New heights for insights

Insights gained from exploiting vast quantities of data will be a ‘gold mine’ to air travel organizations. SITA’s business intelligence suite is taking insights to new heights.

Constantly connected and armed with mobile devices, passengers are demanding better personal service. Long queuing times aren’t acceptable; and choice in everything from check-in to retail selection is assumed.

That’s a big factor in driving the move towards smarter and more digital ways of working for airlines and at the airport. Arthur D. Little expect to see an increase of about 40% in airport expenditure on digital-based solutions by 2020 versus 2014.

The consulting firm cites evolving airport models and technology clusters that need to be optimized to increase the capacity of existing facilities, lower operational expenditure and boost revenues. See ‘Evolving airport models’.


It’s an evolution that demands the closest collaboration between airports, airlines and tenants. It requires that they capture data and pro-actively furnish intelligence that optimizes airport operations, while engaging with passengers, readily serving up information about where to go, for example, at what time and how to get there.

That explains why nearly 90% of airports will use Business Intelligence (BI) by 2017 to analyze areas such as airport service quality, capacity and passenger flow, according to the Airport IT Trends Survey.

Big Data

If airports are going to be able to make the most of the opportunities available through analytics, they need access to a huge range of critical data,” says Ron Reed, BI Portfolio Director at SITA.

“That means effectively exploiting the big data that surrounds us … and as we know, our industry creates a lot of this data from many, many sources.

“We need to be able to aggregate this data, interrogating and correlating it so we can monitor the airport’s wellbeing, identifying issues and recommending corrective actions and predict future problems,” he adds.

Critical Measure

For airports, the answer is to put in place a set of integrated analytics tools to unlock data and drive business value and operational efficiency from the insights it uncovers.

Reed again: “For a start, airports need real-time access to key operational metrics and the ability to predict and simulate based on live data.

“They must be able to understand the implications of operational chokepoints and passenger flows. They need access to whole-of-airport business intelligence dashboards. And, crucially, they must be able to collaborate openly with partners through shared views and data.”


The introduction of SITA’s Day of Operations cloud-based BI service harnesses complementary underlying Internet of Things technologies.

These include Bluetooth sensors, Wi-Fi infrastructure and other data sources such as video images to aggregate and analyze real-time data from passenger flow and queue wait-time monitoring data from common-use platforms such as bar-coded boarding passes and kiosks.

A smarter personal journey - day of travel

Make way for the smarter journey. SITA’s Day of Travel Services includes:

  • Airport App – a device-native app, which can be branded and  made available in different app stores. Contextually aware and smart, it presents information to passengers at the right place, at the right time.
  • Airport Maps – used in the app, website, way-finding kiosks or other digital media, these maps provide an accurate, detailed and searchable view of all facilities at the airport, automatically generating the fastest route to get there, based on distance and intermediary factors such as queue wait times.
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) – providing air transport-related app developers with internal and external data to build applications, covering flight, weather, estimated wait time and more.
  • Beacon Services – to trigger marketing messages or alerts based on the passenger’s location in the terminal building. The proximity technology available for Internet of Things sensors is: Bluetooth low energy (BLE), global positioning system (GPS) and Wi-Fi.


Aiming to provide a dynamic view of the airport ecosystem at a strategic and operational level, Day of Operations is accessed through AirportPulse – an intuitive, digital portal that delivers a single dynamic central view of the airport ecosystem, and is a catalyst for change.

It’s a consolidation of airport specific tools that use common data to deliver real-time, fact based intelligence by monitoring, measuring, predicting, visualizing, reporting and supporting key airport performance metrics.

Each area of the airport is provided with information, insights and predictions that enable pre-emptive, corrective actions and plans to be implemented as needed, in real time. See ‘A finger on the pulse’.

Finger on the pulse

Monitoring the airport’s pulse: SITA’s Day of Operations Services. Accessed through the AirportPulse portal, the cloud-based BI services include:

  • QueueAnalyzer – a real-time analytics tool for monitoring and reporting customer flow and queuing at airport presentation points. Thanks to QueueAnalyzer, a number of airports have already achieved an average increase of 3% in retail sales, along with improved operational efficiencies and customer experience.
  • FlowAnalyzer – providing visibility, knowledge and insight on where customers wait, walk, flow, dwell, visit, engage and shop. By understanding the best locations for saleable advertising space, one airport has increased advertising revenue by 4%.
  • FlowPredictor – continually identifying the imminence of adverse conditions, issues and challenges before they happen, and informing the business as appropriate. One leading European airport has used this tool over the past four years to gain a 20% reduction in passenger waiting times at key processing points, with a consequential 10% improvement in overall customer satisfaction
  • OperationsAnalyzer –presenting key airport operational statistical and management information. Faster data access and analytics capability have delivered up to 48 man days a year of savings for airport operational staff.
  • DataExplorer – giving airports world-class BI capabilities and the power to interrogate and shape data, analyze issues, present information, and drive innovation. It delivers a 10-fold improvement in the time it takes to make data searches which  helps drive more informed decision.
  • CommonUseAnalyzer – generating insights and real time statistics on CUTE data and service levels.


