Creating a touchless airport experience at Avalon Airport
Following Avalon Airport’s decision to implement touchless self-service technology – for the first time in Australia – in May 2020, International Airport Review spoke to the airport’s CEO, Justin Giddings, to find out how this technology may affect the airport experience.
Implementing touchless technology of course increases safety – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – but how will it affect Avalon’s airport operations?
We have recently installed new kiosks at Avalon Airport (AVV), but will soon also install new touchless kiosks. These use biometrics to follow head movements, thus eliminating the need to touch the screen. This is not only useful for hygiene reasons, it is useful for people with differing abilities.
Airline staff will assist with check in as usual – the difference being that they won’t be standing behind a desk. Auto bag drops will also be installed soon. All of these initiatives are working towards creating a touchless experience for passengers and staff. We expect that the check-in process may slow down a little to begin with as passengers and staff get used to the new systems and airport layout, but we believe these will create a more seamless experience in the future.
How does Avalon Airport plan to protect passengers’ data during the use of touchless technology?
Avalon has access to only minimal data from the kiosks. Each kiosk acts as a host to the airlines’ own platforms and data will be collected by the airlines as per usual. The only data available to the airport is the number of passengers and time of check in.
Are some passengers wary of the new technology? Will the airport source passenger feedback following implementation?
People can be wary of change and some will choose not to use the touchless technology. The implementation of the touchless kiosks is an offer and even if only half of our passengers choose to use it, this will still minimise the use of traditional kiosks and therefore lessen surface contact. We will certainly source customer feedback; our Customer Service Officers will also be present to assist and take anecdotal feedback.
What challenges were faced when installing the new technology? How did Avalon overcome these?
Given there were no flights when the traditional kiosks were delivered and installed, there were few challenges. We also upgraded our security to include a CT scanner/body scanner at the same time, as we didn’t have passenger considerations.
We had to ensure we were aligned with our airlines in the technology and costs, and even the card for boarding passes had to be considered. The auto bag drops face delays due to procurement issues because of the COVID-19 restrictions. Apart from this, the main challenge will simply be getting travellers used to the new system.
Apart from safety in regard to virus containment, what is the biggest benefit of touchless self-service for Avalon?
Other benefits include a smoother check in, a shared check in for the airlines and no need for branded areas for airlines. This means there is actually far more opportunities for passengers to check in and, therefore, the process should be quicker, with more space, less waiting time and a better experience for people with differing abilities or reduced mobility. When we welcome new airlines we won’t have to find ‘new space’ for them – it’s very easy to add them to the system.
Is this the beginning of autonomy replacing human roles within Avalon’s airport operations? Will there be less of a need for airport staff with the implementation of technology?
Not as far as we’re concerned. Ultimately that would be up to the airlines, but most of them have online check in anyway. Everyone knows that a good service is a personal service and technology will never replace that.
Do you predict touchless technology will become the ‘norm’ across all airports in the future?
Justin Giddings has been CEO of Avalon Airport for 12 years. He is also Chair of the Gordon TAFE (the 2017 Australian and Victorian Large Training Provider of the Year), the Deputy Chair of the Committee for Geelong Board, and the Independent Chair of both the Youth Justice Centre Community Advisory Group and the Lara Prison expansion project Community Advisory Group.