Ever got stuck at airport security behind someone who has ‘forgotten’ to take out their laptop? Or behind the lady who is stunned that she can’t take her bottle of perfume on the plane?
Airport security, although non-negotiable, can be the bane of the corporate traveller, for whom time is a precious commodity. The good news is that airports are increasingly investing in technology to offer their travellers a seamless, stress-free and fast experience.
Euan McNeil, General Manager FCM Travel Solutions, explains: “Airports are investing in end-to-end passenger facilitation solutions, which offer travellers a seamless and stress-free experience from the moment they leave home to when they arrive at their destination.”
Here are some of the more exciting airport innovations that are being introduced globally to facilitate passengers’ travel:
1. Drop your bag in less than a minute…
Passengers at Lanseria International Airport and numerous other airports around the world can now check in online, or via their mobile devices, tag and drop their bags in less than a minute before proceeding directly to their boarding gate.
The new technology not only allows passengers to check in their own luggage but also automatically verifies all types of boarding passes, including home-printed A4 and mobile boarding passes. This enhances security and speeds up the check-in process for passengers.
And have you met KATE and LEO yet? Although unfortunately not in South Africa yet, these intelligent check-in kiosks have been invented to move autonomously, and in teams, too busy or congested areas in airports. The robotic kiosks are also designed to automatically return to their docking stations when they are low on power or if they need a fresh supply of boarding passes or bag tags. LEO is undergoing a pilot period at the Geneva airport and the program could be expanded if successful. KATE has so far only been on display at this year’s Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels.
2. … and never lose your luggage again
RFID Bag Tags promise to keep track of your luggage from drop-off to arrival. Hong Kong International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas have been using this technology very successfully for several years. But, in 2017, we can expect that major international airlines will also start using it across their networks.
3. Scan your travel documents yourself…
Airports across the US and Canada are now allowing travellers to follow simple on-screen instructions to scan their travel documents, answer customs declaration questions using a touch screen, take a photo, receive a receipt confirming their information and proceed to the officer for a final review.
Unfortunately, this system is not available to SA passport holders yet. Eligible passengers include US and Canadian passport holders and US Permanent Residents. The kiosks can also be used by international travellers with Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval.
4. Snap a selfie for facial recognition
JetBlue has started experimenting with facial recognition software that acts as a boarding pass. A camera takes a picture of the passengers and gives a checkmark if the passenger is ‘good to go’. The whole process takes about 5 to 6 seconds.
A trial in Brisbane, saw passengers enroll their passports, boarding cards and their face image at check-in, then use that through the various control points. At the boarding gate, passengers simply look into the camera and through they go.
One of the features still in the pipeline is the “Single Token Travel” enrollment process which you do before check-in using smartphones. Using an app, you scan your passport and take a selfie – which matches your face to the ePassport data. Once matched, you can proceed to security if you’ve already checked in online.
5. Predict the length of the queue
If you’re faced with long queues, wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how long your wait will be? Sophisticated technology at airports is now analysing and predicting queues. This not only keeps you updated but also helps airlines and airports plan resources to keep those lines short and deploy more security staff when needed.
Orlando International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport are two of the airports that are already successfully using this technology.
6. Navigate the airport in virtual reality
Although some see it as a fad, consumer-facing virtual and augmented reality technologies are being used at San Jose International Airport for wayfinding, airport retail promotions and even AR billboards displaying destination information.