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Airports 4.0 - statistics & facts

Digitalization is a subject undergoing intense study these days. Whether it is cloud and mobile computing, the Internet of Things or block chain technologies, the development of digital technologies provides huge potential to new businesses and significant adjustments to classic businesses. The aviation industry is no exception to this with focus moving away from innovative aircraft or ambitious infrastructure projects to an emphasis on creating full digital airports. These modern digital hubs are popularly referred as Airports 4.0.

Technology versus the pandemic

Digitalization is one of the best ways out from the severe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for both airlines and airports after losing billions of U.S. dollars in every single region of the world. To reduce the spread of the virus but sustain the aviation demand, social distancing became a major factor in this "new normal" era. Operational improvements for social distancing can be accomplished by utilizing various technologies, such as Business Intelligence or Artificial Intelligence for a more efficient terminal flow management. The shift towards online booking and online check-in is on the rise and is expected to grow further. In fact, some 52 percent of airports implemented self-service bag drops in 2021. The adoption of self-service kiosks can shorten queues and reduce the dependency on airport staff.

Security and the customer comes first

After check-in and bag drop, passengers often face an extended waiting period which can bring negative emotions, especially at security or passport control. According to recent surveys, travelers' confidence decreased when they were around other passengers. To eliminate the negative feelings and secure social distancing, airports will make investments in cybersecurity, cloud services, and self-service processes among others by 2024.
Nowadays, airlines face a major task in restoring consumer confidence in travel. Surveys conducted amid the pandemic showed that fliers believe that thermal scanners, staggered controls used at boarding gates, reallocation of empty seats and contactless payment in the airline cabin would highly improve their confidence. Some airports and airline companies started planning to implement temperature checks at the early stage of the trip. For example, Air Canada plans to begin taking temperature readings at check-in, and Paine Field, the airport serving the Seattle metropolitan area, recently installed a thermal camera that reads passengers' temperatures before they enter for security check.

Overall, the implementation of the Industry 4.0 technologies will remain important for airports and airline companies, not only since they need to adapt their system and operations to this "new normal", but also for improving passengers' travel safety and satisfaction during and after the pandemic.

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