A Queue-less Airport Experience – Assessing the Future of Air Travel

Air travel is on the rise across the world as the populations of both developed and developing nations look to expand their business and leisure opportunities opened up by globalisation. However, despite its economically, culturally and societally liberating influence, one factor of air travel is dreaded universally – queuing.

Fortunately, the days of queuing at the airport may well be numbered, as the steady advance of emerging technologies eats into the traditional sources of inefficiency at the check-in desk, bag drop area, security sections, immigrations desks and the airport gate itself. A critical combination of biometrics, self-service options and data-driven smart solutions is helping to lift the operational capabilities of leading airports, while ruthlessly cutting queues down to size.

 

Biometrics – Letting machines do the heavy lifting in passenger recognition

Biometrics have become a growing presence in modern airports as fingerprinting and facial recognition software already speed up the immigration clearance process in many leading airports across the world. However, the next generation of biometric-based solutions are bringing a higher level of efficiency gains to each and every participating passenger.

Etihad Airways recently partnered with automation technology solutions provider Elenium to develop a range of voice-activated self-service kiosk, bag drop and boarding gate facilities. Once fully deployed, this suite of biometric solutions will allow passengers to enjoy a queue-free airport experience, as they can offer up facial and voice-based biometric data to the airline via their smartphone before they even arrive at the airport. Once they do arrive, they will be recognised by the airline’s systems, allowing them to grab their tickets, drop their bags and board their flight without ever having to produce a travel document or wait in a queue.

AI-empowered solutions among Etihad’s in-house developments also include a new system that can scan and memorise each piece of passengers’ baggage, eliminating the need for laborious tagging and checking at the desk and eliminating another source of queuing.

 

Perfectly painless parking – let robots take the wheel

While reducing queues within the airport itself will be a major victory for improving customer experience, the innovative approach is expanding beyond the terminal and out to the carpark. Currently, passengers arriving at large airports face an annoying and arduous parking job, followed by a long and potentially stressful journey on foot to reach the terminal if they’re unlucky with the availability of parking spots.

Gatwick Airport is aiming to make this scenario a thing of the past, as their partnership with Stanley Robotics has led to a trial run of driverless robots who can park vehicles for passengers. All they have to do is leave their car in a parking station near Gatwick’s South Terminal entrance and these specially designed robots will gently lift it up and safely deposit it in a secure car park. With the owner’s return flight information pre-loaded into the system, a robot will seamlessly retrieve the vehicle and have it ready for their arrival. Estimates of the limited trial’s impact on Gatwick suggest that robots will be able to optimise space to create an additional 100 parking spaces, while saving customers valuable time.

 

Back-end support – Speeding up the transfer of passengers’ information

Of course, the best innovations need the backing of effective and reliable back-end ICT infrastructure to ensure that they work as intended, alleviating delays and customer stress rather than causing them. For this reason, airports are increasingly turning to solutions providers who can reduce the overall complexity of their ICT setup, in order to avoid cybersecurity issues and systems failures while also reducing their carbon footprint.

Amadeus is a leading solutions provider in bringing, “common use infrastructure out of the airport and into the cloud”. Amadeus’ baggage reconciliation system utilises ‘single data source’ that ensures that up-to-the-minute information on loading, tracking, baggage, passengers and flights is held centrally and can be updated and accessed on demand.

 

Walk in, fly out, without waiting about

Thanks to the complex and demanding nature of global aviation operations, airports are likely to remain an environment prone to delays for the foreseeable future. Still, the immediate future looks bright in terms of cutting needless queuing and sources of traditional frustration for passengers. With technology giving airports vastly improved capabilities to handle millions of passengers’ cars, bags, flight tickets, security details and various personal needs, the future of boarding a plane is looking like a much more hassle-free process.

 

This article was created in association with Airport Show taking place in Dubai on 26-28 October 2020.

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