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The seamless airports of tomorrow

by Editor
Passenger processing mechanisms at Airports i.e. check-in, baggage drop, security, and immigration check are slow and tedious. These choke points annoy the passenger and leave a bad taste in the overall experience. With COVID-19 forcing the fast adoption of contact free processing, it is time airports move on to making the journey from an airport aisle to an airplane – fast, hassle-free and seamless!

D. Rakesh – Author of 101 Flying Secrets book

There are 1 million people in the sky at any given time; this is equivalent to a city in the sky (BBC Earth, 2016). This reality would have been farfetched without the services of airport check-in, baggage drop, security, and immigration authorities who are tasked to ‘process’ passengers from the landside to the airside safely and securely to their respective outbound destinations. Though essential, some of these processes are slow and tedious, especially for the passenger and are bottlenecks for the airport authorities.

To put it in simpler words, they slow the passenger down. Although these procedures have been enhanced by technological innovations and interesting interventions like web check-in, express baggage drop, TSA PreCheck (expedited security screening benefits for flights departing from U.S. Airports), and SmartGate (an automated self-service border control system) in their respective departments. We are still far away from a seamless hassle-free walkthrough experience at an airport.

The contactless technology which was once envisioned to be a part of the aviation ecosystem a few years ago, got fast tracked due to COVID-19. There is no doubt, Covid has punched a deep hole in the aviation industry, but it also forced the industry to move on faster to contact free processing of passengers.

Though the olden ways of getting things done by one-on-one employee to passenger interaction is critical from a customer service and engagement standpoint, they have considerably slowed down the process for a vast majority of computer and smartphone literates who live in a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) world. These sequential procedures – Check-in, baggage drop, and security which I refer to as the passenger processing mechanism has vastly contributed towards creating choke points within an airport. These choke points come to life as the existing procedures are largely mechanical, bifurcated by operation, and slow. Which therefore increases the dwell time of passengers, thereby creating long queue lines. This further ceases the efficiency of the airport infrastructure.

The pressure on airport infrastructure can be well managed by effective technological interventions in passenger processing as it is the heart of a terminal operation. Much of this passenger processing slows down the natural walking pace of the passengers, which contributes to creating logjams at the airport. It is imperative that airports of tomorrow are those that match their passenger processing mechanism to the natural walking pace of the passengers. The future of air travel is minimal, efficient, and technologically immersive.

The airports of tomorrow will harbour technologies which are fully integrated, which enable a passenger to complete all the processes as a single stage. Technological solutions like dedicated walkthrough smart corridors which include an array of systems to simultaneously validate passenger ticket and identity, perform body and baggage scan, detect explosives and prohibited items and perform passport control all while a passenger is at a walking pace unhindered, possess to be the most promising solution to ease the bottleneck issue at the airport terminals.

Products like ‘emaratech Smart Corridor’ and ‘Thales Smart Corridor’ are a proof of the integrated technology concept and seemingly the future of faster passenger processing. The ‘emaratech Smart Corridor’ has a throughput of 12 passengers per minute while the ‘Thales Smart Corridor’ assures non-intrusiveness and privacy to the passengers. Another inspiring integrated technological concept ‘Aerochk’ reimagines a journey on an escalator to speed up passenger processing. Escalators enhanced with multiple sensors will simultaneously scan, validate and detect identities, people and belongings on their journey through the escalator.

These technologies are very much in line with making the passenger processing well integrated, less intrusive, seamless, and very much the future of seamless travel through the airports across the world.

The airports of tomorrow may well use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to tailor every technological interaction of the passenger with the systems to be bespoke.

It is now the task of the airports to make the walk from an airport aisle to the airplane – a walk in the park!

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