Going on holiday is one of life’s luxuries, but the airport experience that precedes it can often be stressful and irritating. However, there are several companies out there hoping to make frustrations like long queuing times and complex security checks a thing of the past.
The travel sector has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation, from launching loyalty schemes like Air Miles two decades ago, to introducing Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming to certain airline carriers two years ago. And the pre-travel experience is the next part of the journey to undergo a shake-up.
Let’s consider how the build-up to jetting away on holiday will look in a few years’ time (clue: it will be very different!)
1. Door-to-door autonomous service
The future pre-travel experience will begin long before passengers reach the airport, as the development of autonomous cars will enable people to get picked up from home and dropped direct to the terminal door without having to tackle the nightmare of airport parking.
My colleague Josie Byrne has talked a lot about how driverless cars will impact the automotive industry, but it’s interesting to think how autonomous vehicles will be used within the airport to make travel more efficient.
In addition to getting travellers to the airport, driverless cars seem the ideal solution for transporting both passengers and baggage through the terminal itself, making it easier to get people and luggage to the right destination.
2. Home-to-holiday baggage handling
It’s not just passengers who will get picked up from their front door in a few years’ time. The Department for Transport recently set out its UK aviation strategy until 2050, which includes the potential roll-out of doorstep check-in facilities and town centre check-in desks, to ease airport terminal congestion.
If home baggage check-in becomes a reality before the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles, it will make the journey to the airport much easier – particularly for any holidaymakers travelling on a commuter train in rush hour!
3. New ways to relax and unwind pre-flight
In recent years we’ve seen many airports push the envelope on pre-flight experiences, and this will continue to evolve. Singapore’s Jewel Changhi airport is currently extending terminal one, which, when it opens in 2019, will feature a 40-metre light and water display, and a garden that spans five storeys of the building.
Helsinki Airport is also revamping and extending its terminal two, which will feature an indoor forest when it opens in in 2021, offering pre-flight peace and tranquillity.
4. Smile for the cameras
Understandably, security protocol has to be stringent when travelling through an airport, but airlines are becoming increasingly smart with the way they identify and manage pre-travel customer safety.
For example, China’s Shanghai Airport is exploring ways to speed up essential interactions through technology such as automatic bag tagging and checking, while JetBlue will soon test facial recognition technology to match passenger ID to their passport photographs.
5. Straight to the beach
The powerful part of pre-travel innovation is that it will support the post-flight customer experience as well. If companies like JetBlue can make the boarding process easier through techniques like facial recognition, this can also be applied to the security process once passengers have arrived.
Many airports have already introduced automatic passport gates, which use facial recognition to identify passengers using biometric passports, but these are still quite slow and difficult to operate. Innovating here and in other aspects of the post-travel experience will ensure holidaymakers get to the beach (or the slopes) quicker and less stressed than ever before.
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