Then there’s the passenger perspective, and the need to cater for the personalized and essential information required to embark on the journey smoothly, whether starting out from home, at the hotel, or anywhere else.

The key, at the individual app level, is to provide “a single point of truth at airports,” according to SITA VP Airport Solutions, Andrew O’Connor, quoted in SITA’s recent paper ‘The connected future of travel’.

As an example, the paper cites SITA work with easyJet, whose Mobile Host app delivers gate status and baggage reclaim information at the same time as it’s available locally on airport screens, initially as a proof of concept with a plan to cover top European airports.

 The personalized app experience is vital, according to O'Connor. “If you’re able to track people around the airport, and know they’ve spent 45 minutes in a restaurant, there's no point sending them a voucher to eat in another airport restaurant. The more precisely you can target offers, the more likely you are to be successful.”

Reed agrees: “Passengers are looking for a whole host of contextual information, relevant to the steps of their journey. It needs to be placed at their fingertips, such as flight status, navigation and way-finding, wait times and so much more.

“SITA Day of Travel Services offers airports the ability to develop a device-native mobile app built to specific needs and brand requirements.”

It includes SITA’s Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), a powerful way to unlock big data to gain insights into the airport’s operations. See ‘API advances’,

Smarter App

One of the first to embrace Day of Travel is Miami International Airport. The initiative exemplifies the importance of delivering personalized and contextually aware information for airports to interact with passengers – in essence, in the right place at the right time.

Unlike tradition apps, it’s smarter because it’s not passive: it recognizes the user and makes sense of the vast amounts of data available at the airport adding real-time business intelligence to create an outstanding user experience. It uses data delivered via SITA’s industry-leading APIs.

 Matthys Serfontein, VP, Airport Solutions, SITA, says: “There are a multitude of airport and travel apps but we’ve taken the initiative to develop one that provides a truly personal experience.

“We’ve incorporated the latest technologies, including Miami’s beacon infrastructure and a selection of SITA’s industry APIs, to provide a context and location-aware experience.” See ‘Miami’s smartest app in the airport’.

Reed again: “Not only does this greatly improve the passenger experience and operational performance, but it also helps airports increase non-aeronautical revenues by monetizing data and making it available to other industry-related application developers.

“Now we have the means to drive a whole new level of insights and real-time improvements,” he concludes.


Orlando goes real-time

Orlando International Airport in Florida, US, is reducing stress for travelers and enabling more accurate resource planning with SITA’s intelligent queue management technology.

QueueAnalyzer is providing a real-time view of TSA checkpoints, enabling rapid response to unexpected conditions. It also provides historical wait-time data to establish wait-time profiles for different times of the day, days of the week and seasons.

Citing improved operations after a successful pilot at its East Checkpoint in April, MCO expanded SITA’s QueueAnalyzer to its West Checkpoint.

John Newsome, IT Director for the airport, told us: “We wanted to provide accurate checkpoint wait-time information for our travelers, to reduce anxiety.

“Now we can do that. But in addition, the greater visibility and simplified metrics are enabling us to plan more proactively and allocate resources more effectively. It means we can respond more nimbly to the ebb and flow of unanticipated traffic flow.”

MCO is now testing the technology to determine and manage wait times for airline check-in lines and plans additional pilots at other locations in the travelers’ paths for both arriving and departing passengers.

Leading airport pilots queue and flow technology

A US airport has been piloting QueueAnalyzer and FlowAnalyzer to monitor its escalators and moving pavements. The airport has 288 mechanisms (53 moving pavements, 120 escalators and 115 lifts), but they have not had visibility of the mechanisms’ real time status.

For example, on any given day it’s typical to have one or more escalators inoperable, and not know it. This adversely impacts the passenger experience and hence, retail spend. The purpose of the pilot was to move from being reactive to proactive through preventive maintenance.

The same airport found that 94% of all passengers in one terminal were more concerned to get through security than to spend time shopping before reaching security. As a result, retail locations were fighting for just 6% of passenger traffic.

Owning to using SITA’s FlowAnalyzer, the airport is now using the newly acquired data to re-design the terminal to maximize the retail opportunity – and provide a less stressful alternative for passengers.

Evolving airport models

“Airports are currently mature to implement 2.0 digital solutions but should look forward for the next 10-15 years in order to implement an Airports 4.0 model,” according to consultants Arthur D. Little. They set out how this works:

  • Airport 1.0 was all about manual and analog processes, with a long lead-time between resource solicitation and the airport answer
  • Airport 2.0 is where many airports are today, implementing self-service through automation of some key flow processing tasks, such as bag-drop and passport check
  • Airport 3.0 is where some airports are moving to, introducing focused initiatives to leverage digitization to optimize flow monitoring and processing
  • Airport 4.0 is where airports need to be in the next 10-15 years, fully connected to all stake-holders and with strong proactivity and reactivity in response to real-time operational needs, customer requests, etc.

At the same time, the consultants add that six technology clusters need to be optimized to increase the capacity of existing facilities, lower operational expenditure and boost revenues:

  • Flow monitoring & management
  • Process automation
  • Collaborative Decision Making (air & ground operations)
  • Intelligent building management
  • Customer engagement
  • Predictive solutions