How strong investment in digitization will transform the passenger journey | SITA

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How strong investment in digitization will transform the passenger journey

Published on  20 December by Matthys Serfontein , President, Air Travel Solutions, SITA
1 comment(s)

Secure and seamless travel are paramount to the future of the air transport industry. So it’s really reassuring that airlines and airports are investing in future-focused technologies that will provide their organizations with the competitive edge needed to succeed in 2019 and beyond. And the metric of success clearly centers around improving the passenger journey from start to finish.

An eye on the budget

The good news is that overall investment in technology in the air transport industry is rising and future investment predictions are strong. SITA’s 2018 Air Transport IT Insights research shows that 76% of airlines expect an increase in their capital budget in 2019, and 66% foresee a rise in their operating budget next year. This contrasts with last year when just 32% of airlines said that they would increase their capital budgets and 42% would increase operating budgets.

Budget priorities in air transport

As part of this investment growth, priorities include improving mobile passenger services, intensifying cybersecurity capabilities, and advancing passenger identity management. New and emerging technologies – such as biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing and blockchain – are also areas of focus. Cloud services are still high on the agenda too, with 80% of airlines and airports having a major cloud program in place. These will all contribute to the ultimate goal of the seamless passenger journey.

Digital transformation: it’s all about automating processes

The digitization of processes will help achieve the industry’s goal of creating a truly connected and ‘walkthrough’ passenger experience.

Mobile flight confirmations are now universal. Over 40% of airports have also implemented real-time monitoring using sensors, helping to publish wait-times and route-to-gate information to passengers on the move. Smart mobile updates are being used for baggage notifications as well, reflecting efforts to comply with IATA Resolution 753. This is designed to further reduce baggage mishandling by putting in place cross-industry tracking for every bag’s journey. But these investments are just the beginning of the trend towards digitization.

Self-service at airports: pivotal

Airlines are now looking to invest more in self-service at airports to tackle passenger disruption and ID management.

More self-service investment at airports

% of airlines planning major programs / R&D by 2021 

Our research reveals that 88% of airlines have plans to invest in this area by 2021. Some 68% have a major program in place and 20% are planning research and development projects. 71% of airlines have also ring-fenced investment for ‘biometric identity management solutions’.

The most commonplace of these is identity verification at self-service check-in kiosks, which is now used by 41% of airports. However, 74% have plans to deploy the technology by the end of 2021. Self-boarding gates using biometrics and ID documentation, such as passports, will also become prevalent over the next three years with 59% of airports and 63% of airlines on target to use them.

Industry investment in these advancements will continue to enhance and streamline the passenger experience, while helping airlines and airports worldwide meet current and emerging regulations from government and border agencies.

Investing in new technologies

Airlines are also investing in new technologies that will offer them both strategic and operational benefits in both the short and long term, notably the Internet of Things (IoT), AI and blockchain.

IoT: fast and furious catch up

In 2017, few airlines were undertaking initiatives enabled by IoT. But in 2018, IoT climbed up the agenda, seeing double digit growth. Now, 31% use IoT for monitoring fuel and engines, up from 18% last year, for example. We expect this investment trend to continue with other use cases being explored, such as connecting mobile workforces.

AI: attracting investment

AI is widely seen as part of the air transport industry’s ‘fabric for the future’, from security clearance systems and autonomous vehicles to AI-powered robots to provide passenger information. According to SITA’s Air Transport Industry Insights, a staggering 84% of airlines are planning major AI or R&D programs by 2021, up from 52% in last year’s survey. Airports are investing in AI too, with 61% planning a major program or R&D over the next three years, up from up from just 34% in 2017.

Initially, however, airlines and airports are planning to invest in AI in very different ways. Airlines are looking to the potential of AI for virtual agents and chatbots with 85% planning to use the technology by 2021. While around 79% of airports are currently using, or planning to use, AI for predictive analysis to improve their operational efficiencies.

Blockchain: gaining momentum

Blockchain, which holds promise for streamlining processes such as reducing the need for multiple ID checks, is gradually gaining momentum. Although only one in 10 airlines currently has a blockchain initiative, 59% are now undertaking pilot or research programs. Cognitive computing and wearable technology are also garnering interest from airports and airlines alike.  

Embracing technology partnerships

In tandem with investing in technology, airlines and airports have been quick to see the opportunities that partnerships with third party technology specialists can bring in accelerating both transformation and innovation. We are seeing the trend of moving away from innovation in isolation, collaborating not just with tech specialists but also across relevant stakeholders group to transform interdependent processes, operations and ultimately the passenger journey.

Approaching half of airlines (42%) have already put an innovation collaboration strategy in place and 27% are working on developing such a strategy. The most common technologies being targeted are IoT, followed by biometrics, cybersecurity and AI. Airports are also establishing innovation partnerships to develop their capacities in new technologies, the most common they are partnering around currently are IoT (37%), cybersecurity (33%) and biometrics (27%).

A digitized future

Our research shows that airports and airlines are clearly recognizing the importance of technology and this presents several opportunities to solve real business challenges. They understand the need to have a dedicated strategy in place to respond to and keep pace with technological developments to automate and innovate.

This is vital. The air transport industry will need to continue to collaborate and invest in such technological advancements if it is to truly create a smart customer experience, delivering on the dream of the seamless passenger journey.

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  • Published on 21 December 2018 02:59 PM by Olivier Taverney
    Thank you Mathhys, We all want to experience seamless passenger journey when travelling, but we may not always realized how important the collaborations and the investments required in such technological advancements are. Regards, Olivier
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