COVID-19 has prompted passengers and aviation decision makers alike to reassess the travel process and the safety procedures that come with it. Sanitization and social distancing efforts now top priority lists for airport administrators and it is triggering new thoughts about a shift in passenger processing as well. Between mask mandates, temperature checks, and 6-foot distance markers, airports are—and will continue to—look very different from how they did even a year ago.
So how are airport leaders effectively implementing the technology and regulations they need to boost passenger confidence and help ensure a safe, healthy journey for travelers?
To learn more about how airport decision makers are adopting new approaches for passenger processing, we spoke with Augusto Santos, Managing Director, Airports Systems Sales for the Americas Region at Collins Aerospace. Santos discussed different tactics and technologies being employed by airport leadership to accommodate a COVID-minded traveler.
Santos explained the importance of self-service and automation to the passenger journey. Many of these trends have already been noticeable in recent years. Whether it’s remote baggage tagging or mobile passenger check-in, there is some infrastructure in place that is crucial to the success of a post-COVID airport. Santos also discussed the impact that new policies like temperature checks and socially distanced lines would have on airport congestion.
“For many airports right now, the space they currently have available for passenger processing is not enough when you’re adding six feet between each person and taking extra time to check their temperatures before sending them to the next leg of their journey,” noted Santos. “Of course, these procedures are necessary right now, but that’s why more remote and automated check-in processes are crucial to mitigating passenger congestion as much as possible.”
According to Santos, other technologies contributing to a more effective airport ecosystem in a post-COVID world include heat maps that would enable passengers and crew to be more aware of congested areas and, in turn, avoid them. Biometrics also contributes greatly to the contactless passenger journey effort through the use of facial recognition and the integration of a biometric token into passenger processing.
With regards to boosting passenger confidence, Santos stated that, “Passengers will feel reassured knowing that everyone in that airport has undergone the same health check, sanitization of common areas has increased, and air filtration systems are being upgraded to ensure the highest level of safety possible for travelers.” Santos also noted that there is an added element of comfort and convenience that comes with embracing more self-service options for passengers.
Even with a solid plan in place, Santos acknowledged the challenges that come with this shift. The meshing of many different technologies always poses complexities that can be difficult to navigate and the need to unite aviation stakeholders in this mission is crucial. “Every stakeholder in the airport ecosystem needs to be comfortable and in agreement with how everything will work.” Security best practices, especially as more self-service options become available will also need to be solidified and standardized.
While some of the technologies powering this evolution are readily accessible across the airport industry right now, more advanced technologies will become available in the next two to three quarters Santos predicted. “Airports will be ready for action with these new best practices and technologies in place when congestion really picks up and passengers begin traveling with more frequency.”