2020 has become a pandemic year with unprecedented losses for many industries. Tourism and airlines were hit extremely hard with a record decrease of 73% in international arrivals compared to 2019. This catastrophic drop includes lost revenue of $371 billion and a 60% passenger reduction according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The projected end of the Covid-19 pandemic will not change these brutal statistics immediately. Although, there is a great hope of rebound based on the vaccination programs and the gradual recovery of the global economy. It is estimated that this process may take several years, during which airlines will undergo a metamorphosis not only due to factors related to health safety. The industry needs to prepare for increased Covid-19 activity periods or the emergence of another pandemic, but also for demographic shifts which will influence the customers’ expectations and the digital transformation related to it. One of the key factors of airlines’ metamorphosis may be video identity verification, which answers all of the mentioned issues.

The impact of demographic shifts and digital revolution on airlines

The upcoming demographic changes will modify the passengers’ structure. In the next decade most travellers will represent the post-digital generation brought up in the technological world. The use of online solutions and mobile devices as “remote for life” are natural for them. By 2025, Millennials, Generation X and Y will make up 68% of the world’s population. The expectations of digital natives will make it necessary to modify the factors that create the travel experience. The future trends include personalization of services with the help of technology, smoothness and efficiency of each step without the need to wait in queues. Passengers will demand more autonomy while traveling, relying on mobile devices, apps and chatbots. Airlines will need to consider the overall user experience, not just the flight itself. This will require close cooperation between state agencies, airports and airlines to create a unified travel experience. These factors contribute to the image of a new „mobile intelligent” traveler who accepts face to face contact with another human only when absolutely necessary. This also applies to check-in at the airport. According to SITA survey 59% of respondents are willing to replace this step with identity verification using a mobile device, and further 33% are open to this idea. An innovative way of client onboarding may decide the future of the airline companies in the perspective of demographic shifts. This is confirmed by the data from the previously cited report which also states that 83% of industry leaders believe that generational changes will have the greatest impact on the digital strategy of airlines. Solutions related to video identity verification, biometrics and cryptography respond to this transition while maintaining security procedures.

Advantages of online identity verification for airlines

The main areas where online identity verification may support airlines are improvement of passenger check-in to a more comfortable solution while lowering costs and reinforcement of protection against online financial and e-commerce frauds.

The primary advantage of online identity verification for passengers is comfort. The traveller’s identity and documents can be verified at any convenient time prior to travel, which allows to avoid waiting for the check-in by flight attendants. It is also the way to minimize physical contact with other people, which has become a necessity during pandemic. Secondly, it increases data security by avoiding the use of identity documents in public places. Video identity verification is therefore a long-sought remedy for airlines to improve passenger check-in in a way that will satisfy the most demanding customers. In addition, verification methods reduce the cost associated with check-in by replacing time-consuming manual checkpoints. The advantage of online verification solutions is also the automation of the procedure, supported by artificial intelligence and evaluated by specialists which improves the objectivity and reliability of the entire process.

The digital transformation in airlines has caused that more and more passengers purchase flight tickets online, therefore they have become the target of hackers. The inglorious  example of cybersecurity threats is the attack on Sita, an operator connected to over 90% of international aviation. In this case the data of hundreds of thousands passengers from airlines such as Lufthansa, Air China, United Airlines and more was stolen. The implementation of verification solutions may have a positive impact on reinforcement of cybersecurity in the industry. It may help to reduce ticket fraud by neutralising the risk of ticket purchase with the use of stolen credentials and identity data. Another examples of online frauds include hijacking a customer’s account, unauthorized refunds for legitimate purchases and interception of frequent flyer programs and benefits to use stolen miles to obtain goods from airline’s partners. Video identity verification at this stage of the journey allows to protect customers against online fraud.

Mobile video check-in for touchless travel

As in other industries, the digital revolution has taken off at airlines since the start of the pandemic. The decrease in the number of passengers created space for testing and implementing new technological solutions. American Airlines has started to develop mobile identity verification at two international airports in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), moving closer to a touchless journey. The tested process is based on self-verification by travelers by using their mobile device when the luggage is left for checking. The customer does not have to present a physical identity document during check-in, but can complete the entire process on their own by using the third-party app responsible for verification solutions. The app allows users to generate a digital ID that can be used during check-in. Similar programs are expected to be developed at other airports in the future which will be the next step to touchless journey. Verification solutions can be implemented as video check-in, based on artificial intelligence, machine learning and human intelligence. The combination of these three key elements allows to conduct secure identity verification at any convenient time before the trip. It may help to reduce time spent at the airport and maintain compliance with international travel regulations.

Video identity verification may help airlines to balance fraud prevention and the traveller experience. It can certainly provide a good rebound point after a pandemic and bring aviation into a new digital age.

The airlines are still in a difficult period due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will certainly take some time to rebound and bring back passengers to the airports in pre-pandemic numbers. Nevertheless, the future poses new challenges and opportunities for the industry. Preparing to handle post-digital generations, strengthening cybersecurity and sanitary safety is just the beginning. However, new opportunities emerge along with the development of infrastructure and curiosity of new directions among travellers. Online identity checks have started to appear in airlines and it is a solution that may replace labor-intensive and inconvenient traditional check-in in the future. Video Identity verification is a complex process in which highly trained professionals must participate.  Therefore, it is worth entrusting it to a specialized company such as Fully-Verified, which is prepared to cooperate with airlines, offering Self-Verify and Live-Verify services. Both will ensure security related to the KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) regulations while maintaining the high standard in customer experience from the beginning of their journey through the onboarding.

 

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