The government projects that the amount of air travelers in Argentina will double by 2019. As a result, and with the intention of speeding up the annoying process passengers have to go through before boarding and avoiding that the already long lines become eternal, the three largest airports in the country intend to implement automated luggage checks and customs control terminals in 2019.
“We are now acquiring gates and starting to do pilot tests with simulated flights, albeit without real passengers,” officials from Aerolíneas Argentinas stated. Ezeiza, Aeroparque and the Córdoba airport will be the first ones to use the technology. In addition to such changes, the Ministry of Transportation has a plan for the investment of AR$22 billion in technology and infrastructure in all 19 airports across the country.
According to Clarín, 55 percent of airports worldwide have automated systems for passengers to print tickets and prepare their luggage. However, only 28 percent of airports have a system similar to that which will be implemented in Argentina by 2019 (i.e checking the luggage without interacting with an airline employee). There are already two machines of the kind in Ezeiza, but they are still being tested.
In regards to the implementation of the automated customs system in Latin America, Peru has been using it since 2016. The Transportation Security Administration began testing automated security screening lanes last year in four US airports.
Given the – projected – steep increase in air travelers as a result of the arrival of low cost flights, Argentine airports will benefit greatly from any streamlining in services. And even without them, the amount of air travelers has been steadily increasing: between January and September of 2017, a record 20.4 million passengers have traveled through Argentine airports. That figure surpassed 2016’s by 2.7 million passengers.
The technological change toward automation in the Argentine airports continues a worldwide trend that is revolutionized nearly all sectors of the economy. As Daniela Rus, Director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in Foreign Affairs, the objective of robotics is to facilitate collaborations between humans and machines. “Customized robots working alongside people will create new jobs, improve the quality of existing jobs, and give people more time to focus on what they find interesting, important, and exciting,” Rus stated.
Nevertheless, automation worries workers and labor unions. PW estimated that in the US alone, 38 percent of jobs could be lost to automation in the next 15 years. In Argentina, automation has become a major concern for the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), one of the most powerful labor unions. For Juan Carlos Schmid, the General Secretary of the CGT, automation is a “debate that can’t be postponed”.