Five frank questions with Steve Armitage of London Heathrow Airport
We caught up with International Airport Review Advisory Board Member, Steve Armitage, who is also Head of Innovation and Intelligent Automation at Heathrow Airport for five frank questions.
How are things going in Heathrow’s innovation department, are you revitalising on-hold projects? How are you prioritising these?
The innovation team has stabilised in terms of resources and, looking over the rest of the year, may even start to grow back. All of the projects that we’ll get involved in are aligned to the Heathrow plan that we agree with our stakeholders.
What projects does Heathrow have in the pipeline?
The key focus is still on recovery but looking forward I would see efficient airport, carbon and sustainability and security as the key areas of our focus. There are many opportunities ranging from applied innovation (bringing into Heathrow what others are already doing) through to looking for new ways to solve business challenges.
What is on your watch list for this year in terms of challenges and opportunities?
The key challenge is doing whatever is needed to support the return in passenger numbers. Over the last couple of years we have focused on health – keeping passengers safe, testing and looking to reduce check-in time transaction time. The opportunities are now around as we build back to make sure we do so in the most efficient ways.
A workforce shortage is something airports around the world are battling with, is your team working on automating any areas of airport operations to help ease this pain point?
We don’t have automation per say on the plan and, given that this normally involves capital investment that neither we or our stakeholders have, I think this may be a few years away in the aviation industry. There are challenges across all of the stakeholders at Heathrow and this is very true in the technology and innovation space too.
What technologies do you think will be disrupting the industry most in the coming year?
I would welcome technology disruptions rather than the others sorts that we have had over the last few years! I don’t think we will be talking about any specific technology disruptors in the coming year, though they will underpin capabilities such as passenger automation and airport efficiency.