Sunday, October 1, 2023

Airports Likely to Generate Their Own Sustainable Fuels By 2050, Report Finds


A new study on the evolution of airports and their potential up to the year 2050 shows a path toward not only reduced emissions but also serving as hubs for producing alternative fuels.

The new report was published today by the Oliver Wyman Forum, a think tank of global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, a Marsh McLennan business.

In collaboration with Airports Council International (ACI World) and the Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC), spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism, the report outlines necessary transformations to future-proof airport operations and reduce their environmental impact.

The study reveals that airports are responsible for between 2 percent and 5 percent of total aviation emissions, equating to around 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions. But the report suggests airports could become energy hubs, producing the alternative fuels necessary for the aviation sector’s emission reduction efforts while concurrently working toward meeting their own net-zero targets through initiatives like ground transport electrification.

Photo courtesy yousef alfuhigi

The passenger experience is set for a revolution with the implementation of biometrics and digital identities, while airport operations will see efficiency improvements with the integration of artificial intelligence and 3D printing. The report indicates that the current workforce of approximately 11.3 million airport workers will need to cultivate specialized skills in areas such as digital technology and cybersecurity. Collaboration with public transit agencies for integrated, eco-friendly transit strategies is also anticipated.

The authors of the report identify four main airport types and include interviews with 18 airport CEOs across these categories to understand the significant trends shaping their future. Case studies from Dubai International Airport, Memphis International Airport, Geneva Airport, and Carrasco International Airport in Uruguay each represent “Global Hub Connectors,” “Cargo Gateways,” “City Airports,” and “Leisure Gateways” respectively.

The report was unveiled at the ACI EUROPE/WORLD Annual General Assembly, Conference, and Exhibition. Oliver Wyman’s Transportation and Services practice partner, Rana Nawas, who is presenting the findings at the conference, said, “Because airports are a critical enabler of the global economy, the aim of our report is to map out the biggest disruptors airports can expect, along with potential solutions for implementation by governments, airport leaders, and the air travel industry at large.”

ACI World Director General, Luis Felipe de Oliveira, voiced his excitement about the launch of the report. He emphasized that the report offers a ‘view-from-the-top’, providing valuable insights into the major trends identified by the world’s leading airport CEOs and strategic guidance from participating organizations.

plane sky
Photo courtesy Mark Olsen

The Evolution of Airports provides thoughtful insights into the future trends shaping the world’s airports and offers stakeholders and regulators advice on how they can support the path forward for airports,” he said.

Her Excellency Gloria Guevara, Chief Special Advisor at the Ministry of Tourism of Saudi Arabia, underscored the role airports have in reducing emissions and transitioning the aviation sector to net zero. She added that the deployment of new technologies at airports promises traveler-centric experiences while curbing emissions and costs, increasing efficiencies, and promoting planetary health.

“As airports plan their roadmaps to 2030 and beyond, they have the potential and opportunity to lead the aviation industry, and support the Travel & Tourism sector to accelerate the reduction of emissions and transition to net zero,” Guevara said. “

According to Her Excellency, a number of airports have already achieved climate neutrality. “Indeed, airports are a crucial backbone of the sector and their leadership is instrumental to the future of the sector and its fight against climate change,” Guevara said. “The development and deployment of new technologies, including data and digital identity, at airports also heralds the potential to create traveler-centric experiences whilst reducing emissions and costs, increasing efficiencies, and improving the health of the planet.”

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