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The Renewed Aviation Experience Post CORONA Lockdown: What is expected from the Passengers, Government and the IT and ICT Enablers

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The Aviation Industry is back in action, but more needs to be done from the IT and ICT perspective for profitability and security.

Aviation has been one of the most affected industries during the pandemic and many airlines and airports have not been able to with stand the shock, and all the Business Continuity Plan/Disaster Recovery Plans that existed on papers never could be implemented on ground. The rampant employees laid off and losses due to extended closure has added cost to the restarting of the industry. This has also lead to part closure of many operations and domains in the aviation industry. The resumption of the aviation sector in India and also other parts of the globe, have not been an encouraging initiative. The lost demand and the cumbersome processes, as also the lack of government fiscal bailout have also been deterrents in the initial kick-start in the aviation sector. Inspite of the effort by the airlines during the pandemic period, by means of being the only carrier of emergency goods of medical needs or the vital services of ferrying medical personnel from one place to another or the transportation of stranded citizens to different places of residence (both domestic and international); the sector did not find the essential encouragement for its best resumption. Further again, the great work the airlines are doing can’t alleviate the financial pain they are experiencing because of lost revenue that has been borne by the sector due to extended Lockdown.

On 25 May 2020, the Indian Civil Aviation space has resumed after two (2) months with a new definition on travel and passenger handling.

What passengers have to adhere to:

  • Arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure time. (Passengers should do a web check-in and print out a boarding pass before arrival at airport)
  • At the airport, passengers are directed to wear protective gear – face masks and gloves – before exiting the taxi. They must also have all required documents – including boarding pass, baggage tags (if not held, can be printed inside the airport too) and status on Aarogya Setu – available for inspection.
  • Passengers will be taken for thermal screening. (Passengers showing COVID-19 symptoms, or those whose Aarogya Setu status is “red”, will not be allowed to enter the terminal. Children under the age of 14 need not use the Aarogya Setu app)
  • Post this, passengers who are asymptomatic, will go to designated immigration (for international) counters or to the CISF Checking desk. They should have their ID proof and a copy of the filled self-reporting form.
  • After ticket details and passenger health have been verified, passengers can move to the baggage drop-in counter. Here again the PNR will be checked with ID or Passport. (prior to this the luggage tag should have been affixed by the passenger themselves.
  • After luggage collection, passengers will be moved to an area along with escort to the security check area. (Passengers must remove all metal items from their body to facilitate security screening).
  • The had baggage will also be scanned, the CISF personnel will provide a fresh sanatised tray and the system will be completely contact less.
  • After security screening, when passengers move to departure areas, they must follow sanitisation protocols and maintain minimum distance around any food and beverage or retail outlet that may be open.
  • Before boarding passengers must ensure that they are in possession of safety kit – consisting of three-layered surgical masks, face shields and sanitisers.
  • At departure gates again the passengers will have to do a contact-less scan of the boarding pass and show ID to airline staff.

Some of the SOPs that have to be followed by airport operators for domestic flights:

  • Passengers should reach airport well in advance. They will have to reach airport two hours in advance of flight time.
  • Passengers should wear masks and gloves.
  • Those that don’t show ‘green’ on Aarogya Setu will not be allowed to enter airport.
  • Aarogya Setu app is not mandatory for children below the age of 14 years.
  • Sanitisation of baggage before entry into terminal
  • At passenger touchpoints, staff to either wear face shields behind counter or put glass wall at counter
  • Constant announcements about social distancing and other norms.
  • Boarding will be done in batches to maintain social distance.
  • Passenger seating arrangement shall be done in such a manner so as to maintain social distancing among passengers using chairs by blocking those seats that are not to be used, with proper markers/tapes.
  • All airport staff to wear PPEs and hand sanitisers for staff and passenger.
  • Newspapers and magazines not to be provided in the Terminal building/Lounges.
  • Passengers will be allowed into the terminal building if their flights are within four hours.
  • State governments and administrations have to ensure public transport and private taxis for passengers and airline crew.
  • Trolleys will not be allowed in the arrival or departure sections, except for special cases.

