Flying to new places is fun, yet the journey there can be anything but. Between long wait-times to check bags and snaking security lines, passengers are put through the wringer before they even step onto their flight. Now, with stricter safety measures in place for post-COVID flying, lines are even worse, with some travelers who were returning from Europe before lockdown reporting seven-hour wait times at O’Hare International Airport. Thankfully, with the help of interactive kiosk manufacturers, airports are gradually becoming able to combat many of these issues.

Bigger does not always mean better

Airlines are eager to welcome back customers after a financially devastating quarter during quarantine, but flying will look far different post-COVID with things like contactless service and temperature screening. However, the post-COVID challenge presents an opportunity for airports to revamp their service technologies and streamline the traveler experience.

Change may be exactly what airports need.

Airports are notoriously inefficient. Architect Radu Gidei owes this inefficiency to the “monolithic” model of most U.S airports, or where check-in, baggage drops and security checks are spatially concentrated. This front-loaded layout can create a bottleneck effect at entry, even if it is only one backed-up station. Not only are delays inconvenient to travelers, but they are also costly to airlines: The per-minute cost of airport delays was estimated to reach $9.1 billion in 2014.

Let people check-in with more automation options

Strategically placed ticket kiosks could speed up the pre-boarding process by creating more channels through which travelers can check-in. While many have seen some type of self-service kiosk at airport check-in stations, airlines are starting to invest in them more in an effort to reduce human-to-human contact for travelers. United has recently announced the addition of 219 new contactless kiosks that can scan paper or mobile tickets and automatically print luggage tags or boarding passes.

Kiosks divert traffic away from representatives at check-in and therefore reduce friction at baggage drop and check-in areas. Experienced or tech-savvy travelers do not have to wait in line for an employee who’s helping a customer change flights or make last minute reservations. Instead, they can quickly check any bags (without touching shared surfaces) and move on to the next challenge: security.

Airport security is doing too much at once

Airport security is the bane of many travelers’ existence. With wildly long lines, confusing signage and ever-changing rules, even seasoned travelers dread the drawn-out process. TSA officers are responsible for checking IDs and boarding passes, reminding people of what to remove from luggage, patting down or randomly searching bags, analyzing metal detector and X-ray displays and more.

Airport kiosks can alleviate these employees of certain tasks – such as ID authentication – and also space out the security process over a larger area. As travelers move between check-in to security, people could stop at another station on the way where kiosks verify cards or passports for ID, or even use biometric authentication. Likewise, large digital displays can clearly show what travelers can and cannot have in their carry-on bags. Security lines would shrink as automation technologies can alleviate pressure on security officers and space out the security process.

Plus, in response to the demand for more temperature screening, kiosks like Pyramid’s Janus – a temperature self-check kiosk – can be integrated wherever regular kiosks might be used. The temperature kiosks could double as self-service kiosks at the pre-security baggage counters or integrate into existing security technology, allowing customers to pass only once they have confirmed a safe temperature. Temperature kiosks can also protect the health and safety of airport employees with facial recognition capabilities and biometric authentication.

Check-in and security shouldn’t be half the battle

Airports are massive, complex and inefficient environments. Self-service kiosks, however, can help reduce friction at certain pressure points in the check-in process so that travelers can focus less on the pre-travel anxiety and more on their flight and destination. Some experiences are about the journey, but air travel shouldn’t be one of them.

Kiosks are multifaceted, proven solutions

According to the 2019 OAG Airport Delight Report, 50 percent of travelers reporting 45-minute wait times in airport lines. Consequently, about 45 percent of all passengers stay near their gate as not to miss their flight. If passengers are anxiously staying at their gate, they are not shopping or spending money in the airport. This problem can be easily ameliorated with airport kiosks that provide more information. Centrally located and easy-to-use self-service kiosks can display updates on delays or boarding times, freeing up passengers’ time so they can shop for food or retail items.

As detailed, self-check-in kiosks have a variety of uses, all increasing the airport’s efficiency and eliminating. Customers can confirm their identity, register and pay for checked bags, print or receive an email of their boarding pass, and choose their seat or confirm seat assignment. They can also simply check their itinerary and, a huge bonus of self-service kiosks, transact in multiple languages.

Other than offering all of these services, kiosk POS systems can also be stationed near gates to offer food service. Airport food kiosks are in high demand, especially with millennials who are far more likely to prefer automated concessions. Further, 26 percent of passengers said they would be more like to spend money if gate-side food delivery was available. Food kiosks can work hand in hand with airport check-in kiosks to overhaul the entire airport experience.

At the end of the day, passengers always take note of a seamless travel experience, and airports can make this a reality for more customers by automating processes with self-service kiosks.