Space to reimagine passenger journeys: challenges and opportunities in the post-covid-19 world

With up to 95% of passenger airline business suspended and major impacts on every other part of the transport and hospitality sectors, the effects of covid-19 are undoubtedly severe. Yet, as the process of recovery begins, this is perhaps the time for operators to take a fundamental look at their business.

Before the pandemic, aside from pressures of day-to-day operations, many transport organizations were concerned with how to expand their capacity within tight constraints, and how to improve the experience of customers. Now, the major challenges in transport and hospitality are around how to reopen transport networks safely, meet new regulations and ensure the confidence of customers and staff.

In this context, the ability to leverage data and connected technologies to work smarter is more vital than ever. Smarter working and thinking starts with pinpointing the objectives, thinking holistically, and mapping a customer’s journey door to door.

Reassurance door to door

Clearly, covid-19 has changed the way people think about being in public spaces and it’s important to provide guidance and reassurance. For a traveler, it doesn’t matter which different organizations (rail companies, airlines, hotels, car hire companies, baggage-handlers, and so on) are involved; they just need relevant context-based information at every step of their journey.

So instead of customers having to interact with different travel organizations, transport and hospitality operators can join up and share data to create mobility-as-a-service solutions. Then customers can use just one app to buy all their tickets, across whatever mode of transport they need, and get all the information they need about safety regulations, hygiene measures, where to buy extra face masks and so on at each stage of their route, making their journey easier and safer.

Intelligent video as part of the mix

On arrival at a public space or travel hub, in many countries, it’s now obligatory to check the people’s temperature. Yet conducting individual checks can create bottlenecks; instead, advanced thermal cameras can accurately scan around 30 people at a time and combine this visual data with machine learning to give operators and health authorities valuable video intelligence (with data anonymized to meet data privacy regulations), for example on the use of face masks. This technology is already being trialed in the Paris metro system to check whether passengers are wearing face masks for statistical purposes.

Similarly, video intelligence solutions automate the process of checking the distances between people standing in queues. Yet this functionality can be of limited value when it comes to families and there might be questions about the extent to which operators want to rely on surveillance. To address the issue, we advise airports to focus on prevention of physical queues where keeping the required distance would be challenging; for instance, by placing travelers in a virtual socially distanced line that can be viewed on a smart phone while, say, having lunch or a coffee.

Thinking holistically

While historically, companies’ operational

We advise airports to focus on prevention of physical queues where keeping the required distance would be challenging; for instance, by placing travelers in a virtual socially distanced line that can be viewed on a smart phone while, say, having lunch or a coffee.

and commercial arms have been kept separate, using digital platforms and data, it makes sense to think laterally and combine both sides into one experience, with tickets, information, offers and advice all in one app. So if, for instance, a traveler receives a voucher for a free coffee when they arrive at a travel hub, they can be nudged to wait more safely than standing in a queue.

Capacity to innovate

And we can go further to address operational challenges with smarter, more holistic thinking for safer travel. Baggage, for example is still a hot topic: it’s labor-intensive for staff and it can be inconvenient for customers who have to carry heavy bags. Instead, bags could be picked up from home, or hotel, or from a drop-off point in a city and taken safely as cargo to the destination, as we’re seeing happening now in Europe. It releases the pressure on operational functions at the airport or station while preventing queues building up, and it’s safe and easier for customers and staff.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this time is that it’s a chance to try new things because stations, terminals and venues are not full. Where previously finding the capacity amidst a flow of, say 100 thousand customers every day, to conduct a pilot with the security waiting lines at a busy airport would have been hugely difficult, now there’s the physical space – and the headspace – to try new solutions and approaches.

A smarter sustainable future

One of the most important drivers remains sustainability. Given the immediate need, we are working with our customers to provide smart bathroom solutions with sensors to ensure just-in-time refills of hand sanitizer to ensure that hygiene can be enforced. Longer-term, this is about smarter connected buildings that are more efficient, provide a better experience and are more environmentally sustainable. We are also seeing airports using this period to focus on maintenance and replacing assets with smarter and more energy-friendly equipment.

While transport and hospitality companies are doing a great job of restarting the sector, the pandemic has changed the world forever and, in the coming years, we will undoubtedly see less mobility. Managing this crisis is an enormous challenge: yet it’s also a major opportunity to accelerate changes that needed to happen, to do things smarter for the safe and sustainable future of travel.


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About Annemarie van Vembde
Global Head of Consulting Retail, Transport and Logistics
Annemarie van Vembde is the Global Head of Consulting for Retail, Transport and Logistics. Her goal is to understand business challenges and from there, leverage the Atos knowledge and technology to add value to clients and truly become the trusted partner for their digital journey. She has a strong background in Transportation, having worked for Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and gained comprehensive consulting skills when working for Capital Markets Company.

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