Queue at an airport

Five New People Flow Challenges Airports Need To Tackle


Many, if not all, industries are feeling the unprecedented impact of the pandemic. The aviation sector has been hit especially hard as passenger numbers continue to dwindle at alarming rates, resulting in layoffs at airports around the globe.

Before the pandemic, airport staff used to struggle with long waiting times at security checkpoints. But now, lines are practically nonexistent because of checkpoint consolidation and significantly lower passenger volumes. Priorities have changed, day to day operations have shifted, and some employees have been redeployed to other departments or just told to stay at home altogether.

As the world’s business community repositions itself in this new economic environment, what are some of the objectives that you should be focusing on right now and in the post-COVID-19 world?What are the new challenges that your airport will face as passenger volumes start to increase again? Read on to find out our top five data recommendations to consider during this pandemic and in the aftermath.

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1. Health Checks - Be Prepared For New Queues


Passengers waiting for their arranged transport to the city at Beijing Capital International Airport (Source: One Mile at a Time)

Passengers waiting for their arranged transport to the city at Beijing Capital International Airport (Source: One Mile at a Time)

As air traffic gradually picks up over the coming months, health checks are highly likely to take place in addition to the standard passenger screening procedures. Many airports have already set up temporary checkpoints to collect additional forms, passengers' travel history, or to take temperature checks (see picture on the left from an article in One Mile at a Time). But what if the health examination becomes a permanent checkpoint in the future? This scenario leads to new bottlenecks that were not anticipated in original airport passenger flow designs.

Being aware today of the additional constraints and waiting times that these checkpoints may cause is paramount in understanding how to best optimize passenger flow there. This can avoid unnecessary investments or inconvenience for passengers and employees.

Click here to learn more about how Xovis can help you with new queues.


2. Understand Your New Focus Areas


Airports by definition are melting pots where people from all over the world cross paths with each other. In normal times, this makes for an exciting mix of cultures which you rarely see elsewhere. But it is something governments have been trying to avoid in recent weeks by limiting the movement of people to the maximum possible extent. As rules are gradually relaxed later, airports need to think about where their operational designs need to be adjusted to account for social distancing already now.

Standard queue layouts that we have been accustomed to such as this one will need to be redesigned.

Standard queue layouts that we have been accustomed to such as this one will need to be redesigned.

New operational questions arise such as: Is it intra-terminal or remote gate busses that cannot be filled up to capacity anymore? Do you need spaced-out flights across the terminal to avoid overcrowding in boarding areas? Do you need to be aware of the number of people in certain areas of the terminal? And finally, of course: What influence does this have on the wait time and passenger flow management and where does it need to be adapted or reconsidered?


3. Cleanliness - Give Passengers Peace of Mind


Many airports have adopted new cleaning regimens in order to keep spaces sanitized and combat the spread of the coronavirus. Some have even reported that they have started cleaning their bathrooms every 30 minutes. This can be hard to manage and if you don’t have insight into your usage levels, how will you know whether the bathroom is actually ready to be cleaned?

Several airports use the same technology to monitor bathroom usage as they do to measure waiting times and passenger flow. A stable and accurate number of bathroom users is obtained in real-time to achieve situational awareness in order to trigger interim inspection/cleaning and, if necessary, passenger redirection to other facilities.

Doing things this way helps adopt reactive measures to non-standard situations (e.g. different aircraft stand allocations, seasonal changes) and to plan and optimize long-term cleaning based on statistical references such as gender; locations and their utilization.

The benefits of having reliable data is that it allows facility operators to provide high service levels - a key determinant for passenger satisfaction – while avoiding unnecessary cleaning cycles, and also to balance the use of infrastructure, which can help avoid costly investments. Especially in times of increased hygiene requirements and cleaning schedules, an optimized cleaning operation ensures the right balance between cleanliness and operating costs.

The same principle applies to other areas of the airport, whether it is the escalators or self-service kiosks. Passengers want peace of mind in knowing that the risk of infection by touching something is reduced to a minimum by high hygiene standards.

Click here to learn more about Xovis sanitary facility solution.


4. Social Distancing - Have Measures In Place To Enable It


Xovis sensors can be integrated with elevators/escalators to slow/stop service if overcrowding exists

Xovis sensors can be integrated with elevators/escalators to slow/stop service if overcrowding exists

While the public is urged to avoid unnecessary contact with other people, in some cases it is unavoidable. Social distancing (i.e. maintain a minimum distance of two meters / six feet to the next person) can be difficult to enforce, however, technology can help to flag situations where too many people are too close to each other. Algorithms to measure and analyze social distancing are being created using existing sensor technology. Many industries, especially the retail sector, are currently developing models that are using a combination of sensor technology and visual screens to show individuals when they are not keeping a safe distance.

Airports could also use these insights to trigger changes to their queuing procedures and put up additional signage or to restrict access to queues to avoid fill levels that do not allow for social distancing. In airports, there are certain hotspots where congregation of people is inevitable, such as in front of elevators. To prevent overcrowding, sensors can monitor the number of people in such areas in conjunction with markings on the floor. If the number of allowed people in a zone is exceeded, a notification on a screen or an alarm is triggered.


5. Occupancy - Ensure You Can Limit Access To Certain Areas


Knowing how many people are in a space to comply with government regulations is a topic that has gained relevance within a short period of time. Many shops that are still allowed to be open struggle to comply with this new requirement as they are confronted with a situation that they aren’t quite equipped to handle.

Integrated partner dashboards can show fill levels of specific areas.

Integrated partner dashboards can show fill levels of specific areas.

Suddenly, bouncers are popping up in front of stores like we had only previously seen in front of nightclubs. While they have their purpose in nightclubs, we don't believe they should be present at shop entrances. 3D stereovision sensors can just as accurately count the number of customers entering and exiting; so the "bouncer" can be redeployed elsewhere in the store where she/he can be more productive and less exposed to other people.

Airports who have closed the vast majority of concessions will face the same challenge as they open again. How do you make sure that your airport restaurants or lounges are not overcrowded? Simple people counting sensors for a fill level is the answer.


Contact us if you need help

Airports throughout the globe, will need to prioritize the monitoring of passenger flow and foot traffic post-COVID-19 – spaces where large people gather will need the help of technology to determine whether they are too crowded. It’s the “new normal”, and for the time being, it seems like it’s here to stay.

For more information on how Xovis can help with your current and future COVID-19 operations, please send us an e-mail or use our contact form.