Airport Show
13 - 15 May 2025

Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group

Airports’ Dilemma – How can we grow while staying green?

Sustainability, alongside growth, remains a critical priority for airports with the aviation industry poised for dramatic long-term change. So how will leading airports cultivate growth without sacrificing their green credentials?

Global demand for flights is at an all-time high and set to rise much higher, but at the same time, all manner of government organisations, international regulators and a more discerning consumer audience are all pushing for aviation to become more environmentally sustainable. How can airports square this circle and build their capacity without widening their carbon footprint?


Better data analysis

Data is the lifeblood of any commercial organisation as it has the potential to deliver systematic improvements and better long-term strategic changes. Airports are no different and having a comprehensive, holistic view of their data holds the key to unlocking massive sustainability improvements across the whole organisation’s operations – from flights and ATC, to ground handling operations as well as security, management and retail inside the terminal. This can lead to better design for greener future infrastructure, the creation and implementation of new green initiatives and greater customer awareness of sustainability issues that they themselves can alleviate.


Improving passenger flow

By improving the efficiency of operations across airports, their overall carbon footprint will be reduced as unnecessary delays, cancellations and other issues are avoided, subsequently avoiding unnecessary stoppages of service that carry with them the inevitable burden of wasted fuel, time and other precious resources. Through the improvement of security operations through advanced biometrics (currently trialled across London Heathrow, Japan’s Narita, JFK in New York, Dubai International and many more), as well as smoother booking and processing of passengers through optimised digital platforms and even the potential integration of blockchain, the end of long queues, manual verification and costly human errors may be in sight.


More collaboration

From creating better ATC networks with service providers, to working with regulatory authorities to build better guidelines and regulation frameworks, airports need to keep extending their hands in friendship and collaboration. The ecological impact of the aviation industry is a global problem and requires a truly international mindset to solve. Already we are seeing positive signs of more collaboration between airports and other parts of the industry as well as external stakeholders, as more airports join international alliances and groups dedicated to sustainable growth.


Greater tech integration

Alongside optimisation efforts across the board, we’re also going to be seeing more breakthrough innovations being integrated into leading airports to give them a big sustainability boost. From the introduction of biofuel-based HVAC systems at Stockholm’s Arlanda International Airport, to 5G networks, massed LED lighting and even robotic check-in assistants at Incheon Airport, South Korea, expect to see a much more rapid lineup of emerging tech integrations as the decade unfolds.


Thinking big, thinking green

The direction that most leading international airports are taking is towards a tech-enabled path of sustainable growth. By ensuring that airports run smarter, instead of merely building bigger, it’s already proving possible to optimise both infrastructure and daily operations to make serious sustainability gains without sacrificing on commercial expansion. As we settle into the 2020s, expect to see even more ambitious thinking emerge from leading airports across the world, as the need to marry commercial expediency with environmental necessity will continue to encourage new and better ways of getting air travel customers from A to B quickly yet sustainably.


This article was created in association with Airport Show taking place in Dubai on 24-26 May 2021. 

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