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COVID has accelerated the need for innovative new digital ways of interacting safely and efficiently with passengers, which will increasingly help to determine the airline that a passenger chooses to fly with.

Already the pandemic has sharply redefined the way airlines and airports communicate with passengers. More and more, processes in the airport are automated, where your mobile becomes your remote for travel. At the same time, rapid changes to regulations and flight schedules during travel require real-time communication with customers.

That means achieving fast and accurate communication with passengers by voice, SMS, email, webchat, or any combination of these. Customer experience and customer relationship management (CRM) systems must quickly embrace digital ‘omnichannel services’ with advanced features and connectivity. Vitally, service levels, costs, and agility must also top the agenda.

The way to go: cloud-based remote working with intelligent services

Next-generation, innovative omnichannel services expand interaction across any channel – in real-time, on-demand and seamlessly, while leveraging cloud capabilities, mobility, and social media.

They meet passenger expectations to communicate in whatever way they choose, whether at home, in a hotel or, en route via their mobiles. They enable the industry to deploy distributed and collaborative workforces, utilizing remote agents located anywhere.

Add to the mix intelligent services such as chatbots, and the game changes further. Driven by automated artificial intelligence (AI), these bots respond immediately to recognized passenger requests such as: ‘is the flight canceled and will I get a refund?’.

Disruptions, better service, and mobilized workforces

Omnichannel services give airlines and ground staff the ability to cope with traffic peaks in case of any disruptions caused by canceled or moved fights. They take care of request filtering and responding, so airlines and ground staff can optimize information flows, without needing an agent’s intervention resulting in workforce optimization.

Three considerations for airlines and airports

Our conversations with customers confirm three significant considerations for the industry’s adoption of omnichannel services.

  1. First, they give airlines the ability to create and manage virtual contact centers using remote workers, keeping workforces operational and safe. This maintains good communication with customers even if staff are not physically located in the call center.

    Simultaneously, for airports needing to optimize capacity and operations, through better communication with passengers, these services ensure passengers are fully informed and situated where they need to be, at the right time. Good interaction across many different channels boosts tenant and airline effectiveness and maximizes airport revenue opportunities.

    Network of business concept
  2. Second, customers want a solution that’s scalable. This type of service is not based on infrastructure; it’s Software-as-a-Service, requiring little investment and priced according to consumption. Omnichannel services are cloud-based, and as such, they can be delivered quickly, and they are scalable.

    We’re working with customers globally to introduce these benefits, unique in taking advantage of our global footprint. Over 560 pre-connected airports are ready for any customer to plug into SITA’s new cloud-based Omnichannel Contact Services (SITA OCS).
  3. Third, omnichannel services enhance the customer experience and safety through automation and self-service. Passengers want to be in control of their travel, with the means to stay informed continuously and communicate in real-time while integrating with social media. The 2020 SITA Air Transport IT Insights report shows that passengers prefer interaction through mobile devices and apps rather than with humans.

    Man wearing protective mask using mobile phone in airport terminal

At SITA, we examine the potential of technology at every step of the journey. Take a missing bag, for example. There are health and safety reasons for passengers not wanting to wait in line and fill out a form.

They would rather enter information at a kiosk or use an airline’s app. With omnichannel intelligence built into apps, passengers can interact with an agent for answers to any questions, anywhere, at any time. No office or onsite agent is needed; global call centers become virtual global call centers.

Airports, meanwhile, maximize their space as remote staff can still interact with passengers efficiently. If disruption happens, it’s possible to set up an app for any community with specific multichannel data usage or data exchange between key stakeholders, such as an app for a crisis center. On top of that, omnichannel services support the airport’s revenue goals.

Wherever interaction occurs, be it through bots or virtual agents, airports can recommend services and leverage promotions using social media.

Safe and touchless … with a ‘personal touch’

Omnichannel capabilities will play a huge role in the touchless journey that will prevail in our post-pandemic world. Where there was once an agent, passengers will now use omnichannel services embedded in airport hardware, such as kiosks and self-bag drops.

If they still want to talk to an agent, SITA OCS is unique in allowing them to speak via video from the kiosk. Whether in another airport location or working remotely, agents can even take control of the kiosk to perform key operations, such as bag tag printing. So passengers get live help in an environment that keeps everyone safe.

SITA has several trials underway to test new ways to interact with passengers, including an airport in Asia and airlines in Latin America, where we are personalizing experiences to suit each customer.

Time to finalize the digitization of touchpoints?

Omnichannel technologies are integral to the trend towards digitization sweeping away old ways and ushering in the new. COVID has made clear that companies need to adopt these services to succeed. Building on the trends and technologies accelerated by the pandemic, the time is right for the air transport industry to now finalize the digitization of its passenger touchpoints.

A ‘must-have’ service in our new operating environment

SITA OCS helps air transport organizations support millions of passengers every year with cloud contact center services and reliable connectivity. Our services allow seamless and safe collaboration with employees and partners, and multichannel communication with passengers.

The adoption of such services enables passengers to be served by mobilized and collaborative workforces. This isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ anymore. Once adopted, we will never want to revert to the old ways. It’s key to success as we navigate the pandemic and emerge into the new norm.

Please use our demo chatbot to learn more about SITA Omnichannel Contact Services (SITA OCS).

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SITA Omnichannel Contact Services (SITA OCS) will be launched during Q1 2021.