SITA Flex as a Service is a new API offering that brings a new era of freedom to air travel. Today airlines can reimagine a passenger experience that is entirely mobile using SITA Flex as a Service. It lets airlines offer increased engagement via the passenger’s mobile devices to enhance the whole experience – on or off the airport.
We caught up with the Product Manager, Kin Mok, who has worked tirelessly to bring this solution to market to find out more
This must be an exciting time for you and your team, after all the efforts that have gone into product development. What problems are being faced by airlines today that can be solved by SITA Flex as a Service?
Sure, but first it’s good to step back and look at the market context in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve seen an unprecedented resurgence in the number of people who want to fly. But at the same time the industry is struggling to service that demand, with fewer staff and limited resources, as well as burgeoning inflation and sky-high energy costs.
Airlines are understandably keen to return to profitable growth, after some uniquely challenging years, but progress is being slowed down, agility restricted, and innovation limited by outdated and often siloed technology systems, which are still widely used across the industry.
At the same time, savvy consumers have come to expect much more of their interactions with companies, through mobile and online platforms. As the Harvard Business Review pointed out last year, you’re no longer simply competing with competitors in your own field; you’re competing with the last best experience your customer had.
So, airlines now need to transform the passenger experience – and that’s what Flex as a Service is all about. We’re going to help airlines deliver friction-free passenger processing to improve the passenger journey and enhance passenger loyalty. By allowing airlines to speed up innovation and manage fluctuating demand, Flex as a Service will also help reduce costs and enhance operational efficiency.
So what makes Flex as a Service different from other solutions aiming to improve the passenger experience? And how does that help airlines?
The key, I think, is that we’re not just lifting and shifting on-premise applications into the cloud, but we’re truly leveraging the power of cloud-native features.In particular the ability to speed up the development of new apps, using application programming interfaces – APIs. Cloud and API-driven solutions also have the huge advantage that they allow you to simply sidestep long and complicated certification processes.
This means you can now operate transversally, across the whole ecosystem. Today you might only be able to offer your passengers services such as mobile check-in and seat selection, but in future you could also, for example, offer fast-track security or bag drop, all via your airline app.
Passengers would then be able to use their biometrics and mobile devices to move securely and seamlessly all the way from check-in to boarding. They could also be using your app to help make their favorite purchases or enjoy food and beverage facilities.
SITA Flex as a Service frees you from the constraints of fixed desks and kiosks, and lets you put your staff where they’re needed most – even off airport. It allows your developers to create apps which make the whole passenger journey better, safer, touchless, and fully-mobile. In the process you reduce costs, deal better with staff or resource shortages, and improve your sustainability.
If it’s that beneficial, why haven’t we seen anything like this happening before?
It’s partly a question of leveraging new technologies, but it’s also a question of changing mindsets. The air transport industry has historically been somewhat slow to adopt new ideas, but there’s a real drive now for digital transformation across the board, and this is just one small part of that.
With SITA Flex as a Service you can leverage the Internet of Things, the cloud, and open APIs to develop your own airline apps at your own pace, using end-to-end mobility to exploit self-service across the ecosystem. Operations can be scaled up or down as needed, to manage fluctuations in demand. And it’s already available at some 460 Flex as a Service-enabled airports.
That’s all very well, but it sounds like it’s complicated to put in place.
On the contrary, it’s remarkably simple.
SITA Flex as a Service is quick and easy to implement, as it uses the Microsoft Azure cloud platform and QR codes to interact with airport hardware. It’s quick and simple for your developers to use our APIs to create new apps that can revolutionize passenger processing. Our foundation of agile and efficient APIs are easy to use and already available. There’s no infrastructure required, and no hidden costs – once implemented, it’s a simple pay-as-you-use service.
In May 2022, in a hackathon we ran with Microsoft, a small group of developers delivered a completely touchless API-based solution to print boarding passes and bag tags directly from a mobile phone. The solution was developed in the space of just 24 hours – a process that would normally take weeks or even months.
So it’s much easier than you might think to transform your business.