Airlines and airports ramp up digital solutions

SINGAPORE, 6 February 2023: Airports and airlines faced with increased disruptions, baggage mountains, and staff shortages are ramping up investments in technology to digitalise operations and more self-service options.

SITA’s 2022 Air Transport IT Insights Report, published last week, reveals that chief information officers in airports want to ensure operations are agile and resilient, with IT solutions crucial to their success post-pandemic.

 This has spurred an acceleration of digitalisation, with airlines and airports looking to crucial technology solutions to fortify their operations against disruption while automating the passenger experience.

The industry’s IT spending is projected to continue its steady year-on-year growth trend since 2020 to support this digitalisation push, with 96% of airlines and 93% of airports expecting their IT spending to stay the same or increase in 2023 compared to 2022.

Last year airline and airport IT spending rose to an estimated USD37 billion and USD 6.8 billion, respectively.

SITA CEO David Lavorel said: “Air travel has recovered faster from the pandemic than anyone in the industry had initially expected, particularly in Europe and the US. While the recovery is welcome, airports and airlines have found themselves on the back foot with staff and resource shortages. This has put a strain on operations, increasing the risk of congestion, delays, cancellations and mishandled baggage. Digitalisation is key to addressing these challenges, providing more scalability and flexibility.”

Digitalising operations to achieve more with less

Airlines emphasise IT tools to manage irregular operations and provide the best passenger experience possible, even amid staff shortages. Over the next three years, 90% or more of airlines are investing in IT service management enhancement and disruption warning systems, as well as business intelligence initiatives for aircraft turnaround management, passenger processing, and baggage processing.

Business intelligence solutions are also at the forefront of airport IT investment priorities, with 93% or more planning business intelligence initiatives for asset management and flight operations by 2025.

The emphasis on agility, adaptability to disruption, and prompt communication with customers and stakeholders are clear; by 2025, 50% of airports will implement automated predictive alerts before flight disruption events and business intelligence initiatives to scale operations based on demand.

Streamlining with smart technologies

Both airlines and airports are investing in key technologies to smooth the passenger experience across every step of the journey, to help curb bottlenecks and allow redistribution of key staff resources to focus on more complex tasks. Biometrics and self-service technologies are seeing major emphasis.

Airlines have identified self-service technologies as key to helping manage irregular operations, and this remained their top investment priority in 2022, with touchless solutions and biometric ID management following closely.

To support effective baggage management and empower passengers following a period of significant disruption, a majority of airlines plan to provide real-time baggage tracking information to passengers by 2025.

Airports similarly prioritise self-service initiatives, emphasising self-check-in and self-bag drop, with 86% planning implementation by 2025.

Airports’ implementation of a secure single biometric token across all touchpoints has surged from just 3% in 2021 to 39% in 2022, with over half planning implementation over the next three years. This signals a strong commitment to the next-generation travel experience where passengers can breeze through the airport using their face as their boarding pass.

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(Source: SITA)