Jan Richards Dublin Airport

Giving travelers  more control over their experience isn’t a new concept – self check-in stations are now commonplace at airports, for example – but it will become increasingly necessary as people return to the skies. The next phase of self-service will include touchless functionality and travelers will likely expect to have access to sanitization products during their journey.

Giving travelers more control will be key to building confidence in the airport experience during and after the current pandemic, according to Jan Richards, head of Insights and Planning at Dublin Airport. This translates into focusing on the self-service elements of the airport journey, including the ability for travelers to meet their own standard of cleanliness as much as possible, she explained during last week’s FTE APEX Post-COVID-19 Airports virtual event.

“We are spending a lot of time thinking about existing and future trends and the big conclusion is that existing trends that we’re already focusing on as an airport are going to be much more important going forward… Cleanliness was already the number one thing that drove satisfaction in airports,” Richards said.

Giving travelers the opportunity to be in charge of their own hygiene will be important not just for satisfaction, but also for a sense of security. Putting herself in a traveler’s shoes, Richards asked: “Do I trust other people to do things for me, I think much less in the current times.”

Travelers will likely expect to have sanitization supplies at their disposal. Avalon Airport in Australia is planning to install highly visible liquid hand sanitizers throughout the facility, according to Andrew Elliott, the airport’s head of Operations, who also presented during the virtual event. There will also be a disinfection zone offering various materials for travelers to use.

“Cleanliness was already the number one thing that drove satisfaction in airports.” – Jan Richards, Dublin Airport

Airports will undoubtedly still be responsible for ensuring that touchpoints are sanitized. In addition to putting stringent hygiene practices into action, it will be important for airports to communicate their strategy to travelers and provide guidelines, Richards said.

The journey through the airport should not only be clean, it should be contactless and seamless, and should be facilitated primarily by the travelers’ device when possible, Richards explained. Avalon Airport is partnering with Elenium Automation to implement touchless check-in and bag drop kiosks that are controlled via head movement. The technology will also be able to measure vital signs including temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate.

Continuing to monitor travelers’ behavioral trends through research will be crucial. Richards referenced research from Forrester that found focusing on customer experience during and after a recession can lead to returns that are three times higher. “Delivering a customer experience through understanding passengers will be even more important during this crisis,” she said.

Register for FTE APEX’s second virtual event, focusing on airlines and aircraft.