Written by Stefano Tacchi, Airport Network Associate, OneTray
The exponential growth in air traffic demand calls for new solutions that can guarantee efficiency, without compromising the passenger experience.
Whether it is for business or for leisure, airport passengers seek a smooth and fluid experience at the airport. In turn, airports are eager to simplify the journey across the airport and let passengers enjoy what the airport has to offer. This has become even more important as non-aeronautical revenue streams, such as retail, are becoming vital for an airports’ financial stability.
There are 6 main steps in the passenger journey
Looking at the steps of the average passenger journey within the airport, it is possible to identify six main touchpoints:
Several of these have been hugely revolutionized by new technologies that now allow for a much smoother passenger experience. One of the most successful implementations is the self-service bag drop. Several examples of this innovative solution can be found at many airports across the world and passengers are now accustomed to this service that considerably shortens the waiting time to drop off luggage. This innovation has been the natural evolution of the already established online check-in option.
Another touchpoint that has been automated is passport controls; in fact, many airports have implemented smart border control systems. Travellers can now pass through smart gates that are equipped with RFID scanners, significantly decreasing the wait time. As a consequence, the efficiency of the screening process has been dramatically increased, with security personnel only required to intervene in specific situations.
However, this wave of innovation has not yet reached all areas of the airport. For instance, cabin baggage security screening operations, which are a sensible phase of the passengers’ journey, still cause stress for many passengers because of the unexpected queues and unclear screening procedures.
Passengers security checkpoints will soon be revolutionized
ECAC, TSA, CATSA among other international entities worldwide are already collaborating with airports to test Computed tomography (CT) scanners, as an alternative to traditional x-ray machines. This technology has been used for years for checked luggage and technical improvements now make it possible to use them for cabin baggage as well.
The implementation of CT scanners would allow for the update of the security screening “concept of operations” (CONOPS), with a strong positive impact on passengers’ experience. Taking as the example ECAC’s CONOPS for CT scanners (i.e., ECAC C3), laptops and liquids could possibly be left within cabin baggage. Passengers would not need to take any object out of their cabin luggage and efficiency would be increased. In fact, with the new procedure, passengers divest time would drop considerably, as well as the average number of trays used per passenger.
Harmonizing and simplifying procedures to take full advantage of technical innovations
However great these innovations may be, the transition to new standards will require several months, if not years, and collective efforts from all industry players is needed to harmonize these processes where possible. More importantly, the simplification of certain certification processes within the value chain could significantly enhance the adoption of such policies sooner rather than later.
In light of this inevitable technological improvement, the aviation industry should work to translate this technical and operational improvement into a better experience for passengers with proper communication streams. The transition to CT scanners could be the last piece that transcends the passengers’ journey into a unique 360 degree airport experience.
Stefano is part of the airport network division at OneTray, an Italian company that manufactures airport security trays compatible with all kinds of security lanes and x-ray scanners. Stefano is responsible for the analysis of potential collaborations between OneTray and airports worldwide.