Perspectives

Aviation in 2018: the key trends

The next 12 months will be a year of transition and change for the aviation sector, particularly in the UK. Carl Dainter - Mace's Head of Aviation for Consultancy - outlines the key trends to watch out for. 

All eyes will be on Brussels and the UK Brexit negotiation team, as the potential impact of our departure from the EU increasingly makes itself felt across both the UK and Europe.

As more detail emerges of the precise nature of the final agreement on key issues, airport groups and operators will start their preparations for the big day in March 2019 in earnest. Some details, such as how passengers on specific flights will have to be separated and screened, could easily generate requirements for new construction programmes at a number of airports.

As a whole, the sector will be hoping for a soft exit from the European Union, as well as a boost from the potential final approval of a third runway at Heathrow. A strong and clear signal from the government that the work at Heathrow will be going ahead would give the aviation sector – and the infrastructure sector more widely – the confidence to continue investing in capacity.

Regional promise

Regional devolution and expected changes in connectivity and capacity between UK cities will lead to many UK airport groups reviewing and revising their future investment plans.

Connections to strong European trading partner cities and regions will continue to be a focus for route development and hence capacity demand. In particular, we may see changes to capacity planning at Birmingham influenced by HS2, and in Manchester due to shifts in the funding of TransPennine rail upgrades.

Manchester and Stansted airports will also begin the ‘visible’ elements of their respective terminal transformation programmes, with construction works continuing at pace in both airports. The project teams’ performance and delivery on those jobs will be monitored closely by others in the industry, as the sector as a whole prepares for the huge task of delivering the third runway at Heathrow.

International trends

A number of international trends in airport development will also likely have a big impact on how airports and operators invest in 2018.

The first is the continued march of digital air travel. As more and more locations move to a ‘digital first’ mentality for all travellers, passengers will have increased expectations around the amount of information and data they have access to. Expect to see increased live flight, boarding and luggage tracking information made available to passengers across the web, airport screens and on our smartphones.

These requirements will mean that more airports will need to intensify their digital investment programmes, requiring new technology, capacity and infrastructure to support ambitious digital transformation plans.

Secondly, car park products offered by airports continue to become more diverse and responsive to the expanding needs and expectations of passengers. From enhancing ‘kiss and drop’ facilities and short stay provisions through to more more tailor-made concierge and valet-type services, the drive to maximise car parking revenue will likely create a number of new construction requirements at UK airports.

Overall, development at UK airports will grow through 2018 as our aviation infrastructure continues to focus on meeting the regional and international needs of an expanding population.

Although it’s early to make a true judgement yet, the initial signs are that Brexit will provide additional work for contractors and consultants, alongside the standard ‘business as usual’ growth in passenger numbers.

This article was originally published by Construction News 

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  • Carl Dainter

    Director of Consultancy, Aviation
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