ABB: Engineering exceptional experiences into airports


20 January 2023



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Read ABB’s whitepaper to discover how digitalization is helping to meet rising passenger expectations, taking sustainability & efficiency to new heights.

Airports are investing heavily to cope with rising passenger demand and expectations while meeting net-zero goals. Supporting airports on this journey, ABB’s array of tools and technologies are enabling efficient, sustainable ground operations and future-proofing airport infrastructure. But it’s a complex task and engineering airports of the future requires leadership, partnership and collaboration at every step


Today’s airports are drivers of economic activity and huge global employers. While passenger numbers are nearly at pre-pandemic levels of 8 billion per year, they could reach nearly 20 billion by 2037 . In response, airports are scaling up. An estimated US$1.2–1.5 trillion will be spent on global airport infrastructure development between now and 2030 . And passengers’ expectations for seamless, safe and affordable travel are rapidly rising too.

Over the next decade, how the industry invests will determine its long-term future. Within the aviation value chain, airports must play a leading role in delivering change that benefits passengers and the planet. There are global headwinds that could throw airports off course from economic downturns to slow progress on net-zero goals and energy security challenges, but the main drivers of change will be digitalization, building green and electrification.


ABB recently researched the convergence of digitalization and sustainability. In Billions of Better Decisions, we found 96% of decision-makers said digitalization is essential to sustainability. In airports, digital technologies are vital to deliver the levels of efficiency and sustainability that are increasingly demanded by stakeholders – from passengers and investors to regulators and governments.

The next evolution – Airport 4.0 – will be hyperconnected spaces that use AI, IoT and analytics throughout their operations. These complex infrastructures put new demands on existing power hardware and distribution. To ensure the digitally enabled airport can function robustly, reliably and safely, a future-proof power infrastructure will be essential. Otherwise, it will be difficult to fully realize the benefits of digital transformation.


The circular economy – reduce, reuse and recycle – is finding its way into airport operations and infrastructure. As early as possible during construction projects, it’s vital to identify opportunities for reusability and understand how needs – of passengers, airport partners and the business – will change over time. This helps to ensure maximum efficiency for the entire lifecycle of an asset and can increase its reliability and longevity.

Building green also involves current assets. By adopting predictive maintenance, airports can make informed decisions on asset availability and reliability. This shift in focus from reactive and periodic maintenance to measuring real-time performance also guides operations managers. Some are reporting reductions in operating expenditure (up to 40%) and maintenance (up to 30%) – and these real-world impacts are vital steps to reaching sustainability goals.


There’s a revolution happening in and around airports – electrification could reduce CO2 emissions by 35% of the total 2050 emissions reduction. Whether it’s fleets of airside EVs or turning airports from parking lots into charging hubs, greener transport offers huge potential for sustainability gains. Electrification infrastructure can also generate income for airports while having a positive sustainability impact. Perhaps even reaching beyond airport perimeters to urban and regional transport networks.


Airports have lots to do to secure their future, to show leadership on sustainability and to manage growing complexity. At ABB, we’re seeing increased demand for our expertise and experience in both the construction and running of airports. And we’re partnering with airports at every step from planning and design to engineering, procurement, construction, operation, and beyond.

Partnerships will continue to be vital to evolve airport ground operations and build smart, future-proof infrastructures. And close collaboration is essential to enable – and power – airports to work reliably, safely, efficiently and sustainably. To learn more about ABB and airports, download the whitepaper Engineering Exceptional Experiences into Airports. 

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