Passengers First: Emerging trends in commuter facilitation

Emerging trends in commuter facilitation

The aviation sector has undergone a paradigm shift, from network airlines dominating the space in the past to low-cost airlines taking centre stage. Digitalisation and sustainability are becoming the focus areas. Passenger and air travel facilitation remain the cornerstones to enable a faster, seamless passenger throughput, while enhancing security and improving airlines’ customer experience and satisfaction.

Emerging trends in the passenger facilitation segment include blockchain and smart contracts, machine learning for crowd management, biometrics, and ultraviolet-C disinfecting robots. The Total Airport Management System (TAMS) is an upcoming concept, which encompasses the airport’s operations holistically on a single system while linking all the stakeholders on a single platform.

Initiatives, plans and future strategies at AAI airports

In order to modernise airport facilities, various initiatives such as upgradation of cargo terminals, implementation of passenger flow monitoring systems and automatic tray retrieval systems, and installation of CCTVs with video analytical software are taking place.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is going ahead with its plan to transition to satellite-ba­sed air navigation services, including communication navigation and surveillance, air traffic co­ntrol management, metrological services and aeronautical information services.

Chennai airport is planning to install multi-zone metal detectors, a gate management system, a two-dimensional verification scanner sy­s­tem and a trunk mobile radio system. As part of its green energy initiatives, Chennai airport is mee­ting over 70 per cent of its energy re­q­uire­ment through solar power, thereby saving up to Rs 6 million per month in its electricity bill. Go­ing forward, the airport will commission a multilevel parking structure and a terminal building, which is expected to be operational by June 2022.

Role of communication technologies

In the next 15 years, about 9 billion passengers will be added. Around 74 per cent of the population will live within 100 km of airports. Thus, more people will be able to travel by air. Self-check-in kiosks, self-service bag drops and bolder management solutions such as advance passenger information are some of the passenger processing solutions. In addition, biometrics will help create a contactless journey. Some of the drivers of digital transformation are capacity optimisation, operational excellence and agility, reducing capex and opex, non-aero revenue generation, and increasing passenger satisfaction.

There is a need for collaboration between airlines and airports. The balance would be es­tablished with the smart use of technology. The technologies that will define future aviation are: advanced self-service and biometrics, ro­botics and automation, contactless technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Be­sides, electrified aircraft, autonomous operation, advanced structures and integrated solutions will be used in the near future.

Video surveillance and analytics for passenger facilitation

The CCTV analytics system contributes to better queue and apron management, meeting airside speed regulations, and also prevents mask and social distancing violations in the terminal building. Besides providing real-time alerts to the terminal team, the CCTV analytics system keeps a record of waiting time, queue length, 95th waiting time percentile, average processing time, and the total number of passengers in the queue.

One of the notable features of the CCTV analytics system is that it is significantly cost effective as compared to sensor-based systems. The cost of such systems is approximately one-fifth of the cost of a traditional sensor system. However, the accuracy level of CCTV systems is not as high as that of censor-based systems, which are close to 90 per cent accurate. Meeting speed regulations is critical in the airside region; thus, CCTV cameras are now being deployed at strategic locations for round-the-clock monitoring and enforcement of speed limits in the airside area.

Impact of Covid-19

Due to Covid-19, the customer profiles for airports have changed. Moreover, there are chan­ges in the way low-cost airlines operate their businesses. Future airports will be more data-driven and passenger-centric. Further, in­for­ma­tion and network management, data storage, analytics and new applications will attract a new breed of solution providers and force others to adapt. Digital projects related to passenger processing, passenger flow, on-time performance, and baggage handling are emerging as priority areas.

The slowdown in the economy had consequential setbacks. The most challenging factor now is capex for airside, terminals and surface lin­ks expansion and upgradation works across air­ports. Some other challenges faced by airport management are reducing silos, poor collaboration between stakeholders, non-standar­dised data, infrastructure limitations, and en­han­cing airport capacity ahead of demand.

Next steps

Next-generation planning for airports includes airside scenario planning, agent-based modelling, airport wide scenario, and risk and resili­e­n­ce planning. The percentage of retail, and fo­od and beverage kiosks at airports has inc­reased manyfold in the past few years and this trend will continue. There is a need to create airport infrastructure that is flexible and adaptable to chan­ges. Passenger flow nee­ds to be more automated and technology can go a long way in ensuring seamless flow of traffic.

Urban air mobility is a recent mode of air tra­nsport of goods and passengers in urban environments, which uses electric aircraft taking off and landing vertically, with or without a pilot on board. Future airports are projected to include cutting-edge technologies such as touchless operations, QR codes and one-step departures.

Aviation emissions impacting climate chan­ge will remain the top public concern for airports across the globe and therefore developing sustainable infrastructure will be the future of airport design. Going forward, sustainable aviation fuels will be the primary focus over traditional fuels.

Based on inputs from a recent conference on “Passenger Facilitation and Experience at Airports” organised by Indian Infrastructure