LONDON: Abu Dhabi International Airport is trialing the use of artificial intelligence to shorten queues and support social distancing.
The “Smart Travel” system, developed in partnership with ConvergentAI, aims to optimize passenger traffic through the airport from check-in and immigration through to boarding.
It comes as airports and airlines worldwide try to restore passenger confidence in air travel, which has been severely damaged by a pandemic that has already claimed close to 1.4 million lives worldwide.
As a part of the trial, select passengers traveling with Etihad Airways will be informed of the optimal time for them to arrive at Abu Dhabi International Airport. By staggering passenger arrivals, the new system aims to reduce crowding, facilitate social distancing and shorten queues.
“Minimizing queuing at airports is key to safeguarding passenger health and wellbeing and streamlining operations,” said Abu Dhabi Airports Chief Information Officer John Barton.
Airports were already increasingly deploying new technology from biometrics to body scanners to help speed passengers through airports. Now such tech is increasingly being re-purposed to minimize the risk of infection.
“The pandemic has hastened trends of change that were already in motion before the pandemic,” Antoinette Nassopoulos Erickson, a senior partner at Foster and Partners, told the CAPA Live virtual aviation gathering last week.
“Technology will be essential not just for health and safety but for a smoother passenger experience.”
Abu Dhabi International Airport is also looking at integrating AI into its safety and security systems.
“AI equipped systems can be taught to detect irregular activity or objects and notify the relevant teams to address potential issues swiftly and efficiently,” the airport said in a statement.
The Middle East aviation sector has been especially hard hit by the pandemic because of the dominance of hub airports, which rely more on international long haul travel than domestic routes.
The latest data from IATA for September 2020 shows that passenger traffic levels are down by more than 88 percent from a year earlier — the weakest of all global regions. Passenger loads were just 36.5 percent, which was also lower than any other region.