Five messages were made clear following SITA’s Innovation Forum* earlier this year, attended by around 120 air transport IT leaders and specialists from all over the world.
They convened in a series of workshops to consider new technologies and opportunities to address pain-points across today’s passenger journey.
Here, we capture the insights articulated by these representatives of the global air transport community. Extracted from a new paper specifically for all forum delegates, they reflect big trends in air travel as well as changing global demographics and consumer expectations. They suggest potential for far-reaching change and improvement.
As we say in our article on ‘2025 and the digital age of travel', a growing number of passengers are post-digital. Born since 1981, they’ve grown up interacting with online technology and use it to manage their lives.
By 2025, they’ll account for more than two thirds of the global population. So air transport must evolve to serve these travelers better, creating an intelligent digital journey. Most industry leaders acknowledge that the expectations of these ‘mobile smart’ passengers will impact their IT developments and solutions.
Air transport industry IT leaders believe we need to strengthen the focus on on-time performance (OTP) and turnaround optimization. Overall airport efficiency must be driven through better operational intelligence.
Such initiatives promise to benefit all stakeholders and customers by maximizing capacity and resource utilization. They’ll also cut cost, reduce CO2 emissions, and boost passenger satisfaction/net promoter scores.
We must keep working to break down information silos. Data is the invisible strand that links the various steps of the journey – for passengers, their bags, the aircraft and its cargo. Data has the potential to add greater value at every touchpoint and interchange between airlines, airports, other air transport stakeholders and passengers.
Industry IT leaders see this as critical. But they also understand the challenges. Those challenges include a concern about what sensitive data can and should be exchanged. Where stakeholders may be unwilling to share data, we can build Trust Frameworks and establish standards around data exchange.
Collecting and sharing more data is just the starting point. Beyond that, we must accelerate the pace of exploring how we can refine and exploit the many growing data streams generated within our industry. We need to find the best way to enhance industry operations and create the seamless journey. The promise of AI is huge.
Across air transport’s value chain opportunities exist to automate processes, to use resources and information to deliver greater efficiencies. Automating the repetitive and mundane will bring more structure and capacity to operations, freeing humans for decision-making and exception management.
Many opportunities became clear as the workshop’s industry IT professionals looked towards the future. Areas of focus included disruption and baggage – both big pain-points in the passenger journey. There’s now a strong belief in the opportunity to provide AI-enabled common services to manage – and personalize – changes or disruptions across the journey (flights, airport experiences, hotels, car services, etc.).
Solutions for a more streamlined boarding process could be achieved by increasing intelligence on the volume of cabin bags on each flight, for example. This would optimize the order in which passengers are boarded and by automating the handling of excess cabin bags.
Significant opportunities exist to reduce airport operations buffer times, to share resources/services and simplify handling processes. This can be done through shared situational awareness and common channels of communication for all stakeholders.
Operational services-on-demand could be provided for airport stakeholders, and smart transfer management introduced to ensure passengers make connecting flights.
Common collaborative platforms offer a way forward. These will enhance data sharing and communications between airlines, airports, and other stakeholders. This can be improved by a standardized model and language.
Persistent biometric travel tokens are increasingly seen as critical to a frictionless journey. AI, plus edge computing and cloud services, will enable smart services to address passenger needs and intelligent operations with enhanced predictions and recommendations.
Some technologies are seen as strong collaboration enablers. Computer Vision can offer significant potential to provide real-time intelligence on developing situations at the airport. Distributed Ledger Trust Frameworks (with Blockchain and Self-Sovereign ID), as well as upcoming 5G networks, will empower data acquisition and automation with increased throughput. Equally, they’ll reduce latency, essential for robotics and autonomy.
Working collectively as an industry is one of the principles of the SITA Innovation Forum. SITA CEO Barbara Dalibard emphasizes that “Innovation does not happen in isolation. Only by coming together to share knowledge and explore new technologies can we be smarter about how we respond to the challenges we face as an industry.
“This requires strong collaboration. SITA is committed to collaboration and co-innovation and I am convinced that across our community we are very much aligned on the belief that ‘together we can do more’.”
*The clear messages from the air transport community were captured in series of workshops at the SITA Innovation Forum (SIF) in June 2019, and extracted from SITA’s post event report produced for all delegates. One principle of the Forum is to collaboratively identify technologies and use cases with the potential to deliver a seamless passenger journey and improve ways of working within the air transport community. Where possible, SITA builds these use cases into its product development roadmap, and works with SITA members and customers on proof of concept exercises and trials.