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Best practice in implementing a contactless airport passenger journey

2 Aug 2022
Sarah Marks

The contactless experience. It’s what passengers are demanding and what airports strive for, but ensuring it is implemented successfully is paramount. Here we’ll share our best practice contactless airport tips to help ensure you get the most from your investment.

What is contactless technology for airports?

By now, most of us are familiar with some touchless technology, whether it’s the payment systems that take our money or the tap faucets that automatically turn on when we wash our hands.

At the airport, contactless technology can come in many forms, including (but not limited to):

  • Biometrics and identity validation technology
  • Advanced self-service
  • Queueless journeys and virtual queuing that use QR codes and mobile e-ticketing
  • Digital health passports & vaccination visas / COVID-19 testing & hygiene
  • Contactless customer service that limits the need for airport customer service kiosks
  • Touchless KPI and feedback systems
  • Wayfinding apps
  • Contactless fast track bookings that use QR scanning and mobile e-ticketing
  • Ecommerce websites and apps that enable passengers to pre-order retail products, duty-free and food and beverage for click and collect or delivery.

While the pandemic undoubtedly accelerated the adoption of many touchless technology systems at the airport, the benefits of virtual queuing and contactless airport technology go beyond simply improving health and hygiene within the terminals. Adopting contactless systems, following a best practice guide, can result in more streamlined processes and increased revenues. What’s more, touchless technology and new airport services contribute to the engaging, luxury experience passengers have come to expect following airports’ transformation into major hospitality and retail hubs.

Contactless passenger journey guide

Now we’ve outlined some of the different touchless technology systems available for airports, let’s move on to how and why to implement them, with best practice tips to ensure they benefit both your airport and passengers.

1. Decide how you can optimise your airport with contactless technology

It’s important to remember that what a digital transformation looks like for one airport might be different to how it looks for the next. It’s about finding the best contactless technology to improve your airport operations and best serve your passengers. Check out our article about how airport CEOs are adapting their business model for the future for inspiration and guidance on implementing a contactless airport passenger journey.

2. Collaboration is key

The second tip in our contactless passenger journey guide focuses on collaboration. For airports to successfully implement a contactless passenger journey, they need a spirit of cooperation, cohesiveness and interoperability amongst stakeholders.

Airports are not an island. They are part of a vast ecosystem that needs to work together. This sentiment was echoed by Kirk Goodlet, Director of Facilitation and Product Development at Winnipeg Airports Authority, at the IAR Online Summit, who said, “airports, airlines and agencies are all co-managing the passenger journey. All are necessary to deliver on touchless technology, and passenger processing and not one single stakeholder could do it on their own.”

We advise involving as many stakeholders as possible from the beginning of your airport’s digitisation project. Share measurable benefits of digital transformation for your airport and stakeholders, i.e. the three es – experience, efficiency and earnings. It’s essential to get all stakeholders on board, not only for investment purposes but acceptance, alignment and consistency, as we’ve discussed further in our article ‘How airport innovation teams secure stakeholder buy-in and funding for digital projects.’

3. Establish a digital transformation strategy

Remember, implementing a contactless airport passenger journey is not something that can happen overnight. Therefore, you will need to update your airport’s digital strategies to reflect changes, i.e. the emerging needs of your passengers and developing expectations, and changes to your airport operations and workforce, which the pandemic will have undoubtedly affected in some way.

Harness your airport’s data to identify new opportunities and touchpoints to optimise with contactless technology, secure stakeholder buy-in (as mentioned above) and gain valuable support from tech partners like Rezcomm. We not only have flexible and scalable contactless airport technology but the experience and know-how to boot.

Read how other airports are delivering their digital transformation journeys here.

4. Deal with the data

Change doesn’t come without challenges, and addressing airport digital transformation challenges is crucial.

Panellists highlighted many digital transformation challenges surrounding data at the IAR Online Summit.

“You need to have a clear understanding of the policy constraints in your country, and the business case you build needs to be consistent with the regulatory framework you’re working with,” said Fabrizio Magliocca, Head of APOC Management at Aeroporti di Roma. He added, “the challenge is to allow for keeping the data so passengers only need to enrol once and can reuse their ID.”

Case Study
Aeroporti di Roma has been processing and trialling biometrics technology for a contactless airport passenger journey since 2014 and has now processed 80 million passengers this way. The enrolling process requires buy-in from the passenger, who can choose to enrol at check-in. After that, passengers take a selfie, which links to their boarding pass. Passengers can then approach the security checks using facial recognition and don’t have to show any documents. The same process occurs at the boarding gate to ensure a seamless experience. Passenger data is deleted after the flight is departed to adhere to privacy regulations.

The trial was paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it was re-started in July 2021, with the addition of an app, so passengers can create a biometric ID at home and use the same biometric ID for as long as their documents are valid. Fabrizio Magliocca reported, “passenger perception is very good, encouraging, and we’re now looking to see how this can be used long term.”

Another critical challenge regarding passenger data is determining who is responsible for it. “The passengers need to approach equipment installed in the airport, so we as an airport are managing the biometric data,” said Fabrizio. However, he added that passengers would benefit if airports shared identity tokens with airline partners. He appreciated that many passengers interact with airlines first (via their website), so the airline must have some responsibility for data too.

Again, this is a valuable conversation to have with all stakeholders.

5. Involve passengers from the get go

Speaking of stakeholders, while we’ve talked about the importance of involving airlines and agency partners, it’s also essential to include passengers from the get-go. After all, a large part of implementing a contactless airport journey is to create a more positive passenger experience. So, being customer-centric is a must.

According to IATA’s 2021 Global Passenger Survey, 73% of passengers are willing to share their biometric data to improve airport processes, up from 46% in 2019. However, for this to work, passengers need education and support. There are several ways this can be provided, from pre-flight marketing, in the form of helpful videos and guides that tell passengers how they can benefit from seamless airport technology to easy-read signage at the airport.

It’s also crucial to gather feedback, and the best way is by implementing scannable QR codes at critical touchpoints in your airport. With Rezcomm’s touchless KPI and Feedback module, you collect passenger feedback in real-time and have the opportunity to resolve any issues and reward passengers with coupons to spend at your airport immediately to create a better experience.

The key is to make the contactless airport passenger journey as seamless as possible. As Fabrizio Magliocca reminded us at the IAR Online Summit, “the tech needs to work for the passenger. They will only try it once, and if it doesn’t work, it’s really hard to get them to try it again.”

6. Work with a forward-thinking tech partner

And last but certainly not least on our best practice contactless airport tips list is to choose the right tech partner to deliver the implementation. And remember, while a company could have the best tech in the business, the implementation will fall flat if the support isn’t there.

Choose a tech partner like Rezcomm with decades of experience in the industry, who specialise in airport ecommerce and digitalisation and have a brochure full of plug-and-play solutions for you to pick and choose from.

We work flexibly, offer ongoing support and will make your tech work for you. To find the best contactless airport solutions to improve the passenger journey, book a meeting with the Rezcomm team today.