For over a decade, the aviation industry has sought to automate several travel touchpoints from check-in, to  self-bag drop, security, boarding gates and in-flight connectivity for ordering and services. Yet nothing has accelerated the self-service movement as much as the pandemic. To bolster health and safety requirements and boost passenger confidence throughout the journey, self-service technology has moved from a nice-to-have to a necessity.

Valour Consultancy recently released The Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports 2021 report, which examines the passenger’s experience throughout various touchpoints as they travel. The report offers insight into the investments that airports are making in touchless technologies from biometrics, to automated check-in, to bag-drop, and more.

Craig Foster, senior research consultant at Valour Consultancy, recently explained that pre-COVID adoption of self-service and automation technology was often embraced as a way to “process passengers more quickly and reduce the space taken up by manual check-in counters.” Of course, this was when the number of passengers traveling through airport facilities was significantly on the rise. The global pandemic halted those historic numbers of airline passengers, and while there have been some pockets of recovery, it might take another few years to reach pre-pandemic levels again.

Today, smart airports that are faced with the challenges of recovery are looking to invest in digital experiences and the number one priority is to boost passenger confidence, despite the uncertainty that is looming over the industry. “We do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all roadmap out of disruption into recovery and future growth,” Foster recently wrote in an airport self-service brief. As he studies the market, Foster sees more emphasis being put on self-service technology and digital services that are creating additional revenue streams.

“More opportunities are being realized as a result of the pandemic,” he noted. “From remote ordering to mobile apps or the near real-time services that are on-demand, “ airports and airlines have been forced to try new technological options to comply with social-distancing, contactless service requirements, and customer expectations.” 

The most common implementations have been around the contactless passenger journey, Foster highlighted. “Biometrics are increasingly being added to domestic travel channels, as well as international, to improve the passenger experience and operational efficiency,” he said. Additionally, to protect airport staff, there have been precautions taken to reduce interactions with passengers. This is where offerings like self-check kiosks are being upgraded or newly installed. Similarly, eGates are being introduced at pre-security, airport lounges, and boarding gates, Foster added. “Airlines are [also] investing in their digital operations and incorporating a wider array of features and services into their passenger apps and online channels.”

The acceleration of this contactless and self-service technology is not without its issues from budget constraints, to data privacy concerns and more. However, as the aviation industry travels along the road to recovery, there is more willingness to collaborate and work together to address them. This will ultimately lead to the modernization of operations, increased health and safety protocols, and setting new standards for passenger experience.

To download The Seamless Passenger Journey in Smart Airports 2021 Edition from Valour Consultancy and P.A.ID Strategies, click here.

About Shany Seawright

A senior executive at Strategic Communications Group and Managing Editor of Connected Aviation Today, as well as other publications, Seawright oversees the editorial direction of the publication and managed the editorial staff.