When some airports around the world ‘closed their doors’ due to the ongoing pandemic, travellers waited with bated breath for the day they could travel again. Many missed walking down the aisle of the plane, exploring duty free shops or the simple notion of leisure that traveling brings. Fast forward 6 months later and it has become clear that we are living amidst a new normal.
As public health improves and the global economy recovers, we are seeing the resurgence of air travel. Yet, it’s not surprising that many travellers feel apprehension towards air travel due to the widespread effects of the virus. As borders begin to reopen, how do airport and airline operators rebuild the confidence of travellers?
It’s a balancing act
In a survey by IATA in June 2020, travelers have “become more cautious about air travel than three months ago. A total of 45% of respondents stated that they were intending to fly within two months from the time the pandemic is contained, down from the 64% share recorded in April’s survey. The majority now anticipates a return to air travel no sooner than in six months “
While air travel has been badly hit by the pandemic, the underlying conditions for aviation growth remain. We are seeing the recommencement of travel in regions, such as China where domestic arrivals are now at 86% of 2019 levels .
As markets begin to recover, there are strategies which airport and airline owners can put in place to bring back the trust in travellers. It is increasingly clear that in the new normal, new ways of operating an airport are required. Given the impact of the pandemic on the industry, operators need to find ways to balance attracting travellers back with their need to optimize operational costs. Successful airports that make prudent investments during difficult times will emerge from the recession in a strong position as economies recover. Here are some strategies to consider…
Greater transparency for greater confidence
In times of continuous revenue growth, there was rarely a strong drive to explore or adopt new methods of operating an airport. IoT has been an emerging trend in the aviation industry for some years and there is now a greater compulsion to adopt new technologies which can enable safer and more effective operation.
71% of respondents felt that a healthy airport is more important to them today than pre-COVID-19 . Inside the airport, passengers are most concerned with safety at check-in, security checkpoints and within the gate area. There is an increasing demand for contactless access control and minimising contact points through the airport.
Source: Gensler Research & Insight
Understanding the occupancy of the airport in real time is a key lever in keeping passengers safe. Technologies such as Siveillance Thermal Shield monitors the temperature of travellers in real time. Enlighted Safe and Siemens Crowd Control, utilising the Enlighted building IoT stack, can inform airports of their actual occupancy and enable use cases such as:
• Modelling and predicting periods of high occupancy to allow airports to pre-emptively manage periods of high traffic.
• Trigger sanitization by actual occupancy, not schedules
Siveillance Video Analytics can also automate the monitoring of social distancing, ensuring that passengers do not congregate in an unsafe way. These technologies can enable airports to show the public how they are keeping them safe, increase their confidence in travel and support airports in more rapidly recovering.
Pockets of efficiencies
Airports are complex ecosystems. They have diverse stakeholders and many different data sets. An enterprise data platform, using standardised data formats and APIs, is a key enabler for airports to leverage their data efficiently and effectively.
Siemens Aviation Data Hub (ADH) is a basis for the Enterprise Data Platform and acts as a central data repository for all disciplines which affect the efficient functioning of an airport. These functions include baggage and cargo handling systems, air traffic management, road and public transport, building and energy management systems, fixed and mobile resource management systems, carpark management systems, weather information, passenger flow management and so on.
ADH provides airport stakeholders a centralized, indexed, harmonized, homogeneous data source. This offers diverse users real-time information they need via different channels, such as dashboards, mobile and desktop applications and social media.
Accelerating sustainability initiatives amidst a pandemic
Airports face many energy challenges. In the short term there is an urgent need to control costs. In the medium term there is a strong drive to ensure security of supply and a reduction of carbon emissions. Along with the current move to e-mobility, commercial electric flight will be a reality by 2030, with the associated growth in electrical demand.
With the help of local distributed energy solutions, it is possible to turn these challenges into long-term profit. These solutions utilize an optimized mix of distributed energy resources (DER) such as renewable energy, combined heating and power stations or storage systems, supported by sophisticated energy management.
Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) allows airports to move energy efficiency projects off their balance sheet and turn their CAPEX into OPEX spend. This enables airports to significantly improve their cashflow and redirect funds to core operations, offering a win-win scenario where financial gains can be realized, together with the benefits of sustainability.
Implementing such strategies isn’t just for short term mitigation of the impacts of COVID-19. Investing in smart airport solutions and services can future-proof your airport – providing greater flexibility in the long term. It is no question that airlines and airports have a long road to recovery ahead, but when the industry does recover, operators who have invested in smart technologies will find themselves ahead of their competitors in terms of operational efficiencies, energy efficiencies and passenger satisfaction.
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