2020 was an incredibly tough year for air travel and 2021 brings even more uncertainty. Red zone restrictions, contactless travel, vaccine passports and the unknown speed of the recovery for leisure and business passenger volume are just some of the challenges that must be faced.

To ride out the turbulence and be ready to handle the bounce back, technology can play a key role in helping air travel enterprises to:

  • Streamline operations, increase efficiency and reduce costs
  • Support safe contactless transit through airports
  • Build in greater flexibility and resilience to react to change and future-proof operations

Technology solutions without disruption

The appetite for disruptive, expensive overhauls of existing systems and technologies supporting passenger processing isn’t high. Mobile computer vision is one affordable, easy-to-implement solution that can help tackle pressing concerns today.

Scandit’s computer vision software empowers mobile applications with barcode scanning, text recognition and ID scanning capabilities. These can be deployed to passengers via customer mobile apps or to airline or airport employees using apps on smart devices to complete various tasks and workflows.

In this guide, we’ll explore examples of how computer vision-enabled mobile apps help:

  • Add flexibility & reduce costs from fixed and dedicated hardware
  • Safe, fast passenger processing with automation at check-in and more
  • Boost operational efficiency and enable contactless boarding

1. Meet new priorities with existing technology

With worldwide traffic down more than 50% in 2020 due to the pandemic, revenues took a major hit. Airline’s IT investment plans were quickly put on hold or refocused.

The new agenda is focused on prioritizing technology that helps reduce costs and increase efficiency in airport operations, while ensuring safer, contactless and automated processes – notably around passenger check-in and processing.

Airline IT investment priority

One technology that supports these priorities is mobile smartphone apps.

With mobile computer vision technology, airlines and airports can add enterprise-grade barcode, ID scanning and augmented reality capabilities into employee and customer apps, seamlessly integrated with your existing infrastructure.

Remove costs and contact from operations today, while laying the foundations for future innovations when passenger volumes recover.

2. Add flexibility & efficiency at a fraction of the cost

So how does mobile computer vision unlock operational efficiencies and cost savings? You can:

  • Automate passenger flow: Help passengers to contactlessly check-in, drop bags and access lounges with mobile apps – reducing the need for fixed infrastructure
  • Mobilize operations: Empower employees and fast track processes by moving routine tasks onto smart mobile devices, replacing costly dedicated scanning infrastructure.

Offering self-service and automated check-in processes helps eliminate the need to queue, interact with staff or press screens on kiosks (which need constant cleaning) is one way to support touchless travel during the ongoing pandemic.

And by deploying smart devices capable of scanning barcodes and passports into operations, air travel employees can be more mobile and efficient.

No need for fixed or dedicated hardware

scan qr code from other phone

Reduce operational costs by replacing inflexible, expensive technology like fixed podiums, PCs, monitors and single function scanners with more versatile, cost effective smart devices instead.

Giving employees scanning-enabled smart devices allows them to effortlessly switch between different tasks and access real-time information anywhere in the airport with one device.

For example, gate agents no longer need to be confined to the built-in scanner and computer at the gate podium, instead using a smartphone to work with passengers throughout the boarding area to do the check-in and boarding processes while mobile, avoiding the need for queues and crowds. Or you could deploy two Scandit-enabled tablets and a mobile printer to replace a $15,000 gate podium to scan boarding passes, passports and crew badges.

This flexibility helps add agility and adaptability to operations. For example, employees with smart mobile devices can support new processes, such as validating digital or paper vaccine passports, such as the EU Digital Green Certificate, from anywhere in the airport. This can help reduce wait times and or tackle congestion during busy periods.

A software-based smart device scanning solution is typically one-third the TCO (total cost of
ownership) of dedicated scanning hardware. And unlike traditional dedicated scanners, a mobile device is also a communications tool to maintain contact with other staff members – such as the flight crew while scanning passenger documentation.

Scanning performance and ease of integration is key

However, you can’t replace dedicated hardware if the scanning performance is going to regress. And for customer-facing apps, scanning must work on any device a consumer might use.

Scandit’s barcode and ID scanning software offers unrivaled enterprise-grade performance in terms of speed and accuracy, even if scanning is done in bad light, at wide angles or long distance to support social distancing or when scanning through plexiglass shields.

Scandit enables scanning of any barcode from Aztec codes on digital boarding passes to PDF147 on printed ones to Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD) and ePassports with RFID. Plus, it works on over 20,000 models of smart devices, ensuring different devices deployed to staff or even low-cost passenger smartphones are capable of high quality scanning.

It’s simple to add barcode and ID scanning into your existing IT infrastructure, including native and web apps, with or without integration. Check out how:

3. Improve passenger processing with automation

Clearly the passenger flow is a key area of focus. Airlines need to:

  • Add efficiency and speed up journeys through the airport
  • Reduce waiting and congestions for potentially nervous passengers – especially in light of evolving regulations and requirements
  • Automate processes to reduce the need for contact and face-to-face interactions with staff

In the immediate aftermath of COVID, the industry reacted by leveraging existing technology infrastructure to help support contactless processes. However, even using traditional kiosks still brings risks, since they are touched by passengers and need to be disinfected constantly.

