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  • Victor Losada

Passenger Confidence vs Passenger Experience in a New Normal

There was a time when arriving at the airport was the start of an exciting adventure for a passenger. The romanticism of flying, the ability of crossing the world in just a few hours as well as the opportunity to feel close to full freedom were barely clouded over by light security checkpoints and document controls.

Unfortunately, those days are over. It is difficult to erase from our minds the biggest impact in the history of aviation: the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. As a direct consequence, security requirements were progressively hardened, from liquid restrictions in cabin luggage, shoe removal before metal detectors, up to passenger body scans. Always in response to providing the safest possible experience for travelers.

‘9/11 forever changed the Passenger Experience. Will the COVID-19 pandemic be another turning point in this coexistence?

The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic declaration, the first one in a highly globalized world where commercial aviation plays a strategic role, sets a new milestone for our industry: facing the management of health control during international crisis periods and beyond.

Being able to bring activity back will definitely mean to establish in the entire passenger journey new procedures, control measures and preventive actions to assure a safe journey for the passengers and moreover to general public, due to the critical role aviation will play in the control of future pandemics.

Airports and air travel are integral to modern life and connecting our world, however they also play a critical role in managing future global pandemics. Integrating these two ideals requires us to rethink the way airports operate in order to provide the new normal of passenger journey.

But ensuring a safe passenger journey is not only critical for maintaining public health, it’s also key to rebuilding trust in the system.

In order to restore trust in traveling, the new passenger journey will require a series of changes to the pre and post flight process.

The main challenge currently being tackled is how airports can implement measures and actions without impacting airport operations, capacity and the passenger experience. While this may be easier accomplished with the reduced traffic today, what will this look like when passenger traffic increases?

The new scenario brings two focuses: short-term measures to guarantee a safe passenger journey in the new ramp-up phase while the virus is still living among us and medium / long-term measures to establish the necessary resources, procedures, facilities and technologies to decisively respond to potential future pandemic outbreaks, transforming airports to fight against future virus spreads.

In order to bring standardized solutions, organizations such as IATA, ACI-World, and the TSA are starting to publish guidelines with short-term preventive actions to deal with the recovery of airport activity. These measures include temperature screening, possible requirement of “immunity passports”, the use of masks, sanitary gels or another personal protection equipment, continuous disinfection of common areas, the necessary increase in passenger information and awareness tools to keep social distance.

The new preventive measures being deployed will support the recovery of operations in the short term and will help to re-build the passengers confidence to soon fly again. However, the next critical objective will be to implement the longer-term health policies and controls yet still thinking about the passenger experience and the sense of place while moving through terminal buildings.

Some of the features to expect are biometric controls, thermal cameras, analysis of big data (digital medical records among other risk tracking technology) or the implementation of in-situ diagnostic or isolation processes.

Leadin Aviation Consulting and global design firm, Populous are working together to research the implementation of the new health requirements with a positive impact on airport operations and the passenger experience.

At the end of the day, aviation has always been capable of overcoming all kind of challenges. We are confident aviation will come back as strong as ever, connecting the world by combining safety, connectivity and incredible experiences. After all, airports have always been the beginning of great adventures and we will get there again.


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