The vast majority of airlines and airports are planning to invest in information and communications technologies to make the journey an ever smarter and more seamless experience for passengers.
So says a recent SITA paper, ‘The future is connected,’ which calls on research across several sources, including SITA’s Airline, Airport and Passenger IT Trends Surveys.
Over the next three years investments will be directed to more mobile services for passengers, as well as the delivery of an increasing number of self-service processes.
In the same timeframe, Fast Travel – the International Air Transport Association (IATA) program to provide passengers with a self-service suite at key steps of the journey – will reach a critical threshold, says the paper.
The momentum for ever more self-service options is well underway. In the coming three years, airlines and airports plan a high level of self-service activity across a growing range of the journey’s steps.
They include Fast Travel’s six focus areas of check-in, bags ready to go, document scanning, flight re-booking, self-boarding and bag recovery.
What’s striking is that airport bosses worldwide are pushing ahead as rapidly as possible with their investment priorities focused on technologies that speed up passenger processing, reduce queues and keep passengers better informed.
In so doing, they’re opening up opportunities for incremental revenues. See ‘Prepare for tomorrow’.
At the same time, they’ve seen their budgets increase by 16.4%, far outstripping revenue growth over the same period of just 5.2%, according to the latest Airport IT Trends Survey.
And it looks as if the vast majority would get even more to spend – with global IT spend at more than US$ 8.7 billion for 2015, and approximately two-thirds of airport bosses expecting the same for 2016.
That bodes well for the connected passenger experience of the future, facilitated by self-service processes across every step of the journey.
“In the next three years, more passengers will be enjoying seamless self-service travel experiences as airlines and airports scale up their self-service implementations across more stages of the passenger's journey,” says Nigel Pickford, Director Market Insight, SITA.
“The key driver for increasing passengers’ use of self-service processes will be their ability to access or process these services on their mobile devices.”
We know from SITA surveys that the market is there. This year, there’s a 39% increase in passenger usage of mobile devices for flight booking, 79% for check-in, 110% for boarding pass.
And it’s global: while SITA’s 2015 Passenger IT Trends Survey found that more than half of passengers surveyed in Brazil checked in at a desk, 24% said they would use mobile check-in next time.
In Mexico, use of mobile check-in is expected to double this year. In the US, almost three-quarters of passengers want to receive flight updates via their mobiles and two-thirds want bag collection information.
More than nine out of ten passengers are interested in flight updates via their mobile, using their phone to provide access as well as a find their way round the airport.
Whoosh... that's fast
Driving the trends, IATA’s Fast Travel program is clearly moving quickly and successfully towards its 2020 objective.
The program is designed to create standards and recommended practices so that airports and airlines can offer 80% of passengers a complete range of self-service options across six areas of the journey by the end of the decade – in the process delivering annual savings of up to US$ 2.1 billion for the industry.
For example, Alaska, Qantas, Air New Zealand, SAS and Hawaiian Airlines already offer four or more Fast Travel options to at least 80% of their passengers, according to the paper.
With the industry’s priorities firmly on the passenger experience, the pace is quickening. More than half of airlines and airports now plan to be using self-boarding gates by 2018, while airports are expected to move quickly to deploy access information services via kiosks.
Bag self-service and recovery services are evolving rapidly too, with self-service lost bag registration expected to be established swiftly.
What’s evident is that over the next three years, self-service will pass the point of critical mass and be the mainstream, with airlines and airports seeing mobile as the key channel in creating the smarter journey.