Take Offs & Landings
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Over the past several years, airports have been undergoing a shift of tectonic proportions as the passenger’s experience is moving relentlessly toward automation and a self-service environment. Today it’s entirely possible at many airports to get from curbside to the gate without any interaction with any airline employee. At some terminals, you can even make it all the way to your assigned seat aboard the plane – if you’re lucky and the technology works right.
Much of aviation’s traditional model was drawn from the days of seafaring passenger ships – right down to calling the pilot a captain and the cabin attendant a steward. When it came to such matters as tickets and boarding passes, passports and visas, many of the same rules and processes were conveniently adapted.
But as aviation grew, the sheer multitude of hundreds of millions of passengers … rendered those time-consuming, paper-consuming, face-to-face procedures just too cumbersome. Fortunately as aviation has developed, so has the technology to handle all these people.
Today, travelers check in online or at airport kiosks. Carriers have traded in the old multi-part tickets and paper boarding passes for ones that exist only in the digital domain. Now technology enables passengers to tag their own bags and, in nearly 200 airports around the world, even bypass the gate agent.
According to research from SITA, the global aviation IT company, it’s a trend that passengers find appealing; the survey said self-boarding is a service that 70 percent would like to see, and almost as many would like to have the option to tag their own bags.
Picking up on the consumer trend toward fewer human interactions at the routine‘ touch points’ of flying, the International Air Transport Association, launched an initiative in 2009 called Fast Travel. The program is aimed at coordinating and unifying the automated airport of the future.
Under the Fast Travel program, airports are developing technology for six key passenger interactions: Check-in, self-tagging bags (which IATA calls‘bags ready-to-go’), travel document scanning at kiosks to avoid ID checks at check-in desks or gates, self-service flight re-booking, selfboarding and reporting of missing luggage through a self-service channel, such as web, mobile or kiosk.
The movement toward the automated airport is being pushed ahead by the airlines and airports and their respective industry groups. And it seems to be