In 2016, SITA significantly stepped up its focus on community innovation, investing in five key areas around some of the industry’s most pressing challenges.

Working for the community

Part of SITA’s mandate has always been to drive technological innovation for the benefit of the wider air transport community, and in particular SITA members.

This year has seen SITA significantly stepping up its focus on community innovation, investing in five key areas to explore and prototype new solutions around some of the industry’s most pressing challenges.

Five focus areas

The five key areas include cybersecurity, baggage tracking, identity management, an industry-wide disruption warning system, and enabling NDC.

Over the past few months SITA has made strong progress across each of these areas, focusing on new efficiencies and solutions for the community’s benefit. 

These five areas are sharply focused on driving solutions in areas where we can add the most benefit to the wider air transport community.

Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA

“These five areas are sharply focused on driving solutions in areas where we can add the most benefit to the wider air transport community,” says Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer at SITA. 

“We have also aligned ourselves with organizations such as IATA and ACI to ensure that we add our resources to a common, agreed-upon approach.”


One of the key successes has been around cybersecurity. SITA is forging ahead with setting up a forum to support the increased exchange of cyber threat intelligence.

While the forum is being run as a proof of concept, several discussions and workshops with members and representatives from across the industry already took place.

The goal is to encourage greater knowledge and information sharing among members for the benefit of the wider community.

“Given the increased sophistication of cyber-attacks, SITA is assessing how it can play a more significant role for the air transport community in facilitating the exchange and management of contextualized cyber threat intelligence for the benefit of the entire industry,” says Philippe-Emmanuel Maulion, Head of Corporate Information Security at SITA.

“SITA believes by collaborating we, as an industry, will be better placed to guard against ever-evolving cyber threats.”

Baggage tracking

Another progress area for SITA is baggage tracking. Over the past few years technology has played a key role in reducing the number of mishandled baggage.

However, with passenger numbers expected to double by 2030, further reducing the number of mishandle baggage remains a challenge.

Greater innovation is required to support these further reductions. SITA is exploring technologies that will allow airlines, airports and ground handlers to track baggage every step of the way, using both existing and brand new technologies. 

RFID case

A key area of investigation is the industry’s renewed interest in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology as an affordable way to accurately track baggage.

The compelling business case is articulated in a white paper recently published by SITA and IATA.

The rollout of RFID, which can accurately track passengers’ baggage in real-time across key points in the journey, holds the potential to save the air transport industry more than US$3 billion over the next seven years to 2022 and significantly reduce the number of mishandled bags.

In particular, RFID will address mishandling during transfer from one flight to another, one of the main areas where the technology could help improve baggage handling rates.

RFID technology will ensure that airports, airlines and ground handlers are able to keep track of bags at every step of the journey and ensuring the right bag is loaded onto the correct aircraft.  See ‘Back on the agenda – RFID’.

“The airline industry is at the brink of a revolution in baggage tracking. Deploying RFID globally will increase accuracy and reduce mishandling rates. This is a win-win situation – passengers will be happier, operations will run smoother and airlines will save billions of dollars,” says Peters.

ID management

Identity Management, another major challenge for the industry, is an important initiative for SITA, not only in terms of providing increased security but streamlining the immigration process globally. 

The emergence of a ‘single travel token’ over the next few years is probably the most exciting development for passengers hoping to fast track through the airport.

“This shift in technology provides the air transport industry with the opportunity to build a new vision of the future where passengers are able to walk through an airport’s screening processes without breaking their stride using a single persistent identity,” says Peters.

“The One Identity initiative is a central plank of IATA’s Simplifying the Business (StB) program and one that SITA is fully committed to making a reality.”

This program is already making good progress. In an early proof of concept using blockchain technology, SITA is creating a verifiable ‘token’ stored on a mobile device which contains biometric and personal data.

The revolutionary technology provides the opportunity to allow secure biometric authentication of passengers throughout the journey across borders.

This could eliminate the need for multiple travel documents without passengers having to share their personal data. See ‘The advent of the token’.

Disruption warning system

One of the biggest challenges for airports and airlines is managing disruption. Here, SITA has launched an initiative that seeks to collect and share real-time information and updates from across the global aviation industry through a global disruption warning system.

The system, to be accessible to SITA members, will allow airlines and airports to identify potential areas for disruption and make informed decisions that will mitigate the risk of disruption to their operations.


SITA, with IATA, appreciates that the way airlines sell their services and products has evolved dramatically in recent years. To address the diverse needs of contemporary air travel retailing, IATA has spearheaded the development of the New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard.

A particular emphasis of NDC is its ability to help third-party airline distribution channels, such as retail and online travel agencies, travel management companies, and metasearch engines, receive more flexible and compelling airline content from airlines.

In turn, these indirect channels can offer their customers richer, more engaging digital flight shopping experiences.

On track

We remain on track to provide relevant and timely solutions and over the coming months we expect to see more concrete solutions to these community challenges.

Jim Peters, Chief Information Officer, SITA

“We remain on track to provide relevant and timely solutions and over the coming months we expect to see more concrete solutions to these community challenges, helping build an air transport sector that is more efficient and effective while elevating the passenger experience,” concludes Peters.

Subscribe to the Air Transport IT Review