Catherine Mayer, VP SITA, reports on the 2017 Passenger Travel Experience | SITA

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Using IT to create a remarkable passenger experience

Published on  21 March by Catherine Mayer , Vice President, SITA
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The focus at this year’s PTE was how we can use technology to supplement the human touch in delivering real value to our passengers .

This year’s Passenger Terminal Expo in Amsterdam was perhaps the biggest and best of all – celebrating its 20th anniversary and still delivering true value to all who participated.

From the moment you walked into the exhibition hall you could see that technology has become the primary driver for our industry. The majority of stands included IT solutions from biometrics, and e-gates, to integrated solutions and robotics. We have come a long way since 1997’s first PTE in Hamburg where IT was limited to a handful of exhibition booths.

There was a “buzz” in the air with so many people meeting, discussing and exchanging ideas in both the conference sessions as well as the exhibit area. An energetic atmosphere confirming that our industry continues to make significant contributions to the global economy while bringing people and businesses together. 

The one common theme throughout the event was putting the customer first by leveraging technology to supplement the human touch. It didn’t matter which conference track you attended or what booth you stopped at, they were all focused on ensuring a safe, secure, seamless and enjoyable journey using technology and the tremendous amount of useful data these systems are producing. So much has changed since the first common use passenger processing systems, integrated flight information display systems, and airport operational databases.

This year in addition to being a Co-Chair in the Customer Service and Passenger Experience track, I also moderated a lively discussion on day one about customer transformation in a digital world with leaders from Singapore, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt and Munich airports. The dialogue confirmed that it is not a matter of if we are experiencing a digital transformation but rather where our companies are in the evolution, and how do we, as an industry, embrace the change.

 I then gave a presentation at the end of the conference (always a difficult time slot so thank you to the 100+ who showed up!) about meeting passenger expectations using technology.  And while I believe the presentations and exhibits at the conference confirmed that airports and airlines are doing a good job, there are a few areas where passengers would like our industry to respond faster. These include self-boarding, wayfinding and providing personalized, accurate information at the right time. 

Harnessing and applying machine learning to the immense amount of data available is what will enable us to deliver this personalized and relevant customer experience. Already many airports, airlines and vendors at PTE were focused on how to use data to eliminate disruptions, providing relevant content to digital devices, delivering true value to the customer.

I am confident that by next year this event will provide more insight into how we can continue to drive the digitalization of our industry using the vast amounts of data available. I also expect to see more robotics, chatbots and mixed reality exhibits, all delivering an enriched passenger experience no matter how or where in the world we choose to travel.

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