Go through a new airport experience
Our world and our industry face exceptional challenges. It would be an understatement to say that Covid-19 has drastically changed the priorities of airlines, airports and governments. The industry is continually faced with the challenge of managing the development of air transport in an efficient, safe and sustainable manner. Nonetheless, there are reasons to be hopeful for the rest of 2021 and beyond.
While synonymous with stalled economies, the pandemic period has proven to be the starting point for accelerated adoption of technology in the airline industry. There is growing interest in finding new technological solutions to address passenger concerns about health measures such as distancing, hygiene and sanitation, and passenger health screening. Important technological trends are already in place to shape the future of air travel and make the travel experience safe and efficient.
Mobile devices are a big part of the contactless passenger experience. The combination of a cloud platform, mobile self-service, and automated solutions, both on-site and off-site, can create the seamless passenger flow the industry needs. The approach will take us from traditional long-queue passenger travel to digital passenger travel, with ‘mobile as remote control for travel’, where mobile devices can be used at terminals and contactless doors, l ‘bag labeling, personal guidance, digital boarding, stamping through security, and more.
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport has introduced nearly 50 mobile kiosks, becoming one of the first airports in India to offer a contactless way for passengers to check-in. The technology allows passengers to use their mobile devices to interact with the kiosks. This reduces the need to touch airport surfaces and meets Ministry of Civil Aviation passenger handling guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of Covid-19 infections.
Automation and biometrics will become the norm rather than the exception at major airports around the world over the next few years. These solutions will provide a “pass through” airport experience, where passengers can use their face as a boarding pass and walk seamlessly from taxi to plane. Passengers are increasingly being offered services over Wi-Fi or 4G networks to avoid any non-personal contact points (such as in-flight entertainment screens on the backs of the seats), once in flight, and to comply with the social distancing – building confidence on board.
There is a huge opportunity to increase the efficiency and safety of airport and airline crews by using facial recognition technology to identify and authenticate crew members, allowing them to perform check-in procedures and mandatory pre-flight safety and security questions digitally via their own mobile devices.
The Internet of Things has shown great promise for some time, but the convergence of 5G, the maturation of artificial intelligence (AI) programs, and the ubiquity of embedded sensors in cheaper hardware are bringing this vision to life. AI algorithms will be the key to efficiency, with AI becoming the secret sauce of airports. Airports will use visual analysis supported by AI-based recommendations to bring real-time 3D operation simulations to life for all stakeholders, improving operational efficiency and the passenger experience.
We expect the development of digital identity to replace the traditional passport. In fact, the Airports Authority of India plans to invest nearly 25,000 crore in the expansion or development of existing and new terminals at various airports using modern technology.
The number of airports introducing such technology is a testament to the growing popularity of digital identity solutions. Comprehensive journey-wide identity management solutions are increasingly being implemented to easily integrate biometrics into airport infrastructure and airline systems in common use.
The author is President, Asia-Pacific, SITA