The Hands-Off Passenger Journey


ANA was inspired by touchless door innovations at Haneda Airport to trial an elbow-powered doorknob for aircraft lavatories, developed in collaboration with JAMCO. Image via JAMCO

As airlines and airports work to ensure customer and employee safety amidst the coronavirus pandemic, they’re finding new ways to stay connected to customers by removing the touch from touchpoints. This article originally appeared in the Expo Daily Experience: Preview. Read the full issue and register for FTE APEX Virtual Expo.

Apps Get it Right From the Start 

Airlines have been promoting their digital platforms for years as a way to book travel, pay for ancillary services and obtain paperless boarding passes. With COVID-19, they’re expanding these digital interfaces to inform customers about pandemic-related travel restrictions and new travel requirements in real time. Innovations like the SITA Flex cloud service help travelers and airport staff interact with airport touchpoints using their smartphones to print bag tags and check in luggage. Airlines and airports are also adding new biometric identification features and trialing digital health passports that will allow passengers to document their COVID-19 status electronically as they travel across borders. 

Airports Go Touchless Everywhere

While digital check-in and baggage drop-off kiosks and electronic boarding passes were once optional, they’re now becoming mandatory at airports. Along with biometric identification, these tools allow passengers to clear security and board their flight while minimizing document exchange. Other innovations meant to minimize contact include app-based ordering at airport restaurants and contactless elevator buttons at Abu Dhabi International Airport, which are activated with a wave of a hand. To maintain a close connection with travelers, even customer surveys have gone touchless. The Gestures touchless customer feedback solutions system, developed by Avius, allows travelers to rate their experience with a simple “thumbs up or thumbs down” in front of a kiosk at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  

A New Cabin Experience

Airplanes were designed to create a sense of place and to offer travelers comfort, entertainment and safety through elements like seatback screens, in-flight magazines, amenities and meals. In other words, in the cabin, almost everything is high-touch. In response to COVID-19, airlines and their suppliers are accelerating new features that have been in the pipeline like touchless faucets, soap dispensers and flush controls; antimicrobial surfaces and textiles; UV lighting for disinfection; personal device-driven digital entertainment solutions; and specially packaged meals. Amenity kits have been upgraded for COVID-19 with airlines including Delta, Emirates, Etihad, Malaysia and Singapore offering items like antiseptic wipes, hand gel and face masks. ANA was inspired by touchless door innovations at Haneda Airport to trial an elbow-powered doorknob for aircraft lavatories, developed in collaboration with JAMCO. We’ll have to wait and see if that flies, but it’s a clever hands-off solution. 

Virtual Expo Connection – Event Agenda

Digital Transformation in Air Travel, a keynote with Mark Sargent, Worldwide Industry Transportation Lead, Apple

Dec. 8, 3:30 a.m. GMT

Adapting the ‘Smart Airport’ vision in order to thrive in the post-pandemic world

Dec. 8, 5:00 a.m. GMT

What are the onboard innovations resulting from COVID-19, and changing passenger priorities, that will stand the test of time?

Dec. 8, 10:30 a.m. GMT

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