Covid-19’s unexpected and dramatic results have had a significant impact on the aviation sector. Many issues must be answered and new solutions devised to deal with the new scenario and reduce the health and economic repercussions. This is especially true of the operating processes and procedures.
The rapid drop in flight demand results in declining revenues and necessitates airport management to implement appropriate operating ideas while reducing expenses in the short term. Measures vary from adaptive staff deployment and process redesign to varied usage of airport infrastructure and result in considerable departures from typical operations. Furthermore, it is critical to protect the health of passengers and crew and prepare for the upcoming gradual rise in flight operations. Social distancing, staff protection measures, and different processes significantly influence passenger flow, system capacity, transfer times, and trip duration.
Hardships faced during the Covid crisis
The coronavirus pandemic has provided everyone in the airport industry with a fantastic opportunity to put their crisis management skills to the test. As a result, COVID-19 grounded aviation for an extended period, in a method never before witnessed. Rapid closure of international borders, grounding of both international and domestic flights, and employee illness waves—all of this resulted in a variety of operational scenarios, ranging from extremely tense operations to airport nighttime closures and back to tense summertime operations in the domestic sector.
Rather than waiting for things to settle, the airport industry must take measures right away. The aviation sector continued to operate for different emergencies, such as cargo delivery of medical equipment and vaccinations and passenger transportation to homelands when they lost jobs overseas.
Staffing dilemma and its effective solution
For perhaps the first time in history, the airport industry had to cope with unexpected events within flight schedules and workforce availability at the same time. Following the fast grounding of all foreign flights and the cessation of nearly all domestic flights within a short amount of time, over-staffing turned to under-staffing when COVID-19 went into full effect, and staff illness lists followed flight grounding.
The officials at Pulkovo Airport saw this catastrophe as a challenge and devised a few successful ways to solve it.
- Tests for employees were taken weekly to ensure the percentage of workforce availability for each week.
- Ground handling devised a three-day operational plan to prepare the needed labour force since 20% of shift employees were absent because of illness within one to two days.
- Created a formula based on the information gained from the phase mentioned above implementation to determine the needed workforce level on duty to cover accurate operational daily plans.
To avoid the spread of COVID-19, we had to minimize interaction between shifts. At the same time, we had to shuffle workers between shifts to fill the gaps left by COVID-19 sick absences.
Limited facilities and its management
Following the dilemma with employees, governments imposed restrictions on social distancing, temperature checks, personal protective equipment (PPE) demands, and COVID-19 test inspections. Initially, this resulted in some unpleasant experiences for passengers throughout their flight journey, and also, it prolonged the standard processing and aircraft turnaround time.
The airport authorities raised counter allotment and opened counters as early as workable for a flight. Some repatriation planes started six hours ahead to comply with all governmental authorities’ obligations. Questions about facility limitations, such as bus allocation under social distancing regulations, extra passenger inspections by the crew, passenger and crew PPE becoming Foreign Object Debris (FOD) on the apron, rang out loudly, particularly for remote stand boarding operations and low-cost carrier handling. Implementing contactless boarding was the first step in staff acceptance of our digitization plan on seamless passenger travel through the terminal and the accompanying adoption of all existing handling operations.
The flexibility of technology, the need of the hour
Flexible technology also eased the process of ‘mothballing,’ or shutting down terminals favoring concentrating activities in another location to maximize resource utilization. Passenger servicing facilities are un-tethered from traditional connectivity networks, requiring just Wi-Fi, 4G/5G connectivity can be transported fast and easily, with agent desks swappable with portable check-in stations. During the COVID-19 epidemic, airports with contemporary, adaptable technologies were advantageously positioned.
The airport industry may be able to generate additional income sources by concentrating on convenience. For individuals who want to spend less time at the airport, it is possible to offer a home check-in and bag-pickup service. In addition, airports that have implemented a new flexible technological architecture will be well-positioned to implement bio-metrics to enable touch-less transit. Scans of a traveller’s biometric token will replace the traditional airport touch points, such as their face or iris, thanks to cloud computing. This may be accomplished quickly and easily without the requirement for substantial new hardware installation. It can also use the cell phones of passengers to enable off-airport registration of bio-metric identifiers.
Airport experience Post-Covid
Airports must comprehend how the crisis will influence passenger expectations and satisfaction in the future. This information will be critical, especially when the airport enters a recovery phase, to tailor the experience to the demands of prospective new passengers. Global web traffic has been rising, and digital-led activities will continue to increase in popularity beyond the epidemic. As a result, airports must speed up digitization at all touch points along with the customer experience.
Making the customer aware of the effort required to provide intangible services such as cleaning and sanitation is a problem for customer experience execution. With an unseen danger like the COVID-19, airports will need to discover proof to show passengers the enormous efforts made in this area to reassure them, reduce their level of worry, and make them comfortable flying again.
The judgement on adaptability during Covid
In conjunction, a complicated scenario, such as the unexpected effects of Covid-19, must be planned, regulated, and managed: changing demand and modified rules and processes in virtually all sections of the system must be executed while meeting high economic efficiency criteria. The challenge for airport industry management is planning and arranging a seamless recovery of operations while limiting the dangers of disruptive operations and making rapid choices while ensuring continual adaptation. Furthermore, airports will require more than ever the participation of employees and stakeholders to recover from the infection.
The unexpected effects of Covid-19 and the impact of weather on aviation have posed an unprecedented challenge to our business. However, like with any obstacles, overcoming them takes adaptability, inventiveness, and resilience. The most recent technologies will play an essential part in assisting airports in restoring customer confidence and will form the next normal of travel in the future.