Airports must become more like train stations where passengers turn up, board and depart.
The technology focus going forward should be on removing everything from the airport, according to a senior executive from Etihad.
Chris Youlten, executive director of operations strategy for the carrier, says the industry has had numerous opportunities to reduce the touchpoints but “missed every time.”
Speaking at a CAPA Live virtual event this week on rebuilding the airline industry, he says: “We have had so many opportunities when opening a brand new terminal not to put in a check-in desk. There is no need for a check-in desk, we can all check-in online, we only need bag drop.”
Youlten goes on to add that in many ways the industry has gone backwards from the 1980s when passengers could receive a boarding card by post from TWA and the process was no less secure.
He also talks of the “biggest fear” for the industry in terms of recovery is the health certification checks and the resulting congestion at airports.
“It’s the number one challenge going forward. If that falls on airlines and airports, we’re going to have a compounding problem.”
The sentiment is echoed across the industry with John Holland-Kaye, boss of Heathrow Airport saying earlier this year that it was taking 20 minutes to process COVID-related paperwork per passenger.
Earlier this week a Heathrow Airport spokesperson, while urging Border Force to step up automation, revealed plans were in place to hold passengers on planes or divert flights to other airports to prevent queues building up.
Youlten says there hope however with is governments noting the challenges.
“There may be some rough rides along the way but technology will eventually win the day and we will have a better solution.”
Already the industry is trialling solutions that will alleviate congestion at airports.
Much talked about digital health passports are being piloted by various airlines while intelligent queuing solutions are also coming to the fore.
British Airways announced this week that it is trialling technology from Qmatic that enables passengers to virtually queue by pre-booking a slot before arriving at the airport.
Passengers are sent an email to book their slot and the technology is being trialled for selected flights at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
Other solutions to monitor waiting times are also being implemented with Cincinnati/North Kentucky Airport recently partnering with Veovo to implement flow management technology.
The technology enables the airport to analyze how various components - passengers, processes and airlines - “interact and interconnect” across the airport.
Biometric technologies in air travel are also being heralded as a game-changer in the pursuit of a seamless passenger experience.
Many carriers and airports are already investing in and implementing the technology.