For 65 years SITA and IATA have worked together to improve air transport services. Today, both organizations are pushing the boundaries of self-service for the benefit of airlines, airports and passengers.
Fueled by the mobile revolution, self-service is now increasingly possible via a smart mobile device or laptop for every element of a flight, from initial booking to destination border control – and everything in-between.
Passengers like it and they want more of it. Results from SITA’s Passenger IT Trends Survey make the case: 96% would book their travel requirements through a website, 73% would check-in online.
Two thirds of passengers are keen to use self-service bag drop and will happily tag their own bags.
And over 90% are interested in automated immigration gates. So the demand is there and increasingly so too are the means.
Through its Simplifying the Business Fast Travel Program, IATA is providing industry leadership. The aim is that by 2020, 80% of global passengers will have access to a complete self-service suite of services based on IATA industry standards.
That suite addresses passenger demands for choice, convenience and control in six key areas:
- Bags ready-to-go
- Document check
- Flight re-booking
- Missing bag recovery
IATA’s Head of Passenger Experience, Paul Behan, emphasizes not only on the passenger benefits, but also the cost savings available to the industry.
“The areas we have chosen to concentrate on will deliver savings in the order of US$ 2.1 billion a year. Inevitably it takes time for an ambitious program such as this to bring all the elements together – and airlines have been upgrading core systems. But we’re accelerating towards our 80% target for 2020.
“For example, we were at 16.5% in the first quarter of the year. But by the end of the year, we expect to have hit 27%. More than a quarter of eligible passengers will be able to benefit from the convenience and simplicity of Fast Travel. That’s a major step forward and a radical change in the way passenger processing is handled.”
Benefits for all
“This is a particularly strong program, because it delivers genuine and permanent benefits to all parties in the equation – passengers, airlines and airports,” says Behan.
“For example, self-service check-in – whether via kiosk, the web, mobile phone or automatic check-in – takes away the need for passengers to queue. It reduces congestion for the airport operator, while providing retail revenue growth opportunities and lowering operational costs for the airline.
“Or take recovery of mishandled bags. Allowing passengers to report a missing bag by using a self-service channel reduces passenger stress, and provides more passenger information. It allows the airline to make better use of a baggage claim agent’s expertise and time.
“It helps the airport make the most effective use of physical infrastructure. And it will save the industry an estimated US$ 575 million a year.”
“At the end of last year, we took a further step in making the journey from curb to aircraft steps easier, with the launch of Smart Security as a joint program with the Airports Council International (ACI).
“We want to maintain tight security for all flights while minimizing the hassle. It’s based on focusing resources on risk. We’ll introduce new technologies as they become available and make better use of what’s in place already.
“Under the previous program name of ‘Checkpoint of the Future,’ we began component testing in 2012, moved to evaluate a blueprint last year and now we’re about to start proof of concept trials of Smart Security 2014 at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and London Heathrow.
“All of these technologies depend on the introduction of robust and comprehensive Wi-Fi across the airport campus. It’s essentially the fourth utility. We’re working closely with ACI to promote the benefits of Wi-Fi connectivity for passengers, airlines and airports alike – and, of course, SITA is at the forefront of initiatives to make that connectivity ubiquitous and resilient.”
In step with IATA’s Fast Travel and Smart Security programs, SITA is delivering an increasing range of self-service solutions that answer Dr. Arno Penzias’ call for passengers ‘to get on a plane without breaking stride’.
“We work with air transport customers and partners to perfect self-service solutions that make sense specifically for our industry. So there’s no compromise because of the need to provide something to suit any other industry,” says SITA CEO Francesco Violante.
“What’s changed over the past few years is the way consumers have been empowered by technology to manage their own lives. Standards have also simplified, while the introduction of common-use technologies is having a major impact on cost and is allowing airlines and airports to concentrate on service, rather than process.
“SITA and IATA’s agendas remain aligned. We have been partners from the outset in the development and innovation of services for Simplifying the Business. So our focus on providing end-to-end self-service solutions closely matches the Fast Travel program.”
Self-service SITA solutions across nine stages of the passenger journey are now helping the Fast Travel program to meet its goals (see box). Their development is backed by strong demand, echoed through SITA’s IT Trends and Baggage surveys, as well as IATA’s own surveys.
The operational benefits are considerable:
- 60 passengers an hour can be processed using a self-service bag drop unit for example, compared to 24 using staffed counters.
- Self-boarding gates can lead to a 50% reduction in the number of agents required. Use of SITA BagJourney can generate savings of 11 US cents per passenger.
- Up to seven passengers a minute can be processed through SITA’s automated biometric gates.
All of these savings are generated while delivering a faster, smoother journey for the passenger.
“Since we launched Simplifying the Business in 2004, billions of US dollars have been cut from industry costs – not by reducing services, but by improving them,” concludes IATA’s Behan.
“This year we celebrate 100 years since the first commercial passenger flight. For almost seven of those 10 decades, IATA and SITA have worked together to deliver improvements for the benefit of the community as a whole. Radical change will continue and is accelerating.
“More can be done to improve passenger services, and to cut out costs. I’ve no doubt that IATA and SITA will continue to break new boundaries together in the years ahead.”
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