This month will be a year since we went into the first lockdown here in the Netherlands. It can be said that Covid-19 keeps transforming our world more and more every day. Forecasts suggest that within the travel industry the passenger rate won’t return to normal before 2025. So, how can airports adapt to the new normal to recover and stimulate growth? Airports must re-evaluate traditional practices and ways in which customers are handled. This provides us, designers, with a rare opportunity to completely rethink and transform the passenger experience and create a new form of post-Covid travel.
As designers, we always begin by analysing the user’s behaviour and needs when improving or creating new products or services. However, you do not have to be a designer to see that Covid has changed people’s behaviour in everyday life. From wearing masks in public transportation to shops implementing ‘contactless only’ checkouts. We expect to see similar changes in passengers behaviour in air travel. The way we used to navigate through the airport, one year ago, is almost unimaginable. People are excited to travel again after Covid, but they are also concerned about how they can travel safely and what obstacles they will face. As we shift our focus from dealing with the present crisis to planning for the future, it is clear that recovery will be aided if passengers begin to have trust again in the safety of air travel. Airports would be more agile to adapt and adjust quickly for recovery if the importance of handling these changes is stressed. Analysing the changing passenger journey and understanding the new behaviour and needs in specific areas of concern will therefore be key. This is an area where we, as designers, can make a significant contribution.
For the passenger today, there is a lack of certainty. How do they know it's safe to fly to their destination, which health checks must be conducted within what time frame? And is there any additional paperwork that needs to be completed before they return home? These are only a couple of the frequently asked questions by travellers. To get passengers back in flight, they need to have these answers before booking a trip. This would enable trust and allows them to plan for any possible scenario. Currently, this information is dispersed among airports, health care institutions, (local) governments, booking agencies, and airlines. To meet passenger needs and alleviate their worries and concerns all stakeholders have to start working together. Only then can they develop effective, dependable post-covid solutions that will help passengers during their entire journey.
In the coming years, passengers will not only place more stress on issues such as airport cleanliness but they will also be hesitant to use devices or processes that require physical touch. From booking to boarding, reducing contact in airports will be a complicated process that involves different stakeholder input and technical improvements. The introduction of touchless gates will play a very important role in this respect. With the use of biometric and facial recognition technologies self service-gates could reduce not only the number of taps but even the number of security checks and border queues. However, our experience in mobility, specifically in airports, has shown that it’s not only about the type of technology used. It’s about achieving a balance between design and technology to create the right customer-centric experience.
With the current crisis, it’s now time for airports to undergo a transformation and seek creative solutions. By creating pandemic-proof airports the risks and dangers of a future pandemic can be controlled in a much safer manner, with airports fully able to respond quickly and efficiently to such a crisis. Whilst air travel has slowed down, this has provided an opportunity to pursue new paths and introduce innovative technologies. It is essential to remember that the Post-Covid world will be different from before, not only for airports but also for passengers.
Creating a pandemic-proof future is something all businesses across all industries are now facing. While the travel industry was one of the industries hardest hit, it has also provided the opportunity to completely rethink and transform the passenger process experience. The future possibilities of airports appear to be endless and the emergence of new technologies enables us to re-evaluate old systems. The faster we innovate and seek potential possibilities, the faster we can get passengers back in flight.
Want to set up a virtual coffee date and discuss how Covid-19 has impacted your business? Drop us a line, and together we can figure out solutions on how we can make a better experience for your customers today and tomorrow.