Have you faced any challenges in implementing or carrying forward sustainability and innovation? And, how are you trying to push innovation at Rotterdam The Hague?
“Of course we had and still have our challenges, particularly at this uncertain time. For example, the recently completed first phase of our terminal was needed primarily to resolve some of the operational bottlenecks. We completed this despite the crisis. But we already know now that even when COVID-19 is a few years behind us, we will once again experience challenges around terminal space and processes. This may mean having to look into technological innovations and investigate both digital and sustainable solutions to tackle this. However, with the ongoing impact of COVID-19, and probably for the short-term, we will not be seeing particularly high passenger numbers.
“Although we are a regional airport and operate on a smaller scale, this also presents a chance for us to bring in new initiatives and to pilot projects in the field of sustainability and innovation. We’re a perfect fit to trial new ideas, and we already have a track record in innovation. In 2019 for example, we had a living field lab in the form of the electrical ground power unit (eGPU). We also had an innovation ‘first’ in piloting flexible and sustainable autonomous vehicles for the seamless handling of individual bags inside the baggage hall. Both were tested within live airport operations in co-operation with Aviapartner and Vanderlande.
“Last year we established a foundation – Rotterdam The Hague Innovation Airport (RHIA) – in partnership with the City of Rotterdam to launch more initiatives for innovation; not just on sustainability but beyond that too. As part of this, for the past year, we have had an airport technology lab in one of our hangars. The lab can be used by aviation and non-aviation companies, such as TU Delft and NLR to work on solutions to problems, like faster and seamless passenger (automatic) flow. The drive to extend this beyond a solely aviation-based lab is because we want to connect with the region. So we support start-ups and other innovations even beyond our interests.
“Elsewhere, we are working together with students from the Albeda Rotterdam The Hague Airport College. In addition to using our labs for their innovations and work, the students can also support us for example as customer service floor-walkers in our terminal during peak times. It is a win-win situation – giving the students real experience within airport operations, while also providing them with the opportunity to push forward their ideas for the future of air travel.