A balancing act - security and the seamless journey | SITA

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A balancing act - security and the seamless journey

Published on  27 September by Sébastien Fabre , Vice President, Solutions at Airport, SITA
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With demand for air travel over the next two decades set to double, air travel has never been more popular. As an industry, we must deal with the reverse face of that success — the spread of terrorism and threats to our security as we travel. That has necessitated more thorough security checks for passengers and more time queuing, the very notion of which runs right against the principle of the seamless journey.

Passengers have had enough of queuing

Research in IATA’s Global Passenger Survey shows that 21% of travelers were prepared to queue for 10–20 minutes in 2012, yet just three years later only 7% said they were prepared to queue for that length of time. It’s queuing that makes passengers most dissatisfied at the airport, according to a paper by researchers for the University of Austria (chart below).

Passengers are happiest where there’s self-service and automation

These sentiments are echoed by SITA’s Passenger IT Trends Survey. It shows that passengers are at their happiest where there’s seamless self-service and automation, from booking and bag-drop, to border control and boarding. What’s clear from the survey is that security and passport control are the areas of highest dissatisfaction (chart below).

Satisfaction of tech vs non-tech users at each step of the journey

2017 rating on a scale from 0 to 10 (most satisfied)

High on the collective agenda

Government bodies recognize the importance of moving passengers swiftly through a secure airport environment — including immigration, customs and those responsible for regulating and controlling landside spaces for security purposes. These bodies also increasingly understand that it’s critical to work together in an integrated way in order to achieve a seamless journey.  Our CEO has spoken recently about how collaboration is key to deliver secure and easy travel.

The upcoming IATA Global Airport and Passenger Symposium (GAPS) will add momentum, bringing together airlines, airports, governments and authority representatives, as well as technology and solution providers.

It cites the primary drivers of change as being data-driven technology solutions. And it too emphasizes the need to collaborate, with plans to assemble stakeholders to map out the future. High on the agenda is the seamless journey, supported by innovation in identity management which offers the possibility to revolutionize airport processes.

Queue-busting, biometrics and collaboration

It’s a SITA mission to facilitate industry collaboration, to exploit digital technologies that link stakeholder organizations and operations. An area of great interest right now is biometrics used for identity management, which is proving a vital part in creating the secure seamless passenger journey. Our latest industry insights show how both airlines and airports are investing in this technology.

We have some great examples of biometrics in action using SITA Smart Path™ with solutions and trials that require cooperation among several industry players, such as Australia’s Brisbane Airport and Air New Zealand, British Airways and Orlando Airport, and an award-winning JetBlue and the US Customs and Border Protection project. In all cases, we’re seeing the ‘queue-busting’ capabilities of biometrics, which can vastly reduce passenger processing times at airports.

What’s noticeable, as I said, is that these end-to-end solutions demand multi-stakeholder collaboration among those responsible for certain stages of the journey.

Fluidity with security?  The need to integrate

If we look ahead, we know that airports of the future will be fully self-service. But to ensure fluidity as well as security at the airport there’s an increased need for integration and the bringing together of the multiple parties involved. Biometric identity is a big step in that direction. SITA’s approach is to take a ‘whole journey view’, integrating processes and stakeholders end-to-end. This means enabling passengers to use their biometric from check-in … all the way to boarding.

In addition, of course, there’s the need to couple identity management solutions with the behind-the-scenes security intelligence data used by governments, such as Passenger Name Record (PNR), advance passenger information (API) and interactive API.

This sees governments putting into place systems, such as SITA's iBorders, to gain an understanding of who wants to enter, leave or transit through their countries. It provides the capability to stop high-risk travelers, relieving front-end staff at the border to expedite the low risk majority.

We can now envisage a better journey

But it’s easy to see why the industry is enthusiastic about biometrics. Already we have witnessed the ability to improve security oversight, speed up passenger flow and reduce the number of resources needed – so staff on the ground can spend time focusing on the passengers who need help. 

It’s only the beginning, and obviously, the industry will need to work in unison, ensuring biometric standards and common approaches. But it’s an exciting time. We can now envisage the day when we strike a balance between security and facilitation.

For more

SITA ID management white paper: ‘Biometrics for better travel'

IATA OneID: building consensus in a multi-stakeholder collaboration


This blog is based on an article published in the Journal of Airport Management by David S. Menzel, Government Markets, SITA; and Jennifer Hesterman, Watermark Risk Management International, LLC.

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