COVID-19 has clearly accelerated awareness for safety, healthcare and increased hygiene. It has unfolded new consumer expectations while traveling and created the demand for safer air travel. Airports now need to maneuver through the crisis and come up with solutions to understand passengers’ new requirements and manage them effectively.
The concept of touchless/contactless passenger experience has gained traction to ensure adherence to COVID-related restrictions and health concerns. Innovative technologies like touchless body temperature detections, and facial recognition are becoming the new norm.
Innovative ideas and technologies are critical to creating tech-savvy airports that deliver exceptional passenger experience in the new normal. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and the convergence of 5G with cloud capabilities are bringing significant transformation to the travel experience.
Challenges at the airport
Travel bans, partial lockdown and restrictive quarantine measures continue to impede travel industry recovery.
Human interactions and inadequate staff at screening checkpoints, baggage handling and security often lead to long queues. These long queues could compromise social distancing norms and lead to health risk. Additionally, most airport infrastructures have maximum capacity utilization, which weren’t designed to adapt to social distancing regulations. Inconsistencies in flight schedules due to country-specific restrictions lead to significant delays at the airports.
Overcoming these challenges requires operational flexibility, collaboration, and technological readiness.
Redefining the airport experience with innovation
Touchless technology innovations have become critical in supporting airport recovery. These are enabling a move from manual processes to digital services. Automation and touchless technologies have increased the efficiency of airport management at various passenger touchpoints.
New age passenger experience
Touchless technology means no manual input of data or in other words, low or no direct contact with systems. Although sanitization measures are implemented, the systems do not need constant monitoring due to lack of direct contact. Passengers are assured of sanitized restroom with robots disinfecting within regular intervals.
User-friendly mobile applications help airport visitors to navigate the premises. Many airlines now use mobile apps to communicate with customers on flight details, alerts and status reports. Customizable apps such as Wipro Health CO-VER can be used at airports to track, educate, and alert visitors about social distancing measures.
In the context of the current pandemic, the use of immunity passport can prove convenient to passengers. Similar to a paper-based certificate, the digital health passport can be applied to enable human mobility.
Passenger time optimization
Biometrics and digital identification could become new travel passports to eliminate manually-intensive operations. Facial identification using biometric device could replace a physical passport. You could go straight through the boarding gate with the facial recognition access, allowing time optimization.
Applying biometric devices can eliminate long waiting time at immigration checkpoints.
With the introduction of biometrics in airports, passengers can benefit from fast-track services. Recently, Dubai Airport1 implemented a new biometric system that uses AI technology at smart gates to prevent passenger clusters, improve passenger time optimization, and to enhance touchless experience. A passenger with machine-readable passport can access the smart gate and proceed.
Smart baggage kiosks
Self-service bag drop (SSBD) is an automated technology designed to give control to the traveler. Implementing self-service baggage drop-offs can exponentially enhance passengers’ experience. This will result in reduced queuing and check-in time and enable stress-free journey. It will allow the passenger to print bag tags, boarding passes and drop-off baggage by using customer-friendly interface.
Built-in sensors, cameras, and smart kiosks at the airport will promote substantial benefits to the passenger as well as the airport management. It will enable fewer manual workforce, time optimization, and convenient check-in. With the steady increase of passenger footprint per year, the need for space optimization is a priority.
Enhanced lounge experience
The use of AI at airports has the ability to convert data into usable intelligence for improvement in operations and passenger experience. Sanitizing robots and self-service automated stations at the airport-lounge can further promote touchless solutions. It can potentially enhance premium, tailored experience for travelers looking for comfort.
Turkish Airlines has recently applied Apple’s iBeacon technology that connects with other iOS devices to enable lounge users to access popular books. Similar concepts can be configured to bring about more intelligent and innovative technology to foster user experience across the lounge.
Grab, a mobile ordering device used by airports is another example. Passengers can order meals through their own devices with a scan of a QR code without downloading the app and without any human interaction.
Smart airports with touchless technology
The events of 2020 have plummeted traveler confidence. Technological innovation has lifted some pressure off and restored assurance. Although these innovations enhance safer travel, they do raise questions on personal data security and privacy protection. Stakeholders in the travel industry are finding ways to address these challenges while investing in innovative platforms to enable better customer service.
Implementing cloud-based digital transformation in the travel industry has provided a breakthrough in contactless passenger experience. Investing in cutting-edge technologies at the airports can promote sustainability, resilience and efficiency and mitigate future disruptions.
Wipro is helping leading airports adapt to the new normal. To know how we can support your transformation journey, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 Future Travel Experience; Dubai Airport introduces facial recognition to fast-track immigration processes; Feb 2021; https://www.futuretravelexperience.com/2021/02/dubai-airports-introduces-facial-recognition-to-fast-track-immigration-processes/
2 Future Travel Experience; Dubai Airport introduces facial recognition to fast-track immigration processes; Feb 2021; https://www.futuretravelexperience.com/2021/02/dubai-airports-introduces-facial-recognition-to-fast-track-immigration-processes/
cessed March 6, 2021.
About The Author
Lead Solution Architect - IoT, UK – Cloud & Infrastructure Services, Wipro
Saravanan has industry experience in the areas of Solution Design, Pre-sales, Consulting and Software Development. As an experienced IoT and Smart Cities professional, Saravanan has worked extensively with companies around the globe in providing innovative and cutting-edge solutions. Saravanan has special interest in Smart Buildings and Retail technology trends and IoT.