The Sydney Kingsford Smith airport, which the new airport will replace. Source: Shutterstock

How New Sydney airport aims to become world leader in post-pandemic travel

  • The global aviation industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, but there will be a recovery
  • Western Sydney International Airport is under development and is planned to open in 2026
  • Accenture has been enlisted to consult on how cutting-edge technology can be built into its planning and development

The aviation industry has been one of the worst-hit sectors by the pandemic. With 4.6 billion passengers fewer flying in 2020, as a result of travel restrictions, quarantine measures, and consumer health concerns, the impact has grounded fleets, lost jobs in the tens of thousands and even caused bankruptcies

The estimated decline in total airport revenues on a global scale is estimated to be US$39.2 billion in the second quarter, and more than US$97 billion for 2020.

But, overall, the aviation sector is resilient and will emerge from the other side. However, things won’t go back to normal and it’s a long road ahead to recovery. Airlines, airports and all other parties must be prepared to adapt and optimize their experience to cater for a new era in post-pandemic travel. 

Australia’s new Western Sydney International Airport is set to open its doors in 2026, and its owner Western Sydney Airport (WSA), wants to make the new site a world-leading, tech-enabled experience in air travel that puts people at the center of its design. 

Enlisting the expertise of Accenture, WSA wants to incorporate technology including Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and security that provides passengers a convenient, stress-free experience from the moment they enter departures until they’re taking their seat. 

While airports are getting ‘smarter’ across the world, increasingly employing technologies such as facial recognition in lieu of physical document checks to reduce wait times and bottlenecks, Accenture will help WSA build in technology from the ground up to improve efficiency of both people and goods through the airport. 

The managed services giant says the needs of passengers, operators, airport employees and industry partners will be prioritized through the planning and implementation process. Accenture will work directly with infrastructure developers, operators and border agencies to design the tech infrastructure of the airport.

“The airport is a great example of innovation in the planning and development of intelligent infrastructure,” said Bob Easton, the Chairman of Accenture Australia & New Zealand.

Easton added that the development was of “national significance”. Australia is investing heavily in developing its tech leadership in areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, while initiatives such as Western Sydney International Airport could help the country emerge as world-leader in air travel. 

The entire project, which began in 2018, is projected to cost between US$6 and US$8 billion, and comes as Sydney’s current airport is expected to reach maximum capacity in 2027. 

“We look forward to working with Western Sydney Airport and will bring our deep industry experience in airports, digital technologies, cloud and customer experience to this project […].” said Easton. 

Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, and in the shorter term, the Thai government is teaming up with telecommunications juggernaut Huawei to bring 5G networking and services as a part of the nation’s ‘smart airport’ initiative. 

The 5G technology solutions will be developed and applied to Krabi airport first – and provide the backbone for technology such as robots that can detect passenger density in airport areas, thermal scanners, and UV treatment equipment for passengers’ luggage – before expanding to the 28 other airports overseen by the Department of Aviation throughout the country.

The smart airport concept is necessary following the new operating procedures for travel and movement in heavily tourism-dependent Thailand. It’s hoped the project will help “to improve the quality of telecommunication services and safety standards […],” and promote the travel of foreign investors and tourists to Thailand when all the government’s lockdown orders are lifted.