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From security checks to boarding planes, airport industry accelerates innovations to improve travel experience

Posted at 11:28 AM, Sep 04, 2020

Security lines and close human interaction at airports could one day be a thing of the past.

With the travel industry determined to get people flying again, experts say the motivation to innovate is in overdrive.

Airports have a way of fueling anxiety; one misstep can send even the most seasoned travelers into new heights of annoyance.

So, could it ever be an experience we actually look forward to? The airport industry certainly hopes so.

Justin Erbaci, the CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, says the innovations that land in your airport are usually tested at LAX first.

“We’re using this as a platform to push forward a lot of things we wanted to push through, but there wasn’t the interest or the buy-in from government agencies or the industry, or the willingness to invest in these types of solutions,” Erbaci explained.

Now, the industry is hearing customer complaints loud and clear, looking to revolutionize the airport experience.

“That’s the goal for us, is to allow people to come through the airport and not have to see anyone and be able to serve themselves throughout the whole process,” he said.

The first leg of your next airport experience could include the following:

  • A touchless kiosk you can operate with your smartphone to check-in to your flight
  • Checking luggage? This self-service system takes your bags without the need for an agent

“A lot of things that are standard today seemed crazy when we first heard about them,” Erbaci said.

As far as security goes, long lines leading to a TSA agent could also go away. Instead, passengers could be screened with biometric facial recognition technology.

It’s already a reality at Dubai International’s smart tunnel, which the government says gets travelers through passport control in 15 seconds.

LAX has tested this technology with passengers boarding flights, so they don't have to pull out their boarding pass.

"Through surveys, we’ve done over the years…seen people are willing to consent to give up identity aspects to get through the process faster,” Erbaci said.

And carry-on bags could be screened using remotely-operated X-ray machines.

While a completely self-service experience is likely several years away, changes are being implemented now to improve TSA screenings.

“We have new technology that has been rolled out at dozens of airports across the country that allows the traveler to insert their ID or scan their own passport,” said TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers.

Dankers says the agency is looking at innovations being used around the world.

“They test to make sure they don’t compromise security in the airport environment,” she explained. “We look to those cutting-edge technologies to make sure we are on the forefront of that.

“We can’t think we’re going to be able to recover from an unprecedented situation by using old methods and means. We have to change.”