Airports go 'hands off' to quell fears

Airports go 'hands off' to quell fears

Suvarnabhumi tries self-service tech

The Airports of Thailand (AoT) is introducing self-check in and luggage-loading services at Suvarnabhumi airport to reduce contact between passengers and staff to help mitigate against the risk of Covid-19 infections.

AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said on Saturday 180 machines will be installed at the country's main gateway airport to make check-in and other activities self-service.

The machines will be trialled this month before being integrated in July.

Mr Nitinai said a new AoT Airports App has also been developed in conjunction with the services which will be progressively rolled to other airports under the AoT's supervision nationwide as part of its virus containment strategy.

He said the machines are linked to a database which includes flight information from other airlines as well as the Immigration Bureau, the Interior Ministry and various security agencies.

The system will speed up pre-flight procedures and build travellers' confidence in the AoT's public health security ahead of the resumption of normal commercial flight operations, according to Mr Nitinai.

The AoT president said the system will be made available to travellers with no luggage who will be able to use self-check-in kiosks at the airport.

Alternatively, they can download the AoT App and use it to check in for their flights before getting to the airport.

Travellers with luggage can also use the check-in kiosks as new self-service luggage loaders are being installed as part of the initiative. Charges for exceeding weight allowances can also be paid on the spot via the interface.

After that, travellers will have their boarding passes checked at unmanned biometric security stations.

In the future, the AoT is also looking to replace officials with the biometric system to check boarding passes while people wait to board their flights, Mr Nitinai said.

In the meantime, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) has urged governments to make data-driven decisions as they mull reopening their borders to international travel.

Well-implemented, but quarantine free, strategies can enable international travel to restart while minimising the risk of spreading Covid-19 to the travel destination, according to Willie Walsh, Iata's director-general.

"Data should drive policies on restarting global travel that manage Covid-19 risks to protect populations, revive livelihoods and boost economies," he said.

He said there is no one-size-fits-all solution to handling the various levels of risk, but pointed towards the need to justify the economic and social cost of blanket measures taken by most governments which have been unnecessarily high.

"Everybody can respect a data-driven decision. That is the way back to normality," said Mr Walsh.

Yesterday, the Phuket provincial governor ordered sectors related to the "Phuket Tourism Sandbox" programme, touted as a model for the reopening of the kingdom's tourism industry as a whole on July 1, to ensure they are ready.

Narong Wunsiew said border security and visitor tracking systems must be enhanced.

Details of the measures will be discussed in a week to ensure that a clear and unified implementation plan is ready ahead of time.

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