Study says how airports are managing travel in COVID-19 world

Published on : Friday, December 4, 2020

As India embarks on a mission aimed at slowly reopening the country to international travel, Amadeus has revealed four trends that will shape the airport experience in 2021 and beyond. 

Since March, international passenger flights in India have been suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. Travel was limited to special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission and reciprocal air travel bubbles established with countries such as Japan, Canada, and Germany. Now, as India reopens to the rest of the world in late-November, airports across the country face new challenges in a COVID-19world.

Over the last eight months, airports such as Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport have been diligently adhering to the Government’s COVID-19 mandates on health and temperate screening, deeper cleaning and sanitisation, and social distancing. This has proven effective with reduced passenger numbers. However, as airports in India return to full capacity, maintaining these levels of passenger safety and trust will be challenging.

According to Sunil Ankalgi, Head of Sales and Account Management, Airport IT, APAC, Amadeus, technology will be essential to meet new operational and traveller needs, as well as to recover and generate new revenues.

“Major airports in India are already greatly advanced and smart when it comes to automation, security screening, and baggage handling technologies. However, we are now seeing that future digital transformation initiatives are being accelerated, as the industry rethinks the way people travel, in order to drive recovery and rebuild traveller confidence. This is good news for passengers who will benefit from a more frictionless experience in the future. Looking ahead, the airport experience in India will be underpinned by technologies such as automation, biometrics, big data, and advanced analytics.”

From research and conversations with customers, Amadeus has identified four technology trends that will have a lasting impact on airports in India and ultimately, help to rebuild India’s travel ecosystem.

1.            Contactless self-service devices to make travel safer

Contactless technologies will allow travellers to move from check-in to boarding safely and independently. Using new technology, passengers can operate self-service kiosks and auto bag drop units without physical inputs, instead using their mobile phone to control the device or leveraging a QR to automatically print bag tags from contactless printers. With airports in Delhi and Mumbai already offering passengers the option to check-in independently from self-service kiosks and airports elsewhere in India providing self bag drop, automated systems could be adapted to be contactless, rather than requiring significant investment in new infrastructure.

2.            Biometrics will enable a more seamless journey

Biometric systems, which use facial recognition technology to identify passengers, will also help to make journeys safer and more seamless. Biometrics can be leveraged to replace passport and boarding pass scans, replacing these traditional touch checks with a touchless scan of a passenger’s face. The digital processing of passengers at airports is a key tenant of the DigiYatra Project, a initiative coordinated by the Indian Government to facilitate more frictionless travel through facial recognition.

3.            Off-airport services to facilitate social distancing

To reduce crowding at terminals and meet new requirements for social distancing, airports will increasingly look to off-airport services. Off-airport services such as ‘pop-up’ check-in and bag drop can reduce airport congestion by enabling these essential processes to take place outside the check-in hall. For example, at train stations, bus terminals, in the airport car park, or off the airport entirely at hotels, venues, or passengers’ homes. So, when passengers arrive at the airport, they don’t need to queue at check-in, instead they can pass straight to immigration.

4.            The cloud to reduce carbon emissions and contain costs

Despite the pandemic dominating news headlines, ‘greening’ operations and ensuring an environmentally sustainable business model remain key priorities for airports. By moving operations to the cloud, airports can remove energy-intensive on-premise servers, significantly reducing their electricity consumption, emissions, and carbon footprint. The flexibility of cloud-based solutions also allows airports to contain costs by scaling operations up or down based on demand.

“In these unique times we have the opportunity not only to rebuild the travel industry, but to rebuild it better for rapid growth, without compromising quality of service and safety,” continued Ankalgi. “Safe and seamless travel should be a priority for airports in India, which also presents the industry with valuable opportunities where all stakeholders must collaborate and work together to rethink our processes and the way we travel.”

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