Hamad International Airport’s digital transformation and continued investment in its ‘Smart Airport’ programme are fuelling the young and ambitious gateway’s mission to offer passengers a hassle-free travel experience that complies with the highest standards of safety and security.
The airport’s 2014 opening ushered in an exciting new chapter for aviation in Qatar and it has since grown to accommodate an impressive 8,700 passengers and 19,500 bags per hour and more than 30 million passengers per year.
In another few years, the airport’s expansion plan will accommodate more than 50 million passengers on a yearly basis.
It is, however, well equipped for the challenge due to its vision of becoming the ‘airport of the future’, a user-centric approach, and continued investment in cutting-edge technology. Indeed, this philosophy means that Hamad International Airport (HIA) is positioned to achieve industry-leading solutions and both pioneer and test new technologies that will transform its operations.
HIA is one of just a few airports in the world that is championing the ‘Smart Security’ programme and has conducted trials that utilise the latest technology to optimise the airport’s facilities and security processes, empower travellers and redefine the airport experience.
New era of security
HIA is also an active member of ACI Asia-Pacific’s Regional Security Committee and, in line with a growing global emphasis on improving airport security, has launched the ‘New Era of Security’ (Neos) initiative.
Under Neos, HIA is now testing a brand-new generation of equipment that includes ‘Human Security Radar’ (HSR) in partnership with Apstec Systems. This new feature can detect suspicious items carried by passengers in a ‘free flow’ process, which eliminates the need for checkpoints that might disturb or frustrate the traveller.
With new technologies like HSR, HIA is enhancing the traveller experience while also ensuring operational efficiency, making the journey safer, easier and more comfortable. Live passenger trials of the body scanners have achieved industry leading flow rates of above 400 per hour.
Moreover, planned trials to remove screeners from each lane and test centralising cabin baggage screeners may well lead to improvements in efficiency and security effectiveness.
More transfer security checkpoints options
Parallel to operational excellence is the airport’s commitment to a hassle-free and seamless passenger journey.
HIA’s recent decision to offer four transfer security checkpoints and 50 security lanes capable of accommodating up to 6,000 passengers during peak hours, means shorter queuing times at security points, which is great news for transferring passengers with a short transfer window, even with HIA’s increasing passenger traffic.
The newly-introduced ‘short connection lanes’ ensure passengers a connection time of under an hour, minimising time spent at security checkpoints at peak times and reducing the stress of short connections.
‘Minimum connection lanes’ have also recently been introduced, allowing passengers with very short connection time to be screened to national standards at the arrival gate directly in the terminal, rather than having to walk to a central screening point.
Reducing queuing times to under five minutes
HIA’s introduction of two additional transfer areas – it now boasts four across the north and south nodes of the airport – have resulted in an industry-leading achievement in airport security screening – 95% of transfer passengers queue for under five minutes.
Indeed, the combination of significantly reduced walking times brought about by the extra transfer areas, with the overall security screening capacity increases to accommodate rising passenger demand, meant that HIA actually exceeded this mark in April 2018, when 99.5% of over one million transfer passengers were screened in less than five minutes.
Our continued efforts and investments in cutting-edge technology have helped HIA meet the highest standards of safety and world-class security. Customer satisfaction scores continue to improve with 92% of passengers in July rating their experience as either excellent or good.
First in MENA ready to accept electronic bag tags
HIA is paving the way for airport innovation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by being the first airport ready to accept electronic bag tags. Both HIA and Qatar Airways have recently completed IATA’s Electronic Bag Tag (EBT) readability tests.
EBTs will play another key role in providing reduced queuing time, a simplified baggage-drop process, and more leisure time at the airport. EBTs will also play an important role in providing greater operating and carbon efficiency.
With this leading development, future travellers will have a permanent electronic bag tag and will no longer be required to print and apply traditional bag tags, completely digitalising the baggage process.
Strong strategic partnerships
HIA’s strategic partnerships play a key role in catalysing leading technology solutions at the airport. Last year, for instance, marked the signature of two major partnerships that build on the gateway’s Smart Airport vision.
HIA’s MOU with Huawei and with global IT provider SITA, comprised of 400 members in the global air transport industry, provide a productive framework to trial and enhance innovative passenger processing solutions.
With a sharp focus on reducing waiting times at airport touchpoints, HIA is working hand-in-hand with its strategic partners and technology experts to execute frontline technology solutions. In collaboration with SITA, HIA is exploring biometric integration across several self-service processes including check-in, bag drop, security screening and aircraft boarding.
HIA will also receive 62 next-generation common-use check-in kiosks, with bag tag printing capability and boarding pass verification e-gates. These kiosks and e-gates will have the ability to incorporate biometrics to identify passengers.
The use of biometrics will enhance security processes while delivering smooth end-to-end travel using a single biometric token. The airport’s partnership with Huawei enables innovative concepts, prototypes and solutions in several areas across IoT and autonomous machines.
The future for HIA
Under the ‘Smart Airport’ vision, HIA is now looking ahead to a promising future of world-class technology and innovative solutions. By introducing automated processes and self-service at every touch point of travel, HIA is facilitating more efficient passenger movements within the terminal.
The airport is working closely with Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy to process the arrival of approximately 96,000 passengers per day during the FIFA World Cup 2022.
As our world grows increasingly digital, we’re finding that striking the right balance between cutting-edge technology and a warm, passenger-friendly experience is what foregrounds our success. While we seek new and innovative solutions, we’re prioritising our travellers and testing what truly works to improve their travel experience. We’re collaborating with the right partners, continuously engaging our stakeholders, and providing a world-class experience that makes us one of the best airports in the world.
The next step for HIA is to initiate new trials aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of robotics for passenger facilitation, and of blockchain technology for the rapid and secure sharing of data across multiple stakeholders.
What I can tell you is that as HIA looks ahead to accommodating rising passenger demand while maintaining and boosting its position as one of the best airports in the world, staying ahead of the game with airport trends and innovation and empowering passengers will remain at the core of airport operations as we strive for excellence.