The need of the hour is a tending hand and cost effective kick-start with fiscal support. The Aviation sector has been an area of concern and has been the most affected sector during the global recession of year 2008, or the oil crises periods. The domain is a complex ecosystem, largely technologically driven, and expensive. As the boundaries between countries shrink and the economy of the globe become more universal, the aviation becomes the forefront of modern travel, with millions of passengers moving through the countries. They handle student relocation, medical transshipment, military needs, government travel, business travel, family reunifications and leisure travel. This industry is not only the carrier of passengers, but large amount of cargo from one place to another, to ensure CKD based supply-chain logistic. The fact that the aviation is the fastest and safest form of transport has made the dependency on this sector even more for economic and non-economic activities.  It is a known fact that, in the aviation sector, even prior to the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic, leading to Lockdown; the day-to-day operations  was otherwise expensive, especially  due to the added cost of security enhancement and also the adoption of new technologies.

If airlines are to remain profitable, as also to come out of the crises that it is in today, they have to figure out how to balance these costs without gouging their customer base with massively increased ticket prices. Costs have to be cut in a way that still facilitates the smooth and safe operation of the airport. Below are a few ways this can be done, the majority being IT enabling and use of IT/ICT for management of operations at airports:

  • Airport services aggregation service– Different airlines hire or employ different set of staff for similar kind of duties at the airport. Like in the case of airline reservation aggregation services (like Makemytrip, Ibibo, Google, Easemytrip, etc…), the airlines need to think of aggregated services by skilled manpower at each location and commonly utilised with optimality at the different duties at the airport. Presently, the services at the airport are handled by similar skilled manpower, but hired by different airlines, thus leading to non-optimisation and waste of manpower when the skill is being utilised for a smaller window of exposure.
  • WiFi Enabled Workplace– The complete Airport premises and its allied areas should ride on a WiFi communication backbone and should do away with Internet or World Wide Web communication. The exclusive WiFi should be owned and operated by the airport authority and not on ISP services.
  • Reduction of Staff headcount– it is a means to abinito ensure earnings that can then be revoked subsequently.
  • Flight Route Optimisation– this needs micro management. The government need to appoint an agency and ombudsman to resolve the allocation of sectors, the flight route and the aircraft flying cyclic route; to ensure minimum spending and maximum profit for the airlines. AI based and non-manual enterprise IT solution need to be implemented, and purely run and regulated by government agency.
  • Provisions of cargo load to airlines with managed and bias-less profit sharing among airlines. Here again a neutral and non-corrupt system need to be marshaled by the government. SCM based IT solution run and monitored by government agency.
  • AI based Surface Area Management IT System– Implementation of a surface area management system that includes artificial intelligence. The aim of the project is to improve efficiencies in taxing of aircraft, gate allocation and turnaround activities. The solution should provide full visibility over turnaround activities as well as improving safety for airside operations. It should have a 24/7 automatic monitoring and reporting capability which will help the airport, airlines, air traffic managers and ground handlers to better understand safety-related issues and thus reduce the number of incidents on airside, and at the same time optimizing resources on the tarmac.
  • Advanced Computer Systems– Advanced computer systems can also be used to integrate passenger records, sales records, trip itineraries and other necessary data. This puts the proper information all at a worker’s fingertips in seconds, with little input from the customer, streamlining the process.
  • Contact less IT enabled Initiatives– more is to be done to make journeys safer and trustworthy for passengers. IT enabled contactless ventures can also help in reducing time at airports as also reduction of staff otherwise hired by airlines for these tasks.

The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are continuously evolving. The Airlines industry has been actively involved in its resumption and is optimistic on a capacity increase from the present stunted start by end June 2020. The IT innovations can not only help in bringing back the industry to its past glory but can also assist in the improved and safe travel experience. The healing balm is now in place and so is the increased in the user base. The government has also taken initiatives to ensure all the very best in the aviation sector. The government has also advised vulnerable people such as very elderly, pregnant women or passengers with health issues to avoid air travel. This is the time to peovide the essential cooperation to the industry both from the passengers and the IT/Cyber Security professionals.

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