As the airline industry works towards a new normal, Hexaware considers the technologies that can overcome the challenges ahead

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The global pandemic has created a horizon of uncertainty for the aviation industry. The rules of business have changed, with resilience becoming the need of the hour.
The response to the crisis in hand needs to take-off with speed and scale. Air transport has to re-invent, re-imagine and accelerate technological innovation to drive continued recovery and unlock future value for sustainable growth.
The new processes that are necessary to make safety primary and paramount for staff and passengers come with costs and complexity. Technology has to become the armor to plan for future all-weather scenarios; the critical pivot for air travel to become economically viable and efficient.
But what technologies will come to the fore as we head towards the new normal?
To begin with, online check-in will become the norm, including the home printing of bag tags. This will minimize close interaction with staff and kiosks, and generally help with social distancing measures landside.
Kiosks will be difficult to keep sanitized if usage goes back to pre-COVID levels. Indeed, touchless technology will win out wherever it is possible. Take biometrics. Fingerprints will likely lose out to facial recognition. The latter requires no physical interaction with a scanner and has proven reliable in aviation settings already.
The challenge for airport operators is incorporating facial recognition when they have already spent money on putting in the infrastructure for fingerprint scanning. Of course, it may be that the coronavirus disappears as quickly as it arrived and we return to more familiar processes, but – at this stage – it seems unlikely.
RFID is the perfect investment

One area where previous investment will be returning dividends is baggage. We have seen that passengers still congregate around carousels and did so even when the virus was at its peak. But with radio frequency identification (RFID) and home delivery, there are now ways to know exactly where a bag is or even take it to a passenger’s house or hotel. This should stop the carousel crush and allow for a far smoother baggage process that also keeps passengers safe.
RFID also has a much higher throughput capability and the potential for cost savings across the board, so the technology is as future-proof as any technology can be. It provides a better passenger experience, providing transparency on baggage location and status, facilitating operational excellence and reducing mishandling rates.
Perhaps most importantly, RFID provides reliable data that can open up a world of possibilities. With end-to-end visibility, a digital bag can inform all stakeholders of status in real-time, becoming an essential component in a personalized service.
In this regard, it is important to note that RFID tags can be written to as well as read. Modifying the content provides additional benefits, such as accommodating changes to plans.
The other key part of the passenger journey – boarding and deplaning – will also follow new rules. Though deplaning will largely rely on manual instruction and cooperation, boarding could benefit from enhanced display systems, with passengers called forward by row to ensure as much social distancing as possible.
Airline apps will need to be updated with all of these advances so that passenger information is as comprehensive and up to date as possible. For air travel to realize a reasonable level of demand in the short term, passengers will need to be confident and feel safe. Airline apps are the best way to achieve that.

Ensuring passenger health

Check-in, boarding and baggage processes will change, but the concepts are well established and passengers and authorities will easily adapt.

A new element will be checking a passenger’s health to protect the individual, fellow travelers and staff. Almost certainly, at some point in the travel process there will now be temperature checks. A hand-held temperature gun is the obvious answer, with the gun giving a readout when in close proximity to a passenger.
But less intrusive solutions are available where the check is done automatically and remotely. Temperature checks are far more likely than full-scale testing for the coronavirus. Testing will be difficult because of the time taken to achieve a result and the necessity for people to come into close contact.
Digital health passports are another interesting possibility given that quarantine for air travelers has been suggested by a number of countries and will doubtless come into force should there be a renewed outbreak in the winter.
These health passports would confirm the status of the owner’s health. Though access to a global database and authorized verification of the passenger’s health is ideal, a self-declaration might provide enough wiggle room for international air travel to continue. The science is still being established, but those who have recovered might have immunity for three to six months; or perhaps passengers will need to confirm a negative test result no more than 48 hours prior to travel.
We will also see new technologies help to keep airports clean. Robotics will be used for cleaning and ultraviolet light technology may be used to disinfect hand luggage.
The challenges with new processes

Three challenges concerning the use of new technologies and processes spring to mind: finding the money, getting countries to agree and making sure data is protected.
The financial aspect is obvious. There is very little cash left in the aviation system. Where will the money for facial recognition and touchless technologies come from? The fixes need to be quick. But this is as much about preparing for the next crisis as it is about dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
Meanwhile, inconsistencies between countries could severely hamper the return of international travel. How passengers are health-checked, how bags are handled, or how queues are managed for boarding and security all need to be harmonized. It is consistency that builds confidence. Standards must be introduced to create a better passenger experience.
Finally, data protection will be vital. Adhering to the strictest protocols, such as those in place in the European Union, will be needed to satisfy customers while giving the aviation value chain access to the data needed to deliver excellent customer services.
For all of these challenges, aviation companies will do well to partner with a company that has the necessary expertise and understanding of real-world implementation. Hexaware is here to help. We can assess your needs and find the right technologies for your situation. Our flexibility becomes your flexibility and will enable you to handle the current crisis and the crises to come.
A three-pronged approach

Hexaware continuously aligns itself to provide disruptive solutions with a vision and philosophy based on the three cornerstones: Automate Everything™, Cloudify Everything™ and Transform Customer Experience™.

  • Automate Everything™: we help reduce manual effort and intervention using a whole range of new-age technologies from robotic process automation (RPA) to artificial intelligence technologies such as cognitive OCR, machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), speech recognition and image analytics.
  • Cloudify Everything™: we provide cloud services such as re-platforming or migrating to cloud native application architectures, which help in cost savings, scalability and real-time accessibility. Hexaware uses its intelligent smart automation re-platforming product ‘Amaze’ to help migrate monolith mainframe applications to the cloud.
  • Transform Customer Experience™: we provide positive impact on the business by enabling rich, unique and quality customer interactions and driving the latest digitalization initiatives.

In the current scenario, Hexaware can help the aviation industry maneuver uncertainty by the digitization of core business processes, thereby reducing IT infrastructure and cost, building stakeholder confidence and enhancing the passenger experience.
Read this compelling story to discover how Hexaware helped one of the leading North American Airlines enhance the customer experience through legacy modernization.

Picture Credit | iStock


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