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Driving the next wave of recovery for the aviation industry through safe and frictionless travel

One of the most important takeaways from this shift has been the sheer resilience and agility displayed by airports and airlines in embracing the use of technology to restore passenger confidence.

Driving the next wave of recovery for the aviation industry through safe and frictionless travel
Passengers now expect to be connected using their preferred apps and are not limited in the available content. (Photo source: Pixabay)

By Sumesh Patel,

Empty airports and grounded planes became ubiquitous over the last few years, as COVID-19 significantly impacted the aviation industry financially and operationally. This period was incredibly challenging for airports and airlines, who had to adapt their operations to the changing needs of the industry, with evolving health guidelines and renewed passenger expectations. One of the most important takeaways from this shift has been the sheer resilience and agility displayed by airports and airlines in embracing the use of technology to restore passenger confidence.

As things return to normal and passengers return to the skies, addressing issues like passenger health control, long lines and crowding at checkpoints, baggage mishandling, and so on will be critical to ensuring full recovery and enabling safe and frictionless travel. For example, ‘ ‘In SITA’s Baggage IT Insights 2022, the global mishandled baggage rate increased by 24% to 4.35 bags per thousand passengers in 2021 versus 2020. Similarly, we have seen the pressure the rapid recovery in Europe has put on airports and airlines. As traffic increases, these types of challenges will grow.

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With technology as the foundation, here are some thoughts on how the industry can work together to create a safer, more robust, streamlined, and sustainable operating procedure.

Enabling a touchless and connected onboard experience

Touchless and personal device-enabled onboard experiences are in high demand and quickly becoming the new industry standard. Passengers now expect to be connected using their preferred apps and are not limited in the available content. The existing, queue-heavy passenger journey can be strategically transformed into a digital one by expanding the use of mobile devices and biometrics at touchless kiosks and gates for bag tagging, personalized assistance, and digital boarding passes at security screening. An excellent move in this regard is the Digi Yatra Project” by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) of the Government of India, which aims to achieve “contactless, seamless processing of passengers.”

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Digitizing the health declaration process

A simple and mobile-enabled process to declare health and travel credentials is key, along with reducing wait times in the airport. It is essential to digitize and automate passenger processing to ensure the same physical space can handle the recovery and passengers have control over their journey. Also, passengers should have time and energy to use the airport retail and other facilities for an enjoyable experience helping airports to survive with additional revenue streams. Automating the passenger processing health process from submission to validation and verification – mitigates forged paper certificates and cuts inefficiencies associated with manual document checking. This, in turn, offers passengers peace of mind about meeting all requirements and allows governments to automate policy applications and checks.

Increasing operational efficiency

Airports and airlines must ensure their technology infrastructure is flexible with cloud and API-enabled platforms and next-gen connectivity solutions to enable the use of next-generation common use capabilities, remote and mobile-enabled operations, coupled with cost efficiency and flexible operational scalability. From an airline’s standpoint, there is enormous potential to leverage connected aircraft to drive new cost efficiencies. Given the cost pressure on airlines, it is not surprising that there is an increasing demand for solutions that assist airlines in doing so. In addition to newer, more efficient aircraft, new systems such as AI-assisted weather monitoring applications provide pilots with better visibility of weather conditions and allow them to chart better route changes, resulting in significant fuel savings on each flight.

eVisas and Digital Identity

Governments globally are shifting to modern travel authorization solutions, like electronic visas and Electronic Travel Authorizations (ETAs). According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), traditional visas – applications made via a consulate or embassy – decreased from 77% in 2008 to 53% in 2018. There is a growing demand for digital travel solutions.

This shift was further impacted by the required adoption of new health verifications relating to COVID-19, with a focus across the industry on digitalizing as much of the passenger process as possible to free up resources at the airport and reduce processing times.

Digital identities underpin Digital Travel. The industry must facilitate this shift via the next generation of self-service technology infrastructure, on which digital identities rely, featuring integrated cloud, mobile, and biometric-enabled self-service touchpoints for check-in, bag-drop, border control, boarding, and more.

Sustainability

According to the SITA 2022 Passenger IT Insights, Passengers are generally willing to pay extra to offset the carbon emissions their flight generates. More than 9 out of 10 passengers stated they would be willing to pay to offset emissions. Airports and airlines must infuse the industry transformation currently underway with sustainable solutions.
To tackle the industry’s environmental sustainability challenge, we must start with a coordinated effort from all stakeholders, including airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, manufacturers, service providers, and governments. Airports Council International has also committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions operations by 2050 by implementing various initiatives such as Airport Carbon Accreditation (in place since 2008 in Europe and worldwide since 2014).

Underpinning these types of initiatives is technology and data analytics. Many of these solutions are available today and focus on smart airport and airline operations. Data analytics – combining big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning technologies – is a vital first to understanding the source and extent of your business’s emissions and mapping a clear path to reducing those emissions.

(The author is President – APAC, SITA Aero. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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