Technology can aid safe air transportation operations

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Air transportation communications and IT specialist SITA highlighted in a recent webinar how technology can be used most effectively to help airports around the world resume safe operations.

Sebastien Fabre, VP airline and airport at SITA, explained, “Our industry must transform the passenger experience to increase traveler safety while balancing economic pressures from slow customer demand. To successfully walk this tightrope and navigate a return to the skies for viable volumes of passengers, airports and airlines need to assimilate new information from governments and health officials, adapt operations immediately and automate processes permanently.”

For example, SITA has introduced solutions that enable passengers to use their mobile device as a remote control for touchpoints such as self-bag drop and check-in kiosks, removing the need to touch any airport equipment.

Fabre noted that technology will be fundamental in helping airlines and airports comply with new and fast-changing regulations to restore passengers’ confidence in flying. New preventive measures aimed at limiting risk in the airport and on board will require a new approach to passenger management.

He stated that SITA was rapidly rolling out new solutions that addressed the above challenges, complementing short-term hygiene measures such as the use of masks and gloves. These solutions centered on three key areas:

Distancing: Using real-time monitoring technologies along with predictive analytics, appropriate distancing between passengers at key points across the airport can be achieved. Predictive analytics will also support more proactive planning. There is also an opportunity to extend the boundaries of the airport where key steps such as check-in and bag drop are managed before arriving at the terminal through a passenger’s mobile.

Hygiene and sanitation: Technology is helping reduce the risk of infection by avoiding contact at key touchpoints. Using a combination of biometric and mobile solutions, passengers no longer have to touch a kiosk or surface, managing their journey from their phone.

Health checks: In addition to integrating health or thermal checks into key touchpoints such as check-in kiosks, governments will – by leveraging risk management solutions – be able to use pre-boarding check (advance passenger processing) and perform analytics on passenger journey data to identify and mitigate potential health risks.

Speaking at the webinar, Jeremy Springall, VP border management, SITA, highlighted, “We are seeing specific regions wishing to allow limited movement within zones first, for example, the trans-Tasman bubble. For governments, this requires an information-driven approach based on real-time data and responsiveness to handle rapidly changing situations.

“A critical element will be for governments to harmonize the approach to checking the validity of health status and sharing this information effectively. Many governments are taking a layered approach to border management, starting well in advance of travel, to identify high-risk passengers before arrival in the destination country, in turn easing the restrictions for low-risk travelers.

“It’s crucial that health checks in terms of a health ETA or declaration are performed, perhaps up to 72 hours before departure. We’re already starting to see this happen around the world in countries like Thailand and Singapore.”

Springall noted that SITA has been supporting governments around the world to adapt their advance passenger processing pre-clearance checks in support of Covid-19. For example, SITA was able to help a South American airport during the early part of the pandemic stop passengers from high-risk countries checking in for their flights.

The company believes a harmonized approach to data management between governments is crucial for mitigating the risk of resurgence. Springall gave the example of how SITA has helped airports identify passengers arriving from high-risk areas who would then be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Later it adapted operations to identify travelers who were sitting in the rows around these passengers during a flight so adequate protocols could be applied to those passengers as well.

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