Redefining the airport experience to accommodate emotional wellbeing
Qatar’s Hamad International Airport has amended its airport experience to ensure that passengers experience a smooth and welcoming journey post-COVID-19.
The global travel industry is undoubtedly one of the most affected sectors from the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments around the world quickly imposed travel restrictions and border closures were put in place to safeguard the population. This led to a significant drop in global air traffic and left countless airports empty in its wake. The global travel industry is working hard to stabilise in the midst of the crisis, facing its toughest challenge yet: Rebuilding passenger confidence in air travel.
Meeting passenger needs in the midst of a pandemic
All over the world, the pandemic left many passengers stranded at airports and eager to return home to their families. Now, with the easing of restrictions, countries are gradually re-opening their borders and airports are readjusting their procedures to align with the ‘new normal’. Rising above and beyond the challenge to exceed passenger expectations, Hamad International Airport (HIA) has emerged as one of the leading airports in the world when it comes to welcoming passengers back by successfully transforming the airport experience to implement stringent and innovative health and safety measures.
The world-class airport remained operational despite the pandemic and showed incredible operational nimbleness and resilience in adapting to the ever‑changing circumstances surrounding aviation, including facilitating a sharp increase in cargo flights in the early days of the pandemic. The international hub unlocked the power of technology to rebuild travel trust with innovative travel experiences. HIA was one of the pioneers in implementing disinfection robots and advanced thermal screening helmets, effectively turning the terminal into an airport of the future. However, more importantly, putting the passengers at the heart of its strategy, the airport prioritised the emotional wellbeing of passengers during these unprecedented times.
The five‑star airport recognised the hardship that comes with being separated from family and friends for months amidst a pandemic and therefore adjusted its arrival procedure”
At the top of HIA’s agenda was to ensure that passengers arriving home after being stranded outside the country for several months received a safe, welcoming and seamless arrival experience. The five‑star airport recognised the hardship that comes with being separated from family and friends for months amidst a pandemic and therefore adjusted its arrival procedure to ensure that passengers arriving home found the transition smooth and simple.
With passenger comfort at the heart of HIA’s strategy, the airport also reopened the Qatar Duty Free (QDF) South Node food court for passengers to enjoy whilst adhering to strict physical distancing guidelines and cashless transaction measures.
A new airport entry process
HIA’s newly modified procedures for arriving passengers is customised based on the categorisation of the passengers, into those arriving from ‘high-risk countries’ and ‘low-risk countries’, to ensure a smooth arrival process – the classification is defined by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). In preparation for diverse passenger processes, HIA constructed clear guidelines tailored to each group to ensure a safe, seamless and stress-free passenger experience upon arrival. All arriving passengers are first thermally screened and required to install the EHTERAZ mobile application, Qatar’s COVID-19 tracing app.
To further facilitate the entry process, Qatar’s airport, in collaboration with Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS), has volunteers available at the airport to assist passengers in setting up their EHTERAZ application. In addition, all arriving passengers are required to fill out a health assessment form and sign a quarantine pledge agreement upon arrival.
Passengers arriving from high-risk countries then proceed to present their quarantine hotel booking with Discover Qatar’s ‘Welcome Home Package’ – an initiative launched in partnership with the national carrier, designed for the sole purpose of safely welcoming citizens and residents back home. Once all arrival formalities are completed, passengers are transported to their quarantine hotels.
Passengers arriving from low-risk countries are diverted to designated airport testing facilities where they receive a swab test. Once their testing is complete, they proceed to immigration for processing and entry to the State of Qatar where they are required to home quarantine.
Continually improving the passenger experience
Qatar’s airport believes that these unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures”
Qatar’s airport believes that these unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures: The safety of airport staff and passengers is a priority. Nevertheless, the airport continues to exceed the expectations of travellers by integrating choice, convenience and flexibility to the passenger experience.
Becoming a contactless airport
HIA has also recently become one of the first airports in the world to adopt a holistic and contactless airport experience”
HIA has also recently become one of the first airports in the world to adopt a holistic and contactless airport experience by combining a passenger’s flight, passport and facial biometric information in a ‘single travel token’ at the self‑check-in kiosk. This digital identity record ultimately makes the passenger’s face their pass at key airport touchpoints, such as the self-service bag drop, pre-immigration and the self-boarding gate. This approach and early investment in biometric identification technology will prove to be an extremely efficient tool in HIA’s battle against COVID-19, allowing passengers to breeze through key touchpoints with minimal physical contact.
Security measures at the global travel hub also further improved in July 2020 with the addition of the latest security screening technology. The new C2 technology established a more efficient security screening protocol by allowing transfer passengers the freedom to keep electronic devices – such as laptops, tablets and digital cameras – in their hand luggage while going through security checkpoints, reducing queuing times and possible cross‑contamination among passenger carry-on bags, while improving the levels of customer service.
Future airport developments
To further advance the effectiveness of its operations and rebuild passenger trust, HIA is looking into deploying new technologies at the airport, such as body scanners, anti-bacterial trays at checkpoints, automated UV-emitting modules for automatic tray disinfection, UV baggage disinfection tunnels and touchless elevator controls in order to offer an even greater experience for all passengers.
HIA continues to make great strides to maintain and innovate its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic by putting its people first and exploring technological advancements to enhance airport operations. With the introduction of the latest arrival procedures, the state‑of-the-art airport demonstrated a clear understanding of passenger needs in times of crises.