A great deal of complexity still lies behind the diverse sources of flight and airport information and the spaghetti junction of data channels employed to get the right information and services to the right passenger at the right time.
In this often siloed world – where aviation players are desperately trying to increase revenues, improve operational efficiency and reduce costs without impacting passenger experience ─ it makes sense that any initiative to unravel the intricacy of this data labyrinth should be a priority within the aviation community.
Since 2011, the Airports Council International (ACI) has been beavering away at this very task by redefining and reshaping the framework for information sharing in the industry.
The goal of the ACI’s Airport Community Recommended Information Services (ACRIS) working group is to deliver the industry standards necessary to improve information exchange between airports, airlines and other aviation partners for passenger and baggage end-to-end processes.
To achieve it, the group has recommended a Service Orientated Architecture for this data exchange. In layman’s terms, that means presenting relevant aviation data and services as reusable business components that will make them more accessible to stakeholders and provide a quicker time to market for end user applications.
While defining new standards for sharing information, the ACRIS model also recognizes the technical constraints of existing investments in IT made by stakeholders.
Seamless Travel is one of the ACRIS projects and SITA is well positioned to be a major contributor. The goal of the Seamless Travel initiative is to provide real time, accurate and consistent information from a single trusted source to passengers in the context of a B2C environment.
This information will include flight data, infrastructure data such as routing for transfer passengers and wait times, and operational data such as weather conditions, strikes, and emergencies.
Airport and flight data is gathered and maintained in a variety of repositories including Operational Databases (AODB), airline systems or other databases. SITA also maintains its own AODB.
The Aviation Information Data Exchange (AIDX) is a standard defined by International Air Transport Association, Air Transport Association and Airports Council International (IATA/ATA/ACI) for exchanging flight data between airlines, airports, vendors and systems. This standard is used by some data systems while others provide their own proprietary interfaces.
While there’s some aggregation being done by a few data providers, the reality is that there’s no single, generic interface into the multiple data sources across global airports for the purposes of a passenger app that could be used across an airline’s route network.
SITA, an active member of the ACRIS working group, is rising to the challenge. Not only is SITA helping define standards for some Seamless Travel use cases, but it’s also developing back-end links into all of these disparate data interfaces, and providing a single channel into this multitude of data sources across global airports.
This would mean a single Application Programming Interface (API) end-point for flight information and enable ACRIS to offer APIs to airports who wish to become ‘Seamless Travel’ compliant.
The SITA FlightInfo API, part of the Day of Travel suite of APIs available via the Developer.aero platform, currently provides flight information from a subset of these sources to airlines and airports.
Indeed, the FlightInfo API is already fulfilling its role in orchestrating data from a number of airport databases across a European route network for a major airline.
This transparency offered by immediate access to real-time, reliable information such as flight status, gate information, transfers, wait times and baggage claim will ultimately benefit passengers by giving them more control over their own travel experiences.
This would be the case even under disruptive circumstances, and even before they arrive at the airport, allowing them to make decisions based on the actual events unfolding at the airport or with the flight schedule.
And the information flow is two way. For the airport or airline, the Seamless Travel project aims to collect more information about the passenger, including behavior and preferences, which will allow them to develop new communication channels to the passenger, offering the right services to the right passenger at the right time.