Considering the impacts that COVID-19 has had on aviation writ-large, many experts in the industry have seen the need for technology-driven solutions to address today’s pandemic-related problems. With the emphasis on instilling passenger confidence in a healthy and secure journey, industry professionals are optimistic that the future of air travel will be more efficient and ultimately, a vastly improved experience for the passenger.

The aviation industry’s road to recovery has seen numerous challenges arise from the ongoing healthcare crisis. These include the lack of government guidance, diminished revenue from decreased consumer travel, and safeguarding the wellbeing of travelers and employees. At the core of these issues is the low passenger confidence in travel. As global airports are beginning to welcome passengers back, there are many opportunities to boost confidence and create a more resilient industry in the future.

In a recent webinar, “Redefining Air Travel,” experts from Birmingham and Dublin airports and Collins Aerospace discussed how the aviation industry can take advantage of new opportunities while leveraging existing technologies for future innovation.

Frances O’Brien, Vice President PMO IT at DAA and a participant in the webinar hosted by Aviation Week, noted the important role that government has in the industry’s recovery. Governments can define “what makes it safe to fly and be on board and, that when a passenger gets to a destination, they know they can be relatively comfortable in their safety.”

O’Brien spoke at length about what authorities can do to increase customer confidence but Wayne Smith, Director of IT and Information Security at Birmingham Airport Limited, noted that there need to be some efforts from within their industry as well. O’Brien stated that at the Birmingham Airport, “There are 140 different companies on-site and they all need to look to us as the landlord. They need to see what we’re doing to keep them going.” From new biometric tracking to enhanced cleaning processes, airports must utilize new technology to assuage tenants’ worries until the aviation industry can recover fully.

The technology that will power this next phase of innovation already exists, according to Chris Forrest, Vice President of Airport Systems, Information Management Systems at Collins Aerospace. “Some of the innovations that you’ll see coming out now are trying to make the passenger journey through the airport as contactless as possible.” With the push towards minimizing the spread of COVID-19, several innovations have already been developed. Forrest highlighted the simple use of a mobile phone to control an airport check kiosk rather than using the touchscreen. “That’s a new technology that is actually [something] you’ll see being deployed throughout [airports around] the world,” noted Forrest.

While new technology will be a critical component of the next-generation airport, Forrest noted that even something as simple as enhanced cleaning protocols can boost passenger confidence. The management and enforcing of social distancing guidelines is another customer-facing example that can bolster passenger safety. “There are touchpoints within an airport both in the outbound and inbound journey where people naturally congregate,” Forrest said, and these areas must be monitored.

Heatmaps of the airport is another example of technology that can boost passenger confidence by identifying and then informing passengers of congestion, allowing them to plan their journey through the terminal. This congestion data can also assist airports in understanding how traffic ebbs and flows throughout the day. Forrest spoke to the use of machine learning and efficient data management as exciting areas for development, with new means of tracking and guiding passengers and employees safely through their transit around the airport.

Regardless of how technology enhances the future of aviation, Forrest noted that there are consumers who will monitor how the industry is innovating and guaranteeing safety. “As we keep innovating solutions not only within the airport but also the airplane, we can expect our customers will become more confident in how the industry is addressing concerns about their safety and health. I think that we are going to see a gradual return and it’s really important for passenger confidence that the industry keeps showing progress towards enabling a safer journey.”

To listen to the full webcast, register here.