Technology take off helps combat impact of pandemic for airline industry

A leading airline is pioneering high-tech solutions to ensure passengers stay safe and healthy.

Emirates has tapped on its partnership with the UAE’s Aviation X-lab innovation incubator programme to pilot robot cleaning trials.

These are currently in use at its signature lounges at Dubai airport. The robots use special technology to eliminate most viruses and, according to a spokesman for the airline, “ensure a healthier environment.”

The spokesman said, “All our bio-safety protocols are continually reviewed and updated in line with the latest medical guidance.”

Some of the efforts the airline has made to respond to the ongoing health pandemic were outlined at a press conference in Brussels by Emirates Belux country manager, Jean-Pierre Martin.

In addition to being one of the first airlines to roll-out PPEs (personal protection equipment) for its frontline employees back in February 2020, when COVID-19 vaccines became available, the company has also implemented a campaign to encourage employees to protect themselves and others.

This has resulted in over 95% of all employees being fully vaccinated.

The airline has also been a forerunner in adopting digital verification solutions for travel, from adopting the IATA Travel Pass to partnering with the UAE health authorities to enable seamless digital checks for COVID-19 travel documentation.

These projects deliver multiple benefits from better customer experiences to the reduced use of paper, and improved efficiency and reliability in travel document checks.

Emirates was one of the first airlines to sign up for IATA’s Travel Pass in April and currently offers this convenience to customers fly between Dubai and 10 cities, with plans to expand the service across its network as IATA continues to expand and secure service providers in more markets. By October, the airline would have extended the implementation of IATA Travel Pass for customers at all of its destinations.

The spokesman added, “Throughout the past year, Emirates has worked closely with the authorities and its aviation partners to ensure the health and safety all travellers and employees at the airport, even as health protocols continually evolved across the world.”

“Even before the World Health Organisation officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic,we had already implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols at all our customer touchpoints at the airport and onboard. At the airport, we have installed protective shields at all check-in counters and implemented physical distancing in all areas.”

He said that teams on the ground collect and verify the latest entry requirements for each destination. The company’s COVID-19 info hub is also updated at least once daily, adding, “this has become one of the top authoritative sources of information for travellers.”

The company is also utilising technology in other areas.

In 2019, the company began testing and implementing biometric technology at various customer journey touchpoints at the airport. In the past year, the airline fast-tracked its biometric technology roll-out and today, it has over 30 biometric cameras in active operation at its Dubai airport hub, including at check-in counters, at the entrances of its First and Business Class lounges, and select boarding gates.

Since implementation, over 58,000 customers have used this convenient, contactless and secure verification option to access its lounge, and more than 380,000 customers have used biometric gates to board their flight.

Its new self-service check-in and bag drop kiosks have seen increasing usage since its introduction in September 2020. In July and August alone, over 568,000 customers used this service which enabled them to skip queuing at the counter.

The company has also introduced new technology to make it easier for customers to report delayed or damaged bags.

Over the summer travel months of July and August,the airline handled nearly 1.2 million customers at its hub, compared to 402,000 customers during the same period in 2020, highlighting the safe and smooth resumption of international travel to and through Dubai. In fact, in 2020, it was the largest international airline carrying over 15.8 million passengers, according to IATA’s latest World Air Transport Statistics 2021.

Since Dubai re-opened to international visitors, Emirates has gradually restored its network and flight schedules from just a handful of cities in July 2020 to over 120 destinations today, with more flights to be layered onto over 20 Emirates routes by October.

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