By Stephen Hammond
The future is uncertain, but this uncertainty is at the very heart of human creativity - Ilya Prigogine
Covid19 is going to bring us from an already advanced technological existence, to a new dimension of innovative experience both in travel and flight.
It is not beyond imagination that within a short time when arriving curbside at Airport Departures you will be greeted by armies of Robots surveilling and patrolling as they disinfect the concourse, public spaces, airline counters and the automated check in booths.
As for passengers, we can envision an almost seamless 'touch free' journey from arrival to boarding the aircraft; absent of form filling or being touched by the human hand of security.
We already have bio metric eye & body scanners which could soon be adopted to open gates, scan our bodies and luggage, verify our requisite documentation [passports etc.] that's if they are not already replaced with Social Cards [indistinguishable from credit cards] or mobile compatible applications; or indeed for the less privacy minded individual, an implanted chip to the ear.
Voice command control obeying our verbal instructions or even eye or hand gesture translating the desired operation of opening overhead cabin storage space or navigating the inflight entertainments. In a few words, everything could be made 'touch free'.
Cristiano Ceccato, a director at the world-renowned architectural practice of Zaha Hadid, [which recently completed the Daxing Beijing Airport] opines the key to the future is 'terminal velocity' in this new age of social distancing. Moving as many people as possible in the shortest possible time, with the optimum amount of health screening with the least amount of inconvenience.
Arriving by taxi at the Departure Entrance you will immediately notice a Robot greeting presence, disinfecting passengers, the check in counters and automated ticket kiosk facilities. Equipped with ultra violet light sterilizers in operations known as 'CleanTech', baggage trolleys and hard surfaces throughout will be coated with antimicrobial elements.
Ceccato anticipates that airports could be enlarged to avoid crowding and have some form of high-tech arches [Mcdonalds style] that can handle a volume of passengers passing through that scans for metals, liquids and gels, and also simultaneously checking the passenger's health. Gone thankfully will be the days of trays on conveyor belts, intrusive security personnel rummaging through handbags, laptop cases and wash bags.
Personal Protection equipment [PPE] will become mandatory. The wearing of the ubiquitous face mask looks set to be a feature for all travel in 2020 and maybe for the foreseeable future while the virus evolves or until a vaccine is found.
KAELIS, a manufacturer of PPE for airlines, supplies nearly 30 airlines at present. Its CEO Federico Heitz explains its product called a 'Self Protective Pouch [SP.3]' that includes a mask, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, gloves and a leaflet with instructions for both crew and passengers. The pouch is customized in the airlines livery to compliment the branding.
Etihad Airways has already engaged Elenium Automation in an ongoing trial at Abu Dhabi Airport for a contactless voice activated machine that monitors passenger's temperature, heart and respiratory rates before even Check In.
The airport experience will move from BC [before Covid] of Mall/duty-free shopping, gastronomic eating and Cafe lounging to AC and more a heightened pre-flight health care assessment of sanitation and multiple screening; it might be reassuring for other passengers to know that everyone on board is as healthy as can be.
Once on board the haute couture of uniformed inflight staff could be a delight of the past, replaced with the less than welcoming bio suits possibly designed by Givenchy. Likewise, service on board could be reduced to the bare necessary for economy passengers and with an emphasis on healthy eating and the absence of alcohol.
Last, but not least: Validation to travel is the more ominous aspect to consider.
Currently, in China stringent measure are being implemented to ensure travelers are Covid free utilizing a system of codes.
QR code colors Green means the passenger has been tested, his travel patterns have been recorded and the authorities know exactly where and what journeys have been made.
It seems inevitable that Data tracking and tracing is here to stay if you want to travel.
The excuses for such intrusive protocols will always be its for your safety and health.