Why would you say we’re seeing a ‘new’ passenger journey emerge?
Simply because of the greater role played by IT and communications technology over recent years. Today, people increasingly expect to be connected and to use IT as they travel – especially as they are used to embracing consumer IT trends at ever greater speeds.
The rise of self-service and the growing impact of trends like big data, business intelligence, analytics, cloud and, of course, mobility, are making the ‘always-connected’ traveler a reality.
What evidence is there?
Our annual surveys check the pulse of air transport, giving clear insights into passenger demands and future passenger trends, as well as airlines and airport plans and requirements.
From our surveys, it is clear that mobile and self service have been embraced in several areas of the passenger journey. Our 2013 Passenger IT Trends Survey tells us that as many as 76% of people carry a smartphone when they are traveling; on their day of travel almost 70% of the survey’s respondents had booked their travel through a website, while one-fifth had used a kiosk.
What is clear is that most passengers want information services on their mobiles to help them through the journey, including flight search and flight and baggage status.
So it is no surprise that the vast majority of passengers think technology helps when traveling. What this tells us is that there is scope to add further value for travelers, to give them greater choice and to constantly evolve the journey.
This will require airlines and airports to enable technology capabilities and drive adoption. SITA’s technology and innovation – and our collaborative work with customers and industry associations like IATA and ACI – will play a significant part, by continuously improving the passenger experience.
What are the main trends we’re seeing?
There are many. One major trend is the rise of the connected aircraft. There is a big drive to use tablets to improve the passenger experience.
A case in point is the rapid and growing interest from airlines in SITA’s CrewTablet, which removes the need for paper for airline cabin crews by loading information such as passenger name lists, passenger bag load status and connecting flight information onto tablets. We know that more than three quarters of airlines will deploy crew services on tablets by 2016.
Passengers are now also beginning to expect to use their mobile devices onboard for calls, internet, emails and entertainment. The number of customers signing up for in-flight connectivity through SITA’s subsidiary OnAir is increasing year on year.
Another trend that will create a ‘new’ journey lies in the area of business intelligence, big data and analytics, at what we call intelligent airports. Most airlines and airports are investing in business intelligence, as a top priority.
Intelligence will furnish passengers with information they say they want on flight times and bag status, for instance, as well as waiting times at check-in, security and check points.
We will need to ensure this same information is available through all channels, such as flight displays, kiosks and mobile. It requires pulling together data on what is happening at the airport, which in turn demands collaboration among multiple stakeholders. SITA is placed uniquely to enable this, having relationships with the stakeholders across the airport ecosystem.
A third trend is m-commerce, enabling passengers to purchase travel services on the move. According to our surveys, once passengers have bought their tickets, nearly 40% would purchase ancillary services while en route – such as paying for parking or buying a lounge pass.
Most airports have plans to offer m-commerce in the next two years, while airlines see it as a new frontier in retailing, with the potential to extend the passenger relationship beyond initial ticket purchase, offering services to passengers whenever and wherever needed.
What else will feature in the ‘new’ passenger journey?
SITA is involved in some exciting collaborative innovations and developments at airports that promise significant change. At check-in, SITA’s trial with Virgin Atlantic of wearable technology, including Google Glass and Sony Smart watches, demonstrates great potential to enhance passengers’ travel experiences (see 'Virgin's innovation' article).
The trial enabled concierge staff to meet and greet VIP passengers with a personalized check-in service. But we are only at the beginning of a learning curve that could see wearable technology impacting other areas across the airport, as well as aircraft maintenance.
Also at the airport, we are starting to pilot beacon technology that could open up a range of low cost possibilities for interacting with passengers, such as determining passenger location, navigating the airport and much more. Developments in passenger flow monitoring are another great example of IT benefitting the passenger experience and increasing airport efficiency.
SITA’s own passenger flow monitoring suite helps to ensure people move through the airport at an optimum rate to minimize delay as well as maximize spend. With delays of only a few minutes potentially costing tens of thousands of dollars, passenger 'visibility' and flow is more important than ever.
The next major technology-led trend at airports is self-bag-drop. We are seeing the rise of bag-drop areas at airports, although our surveys find that passengers are still cautious. SITA is actively involved in the area, deploying proof of concept common use bag-drop applications in a number of airports. Our work includes self-bag-drop at Melbourne and Brisbane airports in Australia.
How do you see border security evolving?
As we know, with IATA’s and ACI’s SmartSecurity the industry is working on the next generation of checkpoint. IT is the enabler, helping to optimize processes.
With iBorders, SITA is at the forefront of developments, as market leader in safe and secure border intelligence offering enhanced security and passenger facilitation to the world’s governments and air transport industry.
In this area, new biometrics kiosks are a prime example of change to come, as they fast track international arrivals, enabling a ‘land, touch and go’ procedure.
Our work involves the introduction of Automated Passport Control self-service kiosks at Orlando Airport as well as new self-service passport control kiosks at Miami International Airport.
The potential here lies in the intelligent use of passenger data and biometrics, including data from known traveler programs or identity management solutions, to create a new seamless curb to curb journey for passengers.
How will the industry make these changes happen?
If we are going to create this new journey then continued investment in IT is essential, along with infrastructure based on global standards and interoperability between technologies, sharing data securely and using common processes and approaches. That means backing IATA’s and ACI’s programs to deliver a better passenger experience.
We see common use technologies as vital to the new journey. Passengers do not want to learn how to use different technologies every time they use a different airline or go to a different airport. Common-use makes sense in areas such as kiosks, bag drop, and self-boarding where the underlying process is the same regardless of airline or airport.
Finally, we need to set aside who owns the passenger and work together to share the benefits of business intelligence and analytics, because these have great potential to improve our industry’s processes and the passenger experience.