answer: Data
The answer to all of this, of course, lies in data. Historically, airports have done a good job of capturing reams of data every day. Legacy systems are built to capture and exchange millions of data points. But these systems are not fit for analytical evaluation of that data or creating accurate plans based on historical information.
Those that do offer reporting, report on yesterday's data and lack any insight into real-time information. Many airports lack a system that takes all of this data from different systems, combines it into one easy-to-understand plan, and helps employees learn from these experiences in a data-driven way in real-time.
This is where BI and planning software designed for the needs and regulations of the airline industry plays a critical role.
Airport operations produce such an ocean of data, it is often a struggle to determine which metrics to most closely monitor. Many airports have 400 to 500 KPIs flagged in their systems every day. With that much critical data, it would be impossible to accurately measure operational performance and map out improvements.
So which real-time metrics matter most for each airport operational area? Most of it centers around passenger wait time.
Best Airport KPIs
#1 Security: Wait Time
Wait time is the most evident display of efficient airport operations. This KPI tells you if you are appropriately staffing the security lines at the right times to move passengers through at an appropriate, expected speed. Diving into this KPI could also signal an uptick in security interruptions, such as false positives.
#2 Check-in: Wait Time
The check-in counter is the traveler’s first personal interaction with your airport. Many airports have a goal of moving passengers through from curb to gate within 30 minutes.
#3 Baggage: Mishandled Baggage
The baggage process is one of the most commonly cited problem areas within airport operations. This KPI is a red flag that should be closely monitored for improvement.
#4 Flights: Gate Allocations, On-time Performance
Tracking gate allocations help users understand how efficiently transfer and departing passengers are able to make it to their gate. Appropriate gate scheduling speeds the process for passengers, aircraft, and operations as a whole. This plays a part in on-time performance for flights.
#5. Immigration: Wait Time
Immigration experiences one of the largest arriving passengers crushes on a daily basis. High wait times here signal improvements that can be made such as opening more lines, adopting modern technology for faster intake, and staffing employees to help direct passengers.
#6 Baggage Reclaim: Wait Time
How quickly are baggage handlers getting travelers’ luggage from plane to carousel? There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of arriving at the baggage claim to see the belt already spinning with your flight’s luggage.
Improve Travelers Experience
As airports experience tremendous growth and more travelers than ever before are taking to the skies, there is no better time to evaluate what is missing from your operational planning. BI and operational planning systems will offer new levels of clarity to a complicated system and drive insight for better, data-driven decision-making. Don’t just manage your growth; improve your entire passenger and employee experience.
Our free guide highlights the most important reasons for airport analytics, how analytics change the airport strategic game, how to get all stakeholders on the same page, and sample dashboards for an improved operational strategy.
You can also watch our on-demand webinar and see how an airport analytics portal with real-time data can be visualized with BI.