The No.1 priority

The No.1 priority

SITA’s research leaves little doubt that improving the passenger experience through self-service remains number one priority on the air transport industry’s list of technology investments.

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.

Self-service rise

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.

Airport drive

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.”

Yes, please

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.

In the coming three years airlines and airports will see a high level of activity around self-service check-in, bags ready to go, document scanning, flight re-booking, self-boarding and bag recovery. Alaska, Qantas, Air New Zealand, SAS and Hawaiian Airlines offer four or more Fast Travel options to at least 80% of their passengers.

The future is connected

SITA’s new paper ‘The future is connected’ provides insights into air travel’s rapid evolution as it takes advantage of the near-ubiquitous use of smartphones by airline passengers, the evolution of the Internet of Things, and the continuing rollout of IATA’s Fast Travel program.

Citing case histories and examples from around the world, the paper looks at how airlines and airports are embracing the opportunities provided by ever increasing self-service options.

Read the paper

Changes at Changi

Singapore’s Changi Airport Group is developing a new Terminal 4 that, when it comes online in 2017, it will feature a complete suite of self-service and automated options.

The initiative, dubbed Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST), will be supplemented by facial recognition technology to eliminate manual identification and fully automated processes and checks from check-in to boarding the aircraft


“Automation through FAST allows Changi Airport Group and our partners to make better use of manpower resources,” comments Steve Lee, CIO and SVP (Technology), Changi Airport Group.

“It also increases our efficiency and productivity in the face of growing passenger traffic. For example, manpower saved can be assigned to provide personalized services to passengers at the gates, or redeployed to support other flights.”


According to Lee, Changi Airport’s vision is called SMART – Service Management through Analytics and Resource Transformation.

“With more touchpoints and processes coming 'online', and more sensors placed where they are relevant, there will be more data available for our airport partners to know what is actually happening in the airport at any time,” he says.

Passengers are top priority in China

China’s airports are responding to the global move towards self-service and the use of mobile: 77% of them rated passenger processing as their number one priority, up from 53% the previous year.

So says the latest Airport IT Trends Survey, which represents the views of major airports in China, which together serve more than 60% of all Chinese airline passengers.

Of airports surveyed, 100% now provide self-service check-in kiosks. By 2018, 77% will offer kiosks for self bag tagging and 68% will offer unassisted self-service bag drop and boarding. 

Key area

key area of investment by the airports is in mobile services for passengers. Flight status notifications via mobile are already provided by the majority of airports (77%) and 95% plan to offer them by the end of 2018.

By then, two-thirds of airports (66%) also plan to introduce stress-reducing features, such as way finding and queue wait times.


A majority of leading airports in China expect to put in place business intelligence initiatives over the next three years, particularly in areas such as passenger flow monitoring (82%) and airport operations (72%).

Over the same period, 90% of leading airports will be tracking vehicles and other mobile assets around the airport.

Airports are also embracing social media. Already 67% of China’s major airports are using social media to communicate with passengers, double the global average. By 2018 the use of social media will be in place at 95% of airports surveyed.

How to improve the passenger experience

With the industry’s number one priority set firmly on the passenger experience, there’s an enormous amount of global activity among airlines and airports be ‘smarter at every step of the journey’.

SITA’s self-service and mobile solutions are playing a prominent role. Spanning nine stages of the journey – from booking and check-in to bag drop, boarding and border control – they’re fully aligned with IATA’s Fast Travel, InBag and Smart Security programs.

Here’s a handful of examples of areas where SITA services are making the journey a lot smarter. 


Self-service bag drop more than doubles passenger   throughput with a cost that’s less than half that of traditional check-in.



Introduction of biometric technology into passenger   processing will simplify the process at various touch points and eliminate the need for multiple travel documents checks by using passengers’ biometrics as a single token.

Day of Travel Airport App

SITA’s mobile app features airport maps with points of   interest search. It can match passengers with retail and F&B opportunities and result in significant ancillary revenue.

Beacon Services


SITA proposed a standard way to configure and deploy beacons in airports, and to make them available to airlines and industry stakeholders via Air Transport   Common Use Beacon Registry. The registry was turned over to IATA and Airports Council International during 2015.

Day of Operations BI – AirportPulse   portal


As passenger volumes continue to increase, more demand is placed on airports that require improved access to information to support decision making.   SITA’s AirportPulse portal addresses that need.

Digital Spot


Airports   are looking for ways to enhance customer intimacy while generating ancillary revenues and cost-savings. Digital Spot, a self-service platform, allows this   by providing a wide range of entertaining and cut-price content, wirelessly downloadable and payable via passengers’ own mobile devices.

Self-boarding gate


Common-use self-service boarding gates help reduce queues and boarding times while freeing up agents to focus on customer support. Biometric enablement ensures   security through true identity assurance.

Transfer kiosk

The transfer period is a source of stress for many passengers. Transfer kiosks make the process faster and easy, which enhances the passenger experience.

iBorders®    BorderAutomation ABCGates


iBorders® BorderAutomation ABCGates are immigration e-gates that allow full automation of immigration procedures for arriving and departing travelers. They offer fully secure, self-service, automated border crossing for travelers holding a   biometric credential such as an e-passport.

iBorders®    BorderAutomation ABCKiosks

Optimizing and simplifying the traveler experience while giving governments far greater control over border crossings.



BagJourney is an end-to-end baggage tracking application enabling users to follow the handling of their bags, in real-time. It‘s available for use on the web and for mobile devices.

WorldTracer Kiosk


WorldTracer is a fully automated service for lost and mishandled  baggage based on a single and shared database. WorldTracer Kiosk responds to the trend of empowering passengers and letting them take more control over their journey.

WorldTracer Tablet


For a better passenger experience staff must be fully mobile – being where passengers are, when passengers need them.