Adding barcode and ID scanning capabilities into your passenger app can help in various ways to speed up and streamline journeys:

Enable mobile or web check-in from home

Enable passengers to effortlessly check-in from home by scanning a passport or valid ID with their own smartphone. Not only does this let them avoid queuing for check-in, it also ensures details are accurately captured without any mistakes.

Scandit’s ID scanning can be easily added into any existing native app. It combines barcode scanning, text recognition (OCR) and support for RFID technology, to enable scanning of Machine Readable Zones (MRZ), PDF417 codes, as well as biometric RFID chips.

For occasional travelers who haven’t got or don’t want to download your app, Scandit’s SDK for the Web can seamlessly add scanning capabilities to an existing mobile website. For example, the passenger receives a text on their phone the day of the trip, with a link to a mobile website with all the different steps that they’ll have to do to contactlessly check-in. You can even enable them to print their bag tags at home.

Contactless self-bag check on arrival

After checking in via an app, at arrivals you can create a contactless experience for the passenger with self-service bag check.

Airlines can use the front-facing camera of a stationary tablet with a computer vision-powered app to rapidly scan the boarding pass held up by the passenger (either printed or on their smart device), triggering the luggage labels to be printed on the spot at the kiosk.

This means that airlines enable passengers to be able to check-in, print bag-tags, and drop bags all without touching a screen. It’s a fast and frictionless journey through arrivals.

Lounge access in the airport

Access to airports, gates, lounges is more restricted than before, as airlines seek to control the passenger flow and dwell times in the airport to minimize time and risk.

Automated access to lounges is one preferred direction. By scanning IDs or boarding passes on entry to lounges etc, airports and airlines can make sure only the right passengers can access them, and if needed limit access only in a defined time window to avoid overcrowding. This is important to be able to track passengers progress too and optimize future journeys.

4. Boost operational efficiency and enable contactless boarding

Scan passports instantly with Scandit technology

Empowering passengers with self-service is one thing, but you still need staff at hand to support when needed and certain interactions are unavoidable.

Airlines can also reinforce passenger support by deploying scanning-enabled apps on smart devices that enable employees to help passengers and tackle a host of ground handling tasks, all using a single device.

This can be accessing real-time information on mobile devices to provide assistance at check-in, accessing real-time bag checking information or helping passengers at departure.

Smart device scanning can help in many ways, including:

Mobile, contactless boarding

When it comes to boarding at the gates, keep contact between employees and passengers to a minimum and enforce social distancing. With Scandit-powered smart devices, airline staff can scan paper both boarding passes and Aztec digital codes safely, speedily and simply.

Scan through plexiglass at the boarding gate

Airline staff perform boarding by scanning passenger boarding passes through plexiglass shields in order to avoid contact. With Scandit, the scanning speed and accuracy is unaffected by the plexiglass, even scanning in glare or low light.

Boarding and passenger management at a distance

An agent at the gate can scan a boarding pass at a safe distance of 2m or 6 feet with a Scandit-powered app.

Using smart devices also allows the airline employees to be more mobile, efficiently perform boarding with less staff and without asking passengers to assemble.

Flexible technology to help you adapt

Similarly, staff can do other tasks like changing seats or handling upgrades all from a distance with the same device.

It’s also useful if there is a last minute gate change or when new processes such as scanning vaccine passports are required, helping airlines and staff respond with speed and flexibility. And ultimately, helping passengers to have a safe, smooth experience.

Customer Story – Alaska Airlines upgrades and modernizes boarding with mobile ID scanning

Working with Scandit, air travel firm Alaska Airlines now has 5,000 check-in and gate agents using mobile devices to scan passports and boarding passes, helping to get flyers quickly and painlessly from the departure concourse to their seat on the aircraft.

Customer service agents use mobile apps on iPad Mini tablets, powered by Scandit, to quickly scan a variety of passenger and crew documentation as part of performing critical processes, including flight check-in, passport and boarding pass verification.

“Enabling our agents to be mobile, frees them from being tied to hardware and allows us to reimagine the boarding experience without the usual podiums. If we need to change gates, we can just walk over with our iPads. If there is a guest that needs special assistance before boarding, we can provide customer service beside them instead of having them come to the podium.” Francis Brown, Product Manager, Alaska Airlines

Saving costs and peace of mind with contactless travel

Passengers already use mobiles to check flight information and for digital boarding passes. Now scanning-enabled smartphones in the hands of customers and employees can play an even bigger role, without substantial investment or disruption for operators.

The contactless experience is essential for reassuring travellers today. With Scandit, fast accurate scanning is accessible on almost any smart device.

And when passenger volumes rebound, scanning-enabled mobile or web apps on smartphones provide a future-proof solution for further automating and streamlining airport journeys by using augmented reality overlays to show real-time information, such as passenger flight details:

Talk to us about how smartphone scanning can help you cut costs, drive operational efficiency and keep passengers safe.

Find Out How We Can Help

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Alaska Airlines - Case Study

Alaska Airlines has integrated Scandit barcode scanning and text recognition (OCR) into iPad Mini used by gate agents, so they can scan passengers’ boarding passes and passports away from the boarding gate to facilitate efficient flight boarding.

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