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Airline and airport CIOs embrace artificial intelligence

Location: Las Vegas
06 September 2017

Disruption management, chatbots and mobile services key focus for industry’s CIOs

Airlines and airports are embracing new technologies and turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to support their customer service. Over the next three years 52% of airlines plan major AI programs or R&D and 45% of airports will invest in R&D in the next five years, according to the SITA 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights.

Airlines are looking at how technology can help minimize the impact of disruption on the passenger experience and their business. Over the next three years 80% of them plan to invest in major programs or R&D into prediction and warning systems, which rely heavily on AI.

Another technology that is catching the attention of the industry is chatbots. Today, 14% of airlines and 9% of airports already use chatbots. The report shows however, that there is significant appetite among air transport CIOs to embrace this technology over the next three years. By 2020, 68% of airlines and 42% of airports plan to adopt AI-driven chatbot services.

SITA’s report also shows that mobile app development is a top priority among airlines and airports. Over the next three years 94% of airlines and 82% of airports plan major mobile programs or R&D. The main area of focus is in the commercialization of their mobile services with airlines looking to boost both direct and ancillary sales via their apps. In fact, airlines expect sales via their mobile apps to double by 2020 and reach 17% of their total sales. Streamlining services into one single app to deliver a seamless experience is a priority for almost every airline (94%) and a high priority for more than half (58%).

Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA, speaking at the Future Travel Experience conference in Las Vegas, said: “We know that passengers prefer to use technology and when it is well designed it can really improve the passenger experience. Airlines and airports are investing in AI and mobile programs to make services even better for the passenger, supporting sales and providing customer support, particularly during times of disruption.

“The industry is using a healthy mix of in-house and outsourced development which will combine expert and industry-specific knowledge with emerging approaches to tech offerings.”

Nearly three quarters of airlines use in-house developers for their passenger apps but 42% also use bespoke developers or large tech companies. In contrast, 46% of airports develop their passenger apps in-house and the same proportion use external developers.

Airports plan to use chatbots for services such as notifications and airport guides. They are also looking to beacons and sensors to help provide context and location-aware services. SITA’s research shows that 40% consider this area a ‘high priority’ for app development and a further 43% consider it a ‘priority’. Airports clearly recognize the opportunity to provide useful and relevant mobile services to passengers to optimize time spent at the airport.

SITA’s IT Trends are well established as the global benchmark research for the air transport industry. Senior IT executives at the top airlines and airports took part in the research earlier this year. The 2017 results once again provide a clear insight on the air transport industry’s IT strategic thinking and developments.

FTE Global 2017 is taking place in Las Vegas, 6-8 Sept. On day one, Jim Peters will chair the Personalization Symposium where AI, Machine Learning, chatbots, digital personal assistants, apps, big data and privacy, will be discussed with speakers from Aeromexico, Microsoft, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Port of Seattle, Salesforce and more. Several innovations likely to redefine the way we travel will be demonstrated at SITA’s booth including:

  • Robotics: “Leo”, a fully autonomous and self-propelling baggage robot;
  • Mixed reality: A new way to visualize and interact with an airport’s operational data using HoloLens;

Cloud: Next-generation passenger processing for any airline, at any airport, on any device

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