Passport? Check. Boarding pass? Check. Digital health certificate? Check.
You’re set to fly in the post-Covid era, but something’s nagging you.
Maybe you haven’t checked what grade air filter your carrier uses on
Something that once never worried airline passengers – the safety of
onboard air filtration – will be top-of-mind as preparations begin for
The efficiency of aircraft filtration systems will be key to building
trust with travellers, according to a Travelport study across 10
countries. Only 46% of respondents believe suppliers have taken steps to
improve air filtration and only 50% trust them to enforce social
distancing and manage boarding and queuing.
adopting the latest technology innovations, the key to restoring
passenger confidence to fly is communications. The various aviation
stakeholders can communicate on the steps and processes which they took
in ensuring the safety of the passengers,” says Sumesh Patel, president,
view is supported by Anthony Harcup, senior director of airline
experience at Seattle-based design firm, Teague, who is calling for
airlines to build trust among fliers with “a process of communication
“This can be imparted through crew engagement with passengers,
interactive procedures and, of course, sharing the relevant sanitation
levels of the aircraft through existing and new airline-branded
Harcup believes it is near-impossible for an airline to present a
guaranteed hygienic environment, but they can create a strong brand
preference by creating “emotional connections as benevolent guardians,
making passengers feel as safe as possible”.
Harcup says the world is poised to see the airline industry in a new
light. “Clean is now a new brand promise – a fundamental pillar of
comfort and safety.”
Singapore Airlines is among airlines active in creating strong
“emotional connections’ with travellers. It’s #SIACares programme has
been posting comforting messages that the airline is taking care of
passengers through the pre-boarding and flying experiences.
First steps at the airport: Touchless and mobile
Airport stakeholders — including screening authorities, vendors,
lounge operators, terminal operators and concessionaires — are turning
to tech to maintain enhanced standards of cleanliness.
Prague Airport, aviation IT specialist SITA has introduced new
generation passenger processing infrastructure offering a frictionless
digital passenger journey using mobile, self-service and automated
Passengers can post their facial biometric and journey details, in
advance, via their mobile device or at any touchpoint on arrival at the
airport. They can then use their facial tokens to seamlessly pass
through multiple checkpoints, including manual check-in, self-service
check-in, bag drop, restricted access, security, duty-free, and
walk-through experience will relieve some of the delays expected at
airports as new technologies are aligned with traditional airport
SITA says, during peak time, average passenger processing and waiting
times at airports have doubled from what they were pre-crisis –
reaching three hours despite travel volumes hovering at around 30% of
Qatar Airways in July became the first airline to trial COVID-19
vaccine authentication through the IATA Travel Pass ‘Digital Passport’
Mobile App, a move which it hopes will speed up passengers processing.
time-saver: Etihad Airways has extended its Verified To Fly travel
document initiative, enabling travellers to validate their Covid-19
travel documents before arriving at the airport.
will also put a bigger focus on health and wellness. Expect a rise in
the number of airport medical clinics where travellers – as a matter of
routine – will be offered vaccinations and antibody tests before flying.
Airport lounges will also see changes. Already a number of airline
lounges are using Priority Pass parent Collinson’s contactless airport
lounge experience by partnering with Grab, the airport e-commerce
platform, to launch ‘Ready To Order’ at selected lounges, a digital food
and beverage ordering solution.
The service allows travellers to use their smartphone or tablet to
place orders, which are then delivered to their table or collected from a
dedicated collection point.
airport initiatives will include artificial intelligence algorithms
being used to scan video feeds of passengers in public areas of
airports, such as waiting lounges and hallways, and monitor when they
are not socially distancing, allowing airport managers to reassess how
they direct traffic through certain areas.
Says Todd Handcock, president, Asia-Pacific, Collinson, the Covid-19
travel testing company, “Implementing effective health and safety
measures is crucial in helping to raise traveller confidence, and in
turn reboot the travel industry.”
“The combination of a cloud platform, mobile self-service, and
automated solutions, both on-site and off-site, really can create the
seamless passenger flow that the industry needs. Having the passengers
in control of their journey helps to build the confidence for them to
fly again,” says Patel.
First steps onboard: Plastic wrapped food
Just as airports will be going touchless, airlines are busy
convincing their passengers that they are safe to fly in a spotlessly
clean, virus-free aircraft.
Tray tables, seat armrests and headrests, seatbelt buckles as well as
communal areas such as the galleys, carpets and lavatories will be
cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant and, in some cases, Honeywell’s
ultraviolet (UV) cleaning technology.
Food will still be served but individually plastic wrapped to avoid
physical contact and some airlines will offer passengers face shields
for extra protection.
Fliers will use their personal devices to control the IFE systems,
call the attention of the crew, or activate the reading light – all
through their mobile device.
Even more intriguing: Airport tech start-up Elenium Automation is
working on virtual touchless screen technology that could allow a person
to control a seatback screen just by looking at the area they want to
Aircraft seating may change, too. According to a McKinsey report,
lower business-class demand may warrant smaller business-class cabins.
Products may shift to better cater to premium-leisure passengers, such
as growth of premium-economy cabins or development of business-class
seats more suitable for travelling as couples or groups.
The flip side of that would be higher fares, says McKinsey. “We see a
glut of latent demand of people eager to travel. It will take time for
airlines to restore capacity, and bottlenecks such as delays in bringing
aircraft back to service and crew retraining could lead to a
supply–demand gap, resulting in higher short-term prices.”
Additional reporting from Dawit Habtermariam, Business Travel News