COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on businesses. As countries imposed strict restrictions to minimise the impact of the pandemic, companies were forced to adopt several new changes to keep themselves afloat. This includes switching to digital channels to interact with customers and conduct their everyday functions. As a result, the pandemic catalysed digital transformation across several industries.

The aviation sector is no exception to this trend. Terms such as ‘smart airports’ and ‘self-service airports’ are gradually picking up speed in the industry. Rather than a survival strategy, digital transformation has become a requirement that can streamline several processes of airline companies to become more efficient and flexible.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) appears to be a highly potent instrument that can help the aviation sector in this regard. A few airlines have already implemented AI for predictive analysis, pattern recognition and customer feedback analysis. Overall, AI and other digital tools can personalise travel experiences and create an easy and efficient channel through which passengers can interact with the brand.

Here are some of the aspects of travelling that we can see more of in the future with the integration of AI.

Baggage Screening

AI has the potential to simplify baggage screenings at airports. Despite the use of X-ray screening systems to detect prohibited items in carry-on bags, operators would still need to inspect every image on the screen.

Using AI can reduce the number of bags that operators need to look at. Through advanced algorithms, it can increase detection rates and decrease image review time. Consequently, Ai can significantly cut down the cognitive load and fatigue of these operators.

Osaka Airport in Japan is planning to install the Syntech ONE 200, an AI technology that can help screen baggage for multiple passenger lanes. This technology is compatible with the existing X-ray security system and can increase the detection of threats.

Customer Interactions

Airline companies can bring down operational costs by deploying AI to interact with customers. In the next five years, we can expect this upgrade in almost 52% of airports across the world. AI technologies can not only assist customers to resolve their issues quickly but can also personalise travelling experiences for them in several ways.

Air Vistara has invested in the development of an AI robot named ‘RADA’. The idea behind the technology was to create a cost-effective mechanism through which customers may interact with the airline company. RADA can not only greet the passengers while boarding and entertain them but can also scan boarding passes and provide real-time status of flights if requested.

This innovative technology can improve customer experience and on-ground service.

Passenger Identification

Check-in before boarding is a time-consuming process. In recent times, the restrictions due to COVID-19 has further complicated the check-in process. Airlines have already started investing in AI technology to help speed up check-ins.

With facial-recognition features and fever detectors, AI Thermal cameras can help detect passengers with fever. American airline company Delta Airlines utilises this facial recognition technology at the boarding gates of airports. They have also facilitated online check-ins using their mobile app and enabled ticketing kiosks to enhance customer experience.

AI can hasten and ease the check-in process and can further assist in gathering vital information such as customer behaviour and general heat mapping.

Maintenance Prediction

Several leading airline companies have also invested in AI to predict maintenance issues with their aircraft. This predictive maintenance analysis will be key to ensuring the safety of crew and passengers and can also save companies from unnecessary expenses spent on sudden lapses with the aircraft.

Aircraft manufacturing company Airbus utilises its open data platform called Skybus to improve the reliability of their services. The company utilises this platform to share live supply chain data with its suppliers. This helps them improve the visibility between the suppliers and the company.

Avion Express and SmartLynx also utilise Skybus to detect cabin defects. Information about recurring issues is then recorded and shared with the engineering and other ground teams.

According to statistics released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), we can expect 7.2 billion airline passengers by 2035. This is a drastic increase from 4.2 billion passengers in 2019. A mere expansion of physical infrastructure to accommodate the massive number of passengers cannot become a satisfactory solution. Airline companies will need to innovate new ways to keep the travel experience pleasant and quick to stay ahead of the competition in the market. Hence, we can expect large scale adoption of AI technologies in airports soon.

However, the expense of integrating AI can be a drawback for several companies. They need to ensure that the latest technology works in tandem with their existing mechanisms. This could, in the long run, create a barrier for small airline companies. Nevertheless, AI will undoubtedly dictate the future of the aviation industry.