AWS Public Sector Blog

Manchester Airports Group looks to AWS to transform the passenger experience

This is a guest post written by digital leaders from the Manchester Airports Group (MAG).

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Airports are mini cities that at any one time serve and support thousands of people who need services to keep them informed, comfortable, and safe. Airports are also complex environments with multiple technology systems that traditionally exist in silos. And they are ripe for digital transformation.

From check-in through departure to the airfield and then back through the baggage halls, technology can transform the experience of passengers, partners, and staff. The UK’s Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which runs Manchester, London Stansted, and East Midlands airports, invests in this transformation.

MAG has created a technology and data strategy in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to integrate the elements of its complex ecosystems and deliver efficiencies. These include better passenger experiences, improved work environments, and incremental revenue opportunities.

MAG is focused on four areas to be fit for the future and ready for growth. The aim is to join up systems and break down data silos; build a cloud-based, event-driven architecture; incorporate technology to support net-zero carbon emission ambitions; and explore how generative artificial intelligence (AI) can help operations.

Data integration tools will lead to smarter planning

The first step is to join up MAG systems and integrate data silos on-the-day operations to optimize staff planning. Staff will no longer need to respond manually to delayed arrivals or departures and their knock-on effects across operations. Instead, digital planning tools will integrate data from the core airport systems and use machine learning (ML) to predict when passengers will arrive, so staffing can be re-organized in an automated manner.

This level of planning will apply to more than just check-in desks and baggage capacity. It will extend across the airport—for example, to the allocation of aircraft stands. It takes complex business rules into account.

Real-time data from the terminals and airfields will give command-and-control operations teams a single, trusted view of what’s happening across the airport. AI and business-rules automation will also help these teams make the right decisions for the best outcomes. It’s about making MAG airports as intelligent as possible.

Cloud-based, event-driven architecture saves time

To initiate a cloud-based, event-driven architecture, MAG worked with Ryanair to develop a cloud platform that drives information updates out from core airport systems. This means that passengers receive automated gate announcements both in the terminal from airport interfaces (departure boards and screens) at the same time they get the update on their airline’s app. And because it’s cloud-based, this feature can be made available to other airlines that subscribe.

Passenger feedback has been terrific, and Ryanair has eliminated the manual process previously used to update its app. The initiative is being extended to other airports, with other airlines.

Tech-driven efficiencies make operations more sustainable

MAG is committed to a sustainable future for all airport stakeholders. Technology is a big enabler of efficiency and sustainability, particularly when used for automation. MAG’s ambition is to use cloud-based technology to drive energy optimization across its airports with digitalized baggage systems and elevators, as well as modern management platforms.

We’ll improve energy efficiency when facilities, such as arrival and departure gates, only come to life when they are in use. Cloud technology makes this possible.

How AI helps airport operations

Last, but not least, is AI-powered computer-vision technology. This will recognize images at above-human levels of accuracy to manage MAG’s real-time operations. The group has just started a proof of concept to monitor baggage loaded on and off planes, a process critical to good timekeeping, which will allow MAG to predict when an aircraft will be ready to depart. We’ll be able to provide real-time information about waiting times in baggage recovery halls.

At the same time, MAG is working out how to deploy best-in-class generative AI to improve services and conditions for passengers and staff—perhaps a digital assistant that answers passengers’ questions in real time.

MAG has created a technology and data strategy in collaboration with AWS to integrate the elements of its complex ecosystems and deliver efficiencies. These include better passenger experiences, improved work environments, and incremental revenue opportunities.

Setting up the airport of the future

All these advances are facilitated by cloud technology, which gives the scalability, security, and tools to modernize quickly. Some core airport systems will likely remain on premises for several years, but MAG’s use of the cloud for data and integration platforms, where scalability, open connectivity, and performance matter, makes sense.

Our airports will be run by an integrated planning engine that uses big data from all the different streams, as well as ML and generative AI, and we expect this to be a reality by 2028. Critically, this will make air travel more sustainable, efficient, and enjoyable for our 60 million passengers who travel to more than 200 destinations every year.

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