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New report advises airport design changes to help sector recovery

Departing from COVID-19 – A flight path to recovery and reform of the aviation sector

Aurecon's white paper models the eventual reopening of Australian airports that have been designed to keep passengers and staff safe through and after COVID-19.

21 July 2020 – A new report from international engineering, design and advisory company Aurecon has modelled how airport design could change, based on the 70-100 different areas1 of the passenger journey that will potentially be adjusted or introduced in response to COVID-19.

The 'Departing from COVID-19: flight path to recovery and reform of the aviation sector' report provides industry insights and recommendations on smart design and adaptive planning to help airports plan for the return of international travel by restoring consumer confidence.

Since airline travel dramatically reduced overnight following border closures in March 2020, international routes from Australia are not expected to fully reopen for a number of months.

Aurecon Aviation Industry Leader, Australia and New Zealand Brett Reiss said that airports should be taking action now to plan the significant changes that will need to be undertaken including changes to the physical layout of the airport and aircraft, reordering traffic flow to account for increased security and screening procedures, capacity calculations, contactless operations and baggage handling processes.

“Currently airports have adopted similar guidelines to supermarkets and pharmacies with floor stickers to encourage social distancing and free hand sanitiser but more sophisticated reconfigurations will be required.

“Additional regulations may be imposed on airports to conduct COVID-19 testing and screening. To prepare for this and to restore consumer confidence, airports need to start thinking now about the significant changes that will have to take place for airport entry, passenger flows, permanent floor markings, baggage processing, COVID-19 screening pathways, the use of touchless technology and the additional operational staff that may be required,” Mr Reiss said.

The video below showcases the possible scenarios for airport redesign in response to COVID-19.

The report outlines the following as priority areas for airports’ consideration:

Systems

  • Modifications will be required to physical infrastructure and operating procedures, including the addition of testing stations, installation of routes to segregate passengers and more wayfinding signage in and outside terminal buildings
  • Airports will need a system for reigniting the commercial potential of terminals to benefit retail businesses and passengers
  • To handle increased health screening, airports are recommended to consider more automated check-in areas, installation of contactless procedures, spreading peak demand, increased queuing zones, increased numbers of processing desks, limiting terminal entry to travellers only
  • COVID-19 has accelerated passenger expectations for contactless end-to-end traveller journeys, including check-in, bag drop, security, customs, bathroom facilities and boarding
  • Automating as many passenger processes as possible will be favoured by most airports

Contactless processing

  • COVID-19 has accelerated passenger expectations for contactless end-to-end traveller journeys, including check-in, bag drop, security, customs, bathroom facilities and boarding
  • Automating as many passenger processes as possible will be favoured by most airports

Human behaviour

  • Expected that health approvals will be necessary for passengers to obtain prior to travel, and possibly entrenched through bilateral health agreements between countries
  • Airports and airlines will have to collaborate to convince travellers the risk of infection on a flight is low thanks to improved cleaning efforts, sophisticated cabin ventilation systems and adequate screening before and after boarding

Aurecon Aviation Capability Leader Erik Kriel said that many airports already have the space and assets available to set up the physical infrastructure to conduct passenger health and administrative checks as well as practice social distancing.

“Considerations will still need to be taken from a design perspective to develop a layout that protects passengers, adequately provides health checks yet doesn’t make airports seem like a clinical hospital to passengers,” Mr Kriel said.

“Given the industry predictions that it will be a slow, gradual build up in demand for international travel, we believe many airports could plan the reorganisation of their spaces and assets to transition through the recovery period without needing to significantly expand their building space.

“Aviation has been challenged by turbulent conditions many times before. With the sector’s exceptional capacity to recover and adapt, learning from the COVID-19 crisis will help prepare for future global disruptions and help aviation emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient,” Mr Kriel said.

The ‘Departing from COVID-19: flight path to recovery and reform of the aviation sector’ report is presented in the Australian context yet insights are applicable to international airports in any country.

Explore the full report


[1] Based on numbers provided in SimpliFlying, 2020. Welcome to the Age of Sanitised Travel, accessed July 2020

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