Technology is key – people make the difference

Posted: 6 May 2024 | | No comments yet

Thomas Hoff Andersson, Managing Director (MD) & Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) discusses how a clear division of tasks can enable airports to utilise evolving technologies to create the best solutions.

Berlin Airport's Terminal 2. CREDIT: Anikka Bauer/ Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH.

How Berlin Airport aims to make air travel more convenient

At Berlin Airport, we believe air travel must be safe – who would ever disagree? To be safe, security standards must be up to date. Very often that goes along with additional regulations, processes and ultimately barriers. That is at odds with another fact that everyone probably would agree on: air travel is important for societies and economies and to serve the purpose of helping people travel and economies thrive, processes must be clear, simple, and smooth.

Security points at Berlin Airport. CREDIT: Ekaterina Zershchikova / Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH.

The capacity needed for security checks is calculated with data from the airport operator, interpreted by the same experts and the contractor is commissioned without any middleman”. 

To improve the processes and service at the security screening, the airport operator of BER Airport and the Federal Police of Germany, together with the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community, assessed the strengths of each partner and what each organisation could contribute for a secure, and at the same time smooth and efficient, security process. The outcome was a clear division of tasks. Like Frankfurt Airport in 2023 as the first German airport, Berlin Airport took over the responsibility for the security checks at the beginning of 2024. In that new role, the airport operator operator manages the contract the service provider, plans the security lane demand on a daily basis, owns and maintains the technology used in the lanes. The Federal Police of Germany is still responsible for the supervision of the delivered quality, while legislation and approval of new technology remains with the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

Where is technology linked to the new process of work?

BER Airport operates two separate terminals with completely different infrastructure. Therefore, even within one airport, the starting point for implementing new technology is different. To meet the objective of offering our passengers a seamless passenger experience, the airport operator must find the best possible solution at each process point. With the new division of tasks, the airport operator can now directly connect and creatively interact with industry leading technology providers and jointly finds solutions which fit BER.

Check-in points at Berlin Airport. CREDIT: Anikka Bauer/ Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH.

The first milestone in updating the technology will be reached as early as the first quarter of 2024: each lane in Terminal 2 will be equipped with modern CT scanners from Smiths Detection. This upgraded technology will enhance the entire security screening process: liquids and electronic devices will no longer have to be taken out of the hand luggage. Naturally, this improvement increases the efficiency of the airport security checkpoint and will massively improve the passenger experience.

Next Level means final stage?

The whole project of taking over the security control was completed in less than a year. This is especially fast when taking into consideration that airport security standards are always given and must never be violated no matter who is in charge. Therefore, the rapid implementation with no room for mistakes was a great achievement by highly motivated and competent people, the support of the Federal Police and great teamwork. As everyone can be proud of what has been achieved, this is the Next Level, not the final stage. After completing the implementation of the new CT technology in Terminal 2, the next step is to start with Terminal 1 and find solutions for the different security check points in the largest terminal of BER Airport. For 2024, the ambitious goal is to extend the CT technology to the southern pavilion of Terminal 1. This will be followed by the northern pavilion and the middle hall in the future.

Self-service baggage drops at Berlin Airport. CREDIT: Anikka Bauer/ Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH.

Digital natives

The pace at which the responsibility for the security controls was handed over, as well as the implementation of CT technology in Terminal 2, was very fast. This was not surprising, as modern technology and digital products are deeply embedded in the DNA of the organisation that operates BER Airport. This is the company that introduced BER Runway in August 2022, the first product for virtual queuing at a European airport. For this and many other digital products such as Self-Check-in, Self-Bag-drop, facial recognition form, Self-Check-in to security check and boarding with “BER Traveller” or the digital twin of aircraft turnarounds to analyse processes with artificial intelligence, the airport company was awarded the 2023 the Airport Innovation Award at the International Airport Summit, in November 2023.

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CREDIT: Oliver Lang / Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH.

About the author – Thomas Hoff Andersson

Thomas Hoff Andersson has held the role of Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Berlin Brandenburg Airport since May 2022. After achieving an M. Sc. in Business Administration in Lund, Sweden, he has worked in the aviation industry since 1996. His previous roles include COO at Bangalore International Airport in India, and he gained experience in various positions in planning, passenger experience and airport optimisation at Copenhagen Airport. Prior to working at BER, he was Senior Vice President in Northern Europe for Menzies Aviation.

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