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Understanding passenger flow throughout the airport terminal forms the basis for many operational decisions. Most airports are not equipped to do this. Measuring queues is only part of the story. It’s time airports also considered the entire Kerb-to-Flight journey, to close the gap between how airports see passengers today and their true airport experience.

Most travellers are unaware that their behaviour (whether they like to shop, get to the airport early, wait for their flight at the gate or in a restaurant) has a significant impact on operations and profitability. For the airport, however, understanding how people move and dwell is key to transforming travel experiences and boosting efficiency. …

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While a great deal has been made of rebuilding international and local air travel over the last few months, a gradual return to commuter traffic is underway in many parts of the world. With a renewed focus on passenger health, rail travel is increasingly in the spotlight. It’s no longer enough to ensure safety, overcrowding and passenger processing in one area — the entire transit ecosystem needs to be viewed as a whole to minimise risks, maximise throughput and plan effectively for the future.

Traveller safety — the top priority

Over the last two decades, safety has been under scrutiny. From terrorism threats to disease outbreaks, commuters have needed safeguarding — but it seems the goalposts are continuously shifting. Wherever the risk comes from, certain immutable factors need to be considered: crowd management, smooth traveller flow, and efficient resource management. …

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Among the many casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic is that old stalwart of business communications — the business card. As people remain unable to attend exhibitions and conferences in person, sharing business cards has simply fallen by the wayside. Instead, having a detailed and compelling LinkedIn profile is more important than ever. When you can’t meet prospects and exchange cards, people connect virtually instead.

Even though the pandemic will eventually pass, the rise of remote work and online meetings has rapidly accelerated and is finding favour in the business world. …

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Mandatory mask-wearing is causing facial recognition problems, impacting passenger flow. How can airports keep travellers moving at safe distances, without reverting to manually counting heads?

Masks are considered one of our best defences against the spread of COVID-19, including during air travel. People are required to wear masks from entering the departure area until exiting the arrival. However, this has given rise to another problem for airports — how to recognise faces when they’re covered up.

Facial recognition at processing points has become widespread in recent years. In the US, border protection agency CBP hopes to biometrically screen 97% of all arriving international travellers by 2023. With the pandemic accelerating the move to contactless processing, the technology’s potential to support seamless access through the terminal via a digital identity is promising. …

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Over the last six months, airport operational planning has been thrown into a veritable tailspin. The traditional way of basing decisions off stable schedules, historical data and static rule sets are now suddenly ineffective and struggle to reflect the realities of a dynamic and unprecedented aviation environment.

In just a matter of weeks, the rapid spread of COVID-19 saw airport terminals go from bustling hubs to eerily empty spaces. …

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Since the arrival of Covid-19, industry commentators have shared a common theme — businesses need to be more tech-smart and flexible, to face the challenging times ahead.

For airports, this is nothing new. The digitisation of operations has long been on the radar for all but the smallest.

AI has often been advertised as the answer to many evolving issues in the industry — from greater cost efficiencies to enhanced resilience and passenger experience. And yet, the adoption of AI has been slow. …

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Why real-time intelligence is key to restoring commuter confidence

People don’t just want social distancing on trains and hand sanitisers. They want control — and they want it every step of the way.

According to surveys by Transport Focus and PwC, over 60% of UK Underground users and 77% of US transit commuters feel that physical distancing must remain at stations and on trains for them to feel safe using public transport.

Many rail and metro transit operators have been quick to take action — encouraging mask-wearing, placing floor markings, installing hand sanitisers, and directing people to less-crowded areas with signage.

And yet, the surveys suggest that the visible evidence of safety protocols is not enough to restore traveller confidence alone. According to the PwC survey, commuters rank having a sense of control over their surroundings as more important than visible COVID-19 safety measures. …

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Despite the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warning that passenger demand will not fully recover until 2024, flight data consolidator OAG is reporting green shoots of recovery. Travel lockdowns are easing in many regions, with over sixty airlines relaunching services in June.

As air traffic ramps up, airports face daunting capacity planning challenges. Pre-Covid-19, operators adjusted capacity based on consistent demand patterns, backed by months and years of historical data. Even certain fluctuations — such as daily peaks, seasonal periods or the addition of new routes — were anticipated.

But now, there’s uncertainty around just how many people will fly on any given day. Airports are grappling with how to keep operations running smoothly while dealing with three major issues — volatile flight schedules, load factors, and passenger presentation profiles — at a time when they face significant budgetary and staffing restrictions. …

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As airports handle record numbers, crowded check-in halls are becoming more commonplace, prompting airports to rethink their approach to space, resources and passenger experience.

Common-use terminals are gaining popularity as an efficient way to accommodate more travellers. With multiple airlines sharing airport space including counters and bag drops, airports can manage resources better to meet demand and improve throughput.

It’s time for a holistic approach to airport check-in

Sharing resources presents its own challenges. How can airports optimise the check-in process for efficiency while smoothing the travel experience? How do they balance the needs of full cost and low service airlines in one terminal? …

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Social distancing is something we’ve all started to get used to. Greeting people at a distance. Manoeuvring around other shoppers at the supermarket. Virtual meetings replacing physical ones.

Maintaining a safe distance seems doable in a lot of situations, but at a train station or subway? At peak hour before the pandemic hit, commuters rarely had space between them, let alone a distance of six feet or two metres apart.

So, what happens when economies start reopening? As lockdown restrictions are eased, transport authorities will face considerable challenges in preventing crowding and maintaining social distancing.

Keeping trains running, while protecting the health of passengers and staff, will require sweeping adjustments by operators on the front line. Ultimately, it will come down to the ability to predict and measure passenger movement and densities — when they arrive, where they dwell, where they board and alight — and using that knowledge to manage people flow and distribution. …

About

Bugislaus75

Christian is the quintessential marketing and PR professional, with a strong background and experience in creative content and digital marketing & social media.

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