Airports have faced an immense change in the last two years, and their ability to adapt and cater to passenger concerns continues to play a crucial role in the aviation industry’s ongoing recovery throughout the pandemic. With ever-changing travel requirements and, of course, looming health concerns, airport management saw unprecedented challenges during this time. However, with a growing need for state-of-the-art passenger processing and system agility, valuable opportunities for airport modernization have been thrust upon the industry.
“We have seen robust adoption around biometrics, health passports, and other technologies as we traverse this difficult territory,” stated Augusto Santos, Head of the Design and Innovation at Collins Aerospace. Following his recent panel appearance with Future Travel Experience, we tapped Santos for his thoughts on the airport of the future and what a post-COVID travel experience might look like.
Overall, Santos shared that airports are still focused on returning to pre-COVID numbers, but ultimately, airports aim to return to those numbers in a way that’s safer and more predictable for every part of the aviation ecosystem. “Travel is a need, both for passengers and cargo,” he explained, touching on the ongoing supply chain challenges. “Airport decision-makers are exploring options that help us return to some level of normalcy in travel, but in a way that addresses passenger concerns while also remaining profitable.”
To support such efforts, Santos emphasized the importance of biometrics, comprehensive health checks, and the overarching enablement of the seamless. These all also help mitigate the uncertainty around constantly changing travel requirements and the complications that result from that. Concerns like this one have resulted in partnerships like the one between Collins Aerospace and IATA around the health passport and biometrics.
“COVID and air travel became a matter of information and data,” Santos stated. “And in that regard, Collins Aerospace has a lot to offer, given how many facets of the aviation ecosystem we interface with. To enable the right information at the right time has only grown in importance in the face of this pandemic and as the industry rebuilds.”
Looking forward, Santos anticipates growth in self-service options at airports, including everything from check-in to remote luggage processing. In turn, he thinks this will have a profound impact on the nature of the airport environment. “As those processes become more automated, passengers become more like guests and agents become more like hosts and operate less transactionally. Airport layouts may change, and the role of the airport in the passenger journey evolves into something more experiential.”
While there are undeniable consequences and tragedies that have taken place throughout the pandemic, perhaps one of the most important silver linings has been the push for airport modernization and the demand for more people-oriented processes. Experts like Santos continue to see those shifts unfold in the form of airport automation and digitalization to serve the modern and future passenger journey.