The National Academies

ACRP 11-02/Task 41 [Completed]

Toward a Touchless Airport Journey

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Research Agency: Barich, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Frank Barich
Effective Date: 3/5/2021
Completion Date: 1/4/2022


As technology continues to evolve, airports are seeking opportunities to create a touchless experience along the passenger journey. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to eliminate the many common touchpoints, which are now seen as potential points of disease transmission. Further research is needed to examine the airport processes and functions that could potentially benefit from being replaced with touchless technologies.


The objectives of this research are to:

1. Develop a quick-reference guide, applicable to all types and sizes of airports, to help airports and their customers, including third-party service vendors, to identify:

a. Readily available touchless technology features with near-term solutions and best practices to allow a safe and efficient journey;
b. Technology gaps and the need for medium and long-term solutions with further development opportunities that could minimize touchpoints. (e.g., at TSA checkpoints, passenger check-in, and other passenger conveyances); and
c. Suggested mitigation strategies and solutions for processes that cannot be touchless (e.g., wheelchair service providers, baggage tags). 
2. Compile additional problem statements and input them into ACRP Ideahub
https://ideahub.trb.org/ for future consideration of follow-on research to this project.

The research should include, at a minimum, these considerations:

  • Current best practices of airports, airlines, service providers, concessionaires, parking and ground transportation providers, etc.;
  • Cost-effective solutions, to include non-aeronautical revenue opportunities;
  • Passenger-centric smart phone and sensor technologies and applications and associated barriers to adoption;
  • Signage and wayfinding opportunities to facilitate the touchless experience;
  • Use of technology to reduce dwell times through shorter queue lines, (e.g., virtual queuing);
  • The customer experience and the different forms of communication; 
  • Accommodation of passengers with disabilities and those of special needs (i.e., nursing rooms, pet relief areas, etc.);
  • Techniques for continuous disinfectant processes, (e.g., automated technologies, UV (ultraviolet), and air purifier technology); and
  • Global practices and innovations within and outside of the aviation sector that have been effective in making processes more efficient and touchless.


The ACRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objectives. Proposers are asked to develop and include a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objectives. The work proposed must be divided into tasks and proposers must describe the work proposed in each task in detail.

The research plan should include, at a minimum, the following interim deliverables for ACRP review and approval that include: (1) an early description of all of the existing functions of the passenger flow that require touchpoints (drawing on existing resources and past research; see Special Note B); and (2) an interim report that describes work done in early tasks with an outline of the quick reference guide, a sample section of the reference guide, and an updated work plan for remaining tasks.

The research plan should include other appropriate checkpoints with the ACRP panel, including at a minimum (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the Notice to Proceed; and (2) one face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting, as well as web-enabled teleconferences tied to the panel review and ACRP approval of other interim deliverables deemed appropriate. 

The final deliverables will include: (1) the quick reference guide that meets all items in the objective and could include ideas for social distancing guidelines and other non-technical suggestions with graphics and descriptions that can provide cost-effective solutions; (2) suggested problem statements and input into ACRP Ideahub (https://ideahub.trb.org/) for future consideration of follow-on research to this project; and (3)(a) a Summary of Key Findings; and (b) a Further Recommended Research Memo.

Status: The research is completed; publication process is underway. 

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