Airport crowd

Artificial Intelligence to reduce the stress of the holiday rush at airports

From the mad dash for parking at the airport to the long lines at security checkpoints to navigating long crowded airport concourses air travel is not for the faint of heart. 

More than 2.7 million passengers fly every day and airports are likely to see up to a 25% increase in passenger volume from late November through early January. This means that stress levels are turned up for both airport staff and travelers during the holiday season.

Some airports are taking steps to help manage stressful holiday travel. Tulsa International Airport recently launched a therapy dog program, dubbed the “Welcome Waggin.” Over 30 dogs rotate through the airport’s terminals and concourses with the mission of interacting with travelers to help ease travel tension and improve the overall airport experience. Other airports have put similar programs in place— Denver’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad or “CATS” is made up of over 100 dogs, one cat of more than 40 different breeds that greet passengers in blue plaid “Pet Me” vests.

Pittsburgh International Airport and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport are amongst the first airports that are relying on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce the stress of the holiday rush. Developed by Zensors, a Carnegie Mellon University startup, airports can provide travelers with real-time wait estimates at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints to give passengers an idea of how much time they can expect to wait in the security queue. Passengers can access security wait times on airport websites before they leave home and allowing them to manage their time and diffuse “will I miss my flight” worries.

“We know that the airport security screening process is very stressful for passengers and a significant operational challenge for airports and air carriers,” said Anuraag Jain, founder of Zensors. “By using Artificial Intelligence to provide real-time data, airports can improve the passenger experience and optimize operations. Having enough time for a beer or coffee once airside is a huge relief for weary holiday passengers.” Jain added: “AI is rapidly penetrating airports to support a more efficient and seamless journey. Not limited to reporting wait times, AI will power a more personalized travel experience to each customer from the curb to the gate.”

“Airports are considering AI for a wide variety of use cases and applications”, said Barbara Zylinski, President of SecureInsights, LLC, a Washington DC-based consultancy that supports the introduction of emerging technology to airports and transportation. “Highly sophisticated AI capabilities like Zensors’ can be very easily and quickly deployed to address both airside and landside challenges. Leveraging existing airport infrastructure, like cameras, Zensors is able to collect, process and deliver actionable information to improve airport operations, from managing congestion at passenger drop-off and pick up to providing highly accurate and real-time aircraft movements data airside.”

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