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An accelerated implementation of touchless technologies has begun at airports

An accelerated implementation of touchless technologies has begun at airports

An airport’s local context is, therefore, its ground of germination, so it may potentially anchor its future development. From this perspective it becomes vital for it to be rooted in its cultural context to suitably serve its people says Shivani Gour, Studio Director, Gensler, India.

What are some of the major changes in airport design  one will be witnessing in the post Covid-19 era?

The biggest challenge for today’s airports is to regain  consumer confidence and ensure staff safety. While  the focus stays on health and hygiene, what actually  helps build the confidence back is the consistency with  which the new practices are implemented. And hence a  less-temporal/ more long-term investment is needed to  develop infrastructure & systems to ensure confidence building, both with airport staff and passengers.

An accelerated implementation of touch-less technologies  is already underway in major airports. To name a few,  contact-less service kiosks, curb-side baggage self-check ins, cashless transactions, contactless boarding entry  turnstiles etc. are some of the newly added features which  are fast becoming a norm.  

For airport employees, centralized entry points for  screening and delivering, plus purpose-built amenities  dedicated to staff wellness, will become essential  components of terminal planning.  

Moreover, there is heightened attention towards  air-quality social distancing. To cater to this need,  physiologically and psychologically, curating opportunities  for fresh air-intake would increase and introduction of  nature’s elements in the overall journeys would be well received. Demand for semi-enclosed spaces for individual  needs will also increase.  

In the current times, health screening and monitoring  have overtaken all other functions, resulting in added  travel stress and increased travel-time. In such a scenario  it has become even more crucial to ease travel related  stress. 

Hence on one hand there would be attempt to make the  access through the terminal easy and seamless through  prompt signage and clear way-finding, on the other hand  new typologies of spaces will emerge that would allow  for releasing stress and offering memorable experiences.  More than ever, the need will arise to reclaim pleasurable  moments in a journey, making way for innovative and  fresh thinking that re-imagines airports beyond travel gateways!  

Especially for large airports what kind of facilities are  needed to ensure navigating within the airport is easier? Going contactless from curb to gate, calls for a thorough  assessment of all touch points in the journey; and when  the airports are large, every step adds to the complexity. 

Clear signage and wayfinding are an immediate area of  action, required on all operational airports. But for the  upcoming airports however, the passenger flow needs to  be planned to allow for intuitive movement through the terminal, reducing the reliance on signage.  Beyond flow management, special measures  need to be taken for elimination of queues  and crowds at all access points as well as  dwelling-zones.  

Latest development in Indoor Positioning  Systems can drastically alter the way a  passenger navigates through a terminal.  It can be further linked with other service  offerings of the terminal to make a  passenger’s experience more meaningful and  efficient. For example, in the post-security  passenger-amenities, contact-less pick-ups  and alternative delivery options for in-line  retail and F&B outlets can be linked with  this navigation system. This can help release dense occupancy pockets and in return offer  convenience to the end-user.

Furthermore, other technology solutions  like Integration of UV screening can help  ease off congestion points. Remote health  screening and app-based services for faster  drop-off/ pick-up, can make the entry/ exit  experience swifter and more stress-free. At  customs and security screening, existing  bio-metric procedures can be boosted with  added provisions for mass screenings. For  easing out arrivals flow, provisions must be  made to guide guests about local guidelines  and procedures, overall calling for an  enhanced customer service engagement,  either in-person or through AI tools.  

The pandemic has also brought forth  the differences in the needs of varied  user-groups – for e.g. an elderly person’s  concerns and challenges have become even  more dissimilar from a younger traveler.  To make the travel-experience pleasant  for all, Terminal Design will have to evolve  to offer more customized services; in the  process, redefining the new ‘premium travel’  experience.  

In India as also in some other parts of the  world, major airports are limited to metros  alone. Do you see any kind of decentralization  happening there in the near future? 

The post-covid times have compelled all  sectors to turn to more sustainable models  and decentralization is just one of the facets  of this approach. Not just airports but entire  urban development has catapulted towards  regionalization. This has given a major thrust to  the development of small-scale airports across  the country.  

While demands on the metropolitan airports will  continue to grow, domestic air-traffic-needs  continue to rise even in the pandemic times.  To make the small-scale airports successful,  sustainable practices need to be adopted as  a business model. Considering our recent  contribution and innovation in the alternative 

energy sector, India in particular, can be a front runner in showing the way to faster, better and  cheaper airport design.  

What kind of multi-modal integration is  necessary to ensure that access to the airport  becomes easier? 

The pandemic has propelled us into the future sooner than we could imagine. With immediate addressal of current needs, now is also the time  to consider long-term strategies and solutions  to prepare and plan for cities that offer hassle free and time-saving traveler experience;  multi-modal connections to an airport are  essential to achieve this. Depending on its city’s infrastructure, an airport can draw traction  through various modes of transport, like metro  lines, app-based cab services, ride-sharing, public buses, and even chopper-services for fast  access through dense city-traffic. Thus, pressure  falls again on airport-planning to allow for  integration of all such services.  

How can airport design serve as a reflection of  the region’s culture and aspirations? Can you  cite some examples? 

Airports have undergone extensive evolution  – from being mere gateways to nodal points of development, and eventually turning into  thriving urban-ecosystems. An airport’s local  context is, therefore, its ground of germination, so it may potentially anchor its future  development. From this perspective it becomes vital for it to be rooted in its cultural context to suitably serve its people.  

Gensler is currently working on designing Lounges and hotel spaces in Bangalore  International Airport’s Terminal 2. Being part of  the ‘Garden City’ the overall experience of these  spaces is created as part of Nature’s canvas. It takes its inspiration from the six unique seasons  of India, the blooming flowers of Bengaluru, and the city’s Lalbagh conservatory. Also representing the tech-capital and its tech savvy-traveler, this project uses technology  to deliver a world-class traveler-experience  that embraces the local eco-system through a  contemporary expression of its regional crafts. The facility is designed to offer choice to its  users, with wellness in the fore front and a  flavor that is unique to its place.


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