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Where's the smart money going?

Published on  22 November by Ilya Gutlin , President, Air Travel Solutions
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IATA’s latest 20-year air passenger forecast expects 7.8 billion passengers to travel in 2036, almost double the 4 billion passengers set to fly in 2017.

On the surface this is great news for airlines and airports and will deliver numerous benefits for the global economy through increased trade and innovation, but there are many challenges to overcome to realize this growth.

Perhaps the biggest challenges will be how air transport infrastructure can meet this demand while still providing a secure journey and striving to improve the passenger experience, at the same time as ensuring that aviation meets its environmental obligations.


As highlighted by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, the solution will not come from increasing complexity or simply expanding capacity at airports. The key will be harnessing the power of new technology to move activity off-airport, streamline processes and improve efficiency.

This very much aligns with the principles behind IATA’s and ACI’s latest initiative, NEXTT (New Experience in Travel and Technologies), which – given the growth of air travel – cites the need for a common industry vision to enhance the on-the-ground transport experience and guide industry investments.

Looking at the current investment priorities for airlines and airports from SITA’s 2017 research, it is encouraging that key airline and airport initiatives are well aligned. The industry has started on the path to digital transformation which will facilitate the efficiencies and improvements needed to manage the doubling of passenger numbers in 20 years.

Digital transformation evidence

Evidence that digital transformation has begun is coming through. Nearly all airlines and airports plan investment to enhance operations or improve efficiency through business intelligence and cloud services in the near term and around half plan to assess the potential wider capabilities of Artificial Intelligence. 

Many industry best practice initiatives, headed by IATA and ACI, will help pave the way for digital transformation. Airlines and airports indicate common goals to invest in a range of crucial areas where progress is urgently needed, such as baggage tracking and identity management.

Self-service options will become the norm and this will further ease the burden on infrastructure and resources. As the proportion of ‘mobile-friendly’ passengers grows, around 90% of airlines and airports are maintaining investment in mobile passenger services.

This bodes well for the future enablement of the IATA and ACI NEXTT program. With well aligned technology investment priorities, airlines and airports will set solid foundations to help realize the goals of this industry program, to integrate systems and improve operations in the most secure, effective and sustainable manner as air travel doubles in the next 20 years.

Having always played an enabling role in the industry's strategic programs, SITA will continue to be deeply involved in digitizing the air transport industry's ecosystem.

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