Flight Plan

Grounded by a virus, aviation gets back its wings thanks to technology

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on June 23, 2020

Safety@tech Social distancing is through automation at airports   -  Nikolai Sermiagin

Tech has helped Indian aviation leapfrog to ticketless travel

For years, those connected with the aviation sector have been talking about technology revolutionising the way we fly but most of us have taken it for granted.

Not any more. The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated forcefully to fliers how technology is helping them fly again.

So all-encompassing has technology’s role become in flying that it covers virtually every aspect of flying. A web check-in and printing out boarding cards and baggage tags before you leave for the airport are as common — and as accepted — as booking a ticket was earlier.

Addressing a webinar, Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, SpiceJet, says the airline is going in for 100 per cent e-check. “It is working so well that more than 99 per cent of the check-ins are happening electronically. Now even the baggage tag is done electronically through mobile phones,” he says.

Willy Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo, adds that the airline is achieving over 90 per cent web check-ins and has introduced printing of boarding tags at homes and offices. “This allows us to provide no-touch check-in where the connection between humans is minimal,” he points out.

Others like Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, President and Chief Operating Officer, Indigo, are looking at the positives of using technology in post-Covid flying. “Every crisis also has benefits. We could achieve something from the new SOPs, which will include savings for us. We have actually gone to ticketless travel. We jumped one or two steps ahead in the development of how we deal with passengers at airports. This is a big achievement for all of us that makes our whole system more efficient, going forward.”

The days of getting boarding cards stamped manually too are over as airports like the one in Delhi are using technology for this.

Not so cool but safe

Pointing out that different airports are using different technologies, Videh Kumar Jaipuriar, Chief Executive Officer, Delhi Airport, maintains that the basic idea is to ensure that there is minimal contact between humans even as the bags are sanitised and the fliers’ temperature is checked.

At Delhi Airport, all bags go through a UV tunnel as a new safety measure.

Those flying from Delhi may also have noticed that the airport is not as cool as it was earlier but perhaps what they do not know is that this is because the air is being changed every 10 minutes. “We have six rotations in an hour. Obviously, the temperature inside the terminal might not be as comfortable as you had it in the past. But this is much safer because when the air comes inside the terminal it goes through air handling units fitted with UV lights, so it gets disinfected and goes through a HEPA filter to make sure it is as safe as is possible inside a public building,” Jaipuriar explains.

Besides, the airport has mapped passengers’ complete journeys and taken various measures to ensure social distancing using technology.

“This technology gives an indication as to which part of the airport is more congested, where it presses an alarm button. Our people can go to that area and make sure social distancing norms are maintained,” the Delhi Airport CEO says. Delhi Airport is also using UV technology and IOT devices in various places like the prayer and smoking rooms. The airport is now looking at using this in the washrooms as well so that, in case there are a certain number of people inside, it gives a warning. According to Jaipuriar, this is the route that most airports in the country are taking.

In another significant boost to technology, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has allowed e-learning for all airlines.

Online learning

Explaining why this is a game changer, Captain Ashim Mittra, Senior Vice-President, Flight Operations, IndiGo, asks why should we need to get a pilot all the way from, say, Chennai to Delhi because our training centre is here?

“With so much advancement in technology we must have something like e-learning. IndiGo had got part approval for doing e-learning last year and during the lockdown the regulator approved e-learning for all operators,” he says. Besides everything else, e-learning has been a big help in keeping pilots updated on their skills during the two-month lockdown and can be used even after the lockdown has ended.

Published on June 23, 2020

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