IT trends to drive airport innovation

November 21, 2013 8:40 am

80% of airlines to offer mobile check-in services by 2016

The influx of passengers in and out of GCC continues is set to grow exponentially and airlines need to step up their IT and telco operations, according to ‘intelligent airport’ purveyor, SITA.

In this context, SITA is working with governments, airlines and airport authorities in the region to successfully implement solutions that have the capabilities of facilitating passenger flow, supporting immigration needs, improving airline infrastructure and streamlining IT channels and telecommunications operations.

The firm’s Intelligent Airport offering revolves around implementing systems to facilitate tracking, managing and sharing real-time information about different airport assets among its stakeholders. Claimed to be extremely effective, both financially and operationally, the end goal is to improve airport operations, as well as enhance the passenger experience.

“For example, we collaborate with airports, implementing new passenger and baggage processing systems, as well as design airport operations systems, which are improving efficiency and enhancing business intelligence. This allows airports to accommodate expansion more effectively, manage both human resources and infrastructure, and proactively control airport operations, delivering a world-class passenger journey,” says Hani El-Assaad, SITA’s president for the Mea region and India.

In terms of government involvement, the airport IT specialist has the capability to create automated, self-service e-visa programmes, to manage visa applications while purchasing tickets, and pre-clear passengers through immigration and security upon arrival. This improves processing time and efficiency for airport staff and data management, according to El-Assaad.

Satisfaction guaranteed?

The 2012 SITA Airport IT Trends Survey, conducted in partnership with Airports Council International (ACI) and Airline Business, reports that improving the passenger experience is the number one driver of IT investment by the majority (59 per cent) of the world’s airports, but for operators in the Middle East region, enhancing capacity is the primary driver.

Creating intelligent airports requires accurate, up-to-date information that can be distributed to all stakeholders, including passengers. This means pulling together more complete data on what is happening at the airport, with close collaboration across all of the airport ecosystems.

“We are starting to see this happen,” claims El-Assaad. “Airlines and airports are showing a renewed willingness to work closely together. SITA’s 2012 Airport IT Trends Survey shows that as many as 78 per cent of airports have implemented, or plan to implement, an airport operations control centre by 2015. By that time, more than two thirds will also have implemented collaborative decision making.”

Some examples:

• Aircrafts are tracked to minimise delays, fuel consumption and general turn-around time

• The mobile workforce is informed of potential changes and disruptions, and is able to react more efficiently

• Baggage is constantly tracked and traced to improve transfers even from flights that arrive late

• Runways are monitored to minimise delays and danger to crews

• Vehicles are tracked, allocated and rerouted based on real-time needs

The world in your hands

Mobile technology is already in the hands of passengers that can act as a bridge to airports’ and airlines’ own technology infrastructure. This opens up many exciting possibilities, including extending self-service throughout a passenger’s journey, providing and receiving information, and even generating new marketing-based revenue streams.

By 2016, approximately 95 per cent of airports plan to invest in mobile apps to provide status information on flights and airports, and to help passengers navigate through the airport and enjoy a much smoother and efficient travel experience, according to the latest findings on SITA’s airport IT trends 2013.

“Mobile services are easily accessible and represent a quick way to share information. The 2012 SITA Passenger Self-Service Survey found that 97 per cent of passengers surveyed at the Abu Dhabi International Airport were travelling with a mobile phone, with 49 per cent having smartphones,” says El-Assaad.

“Looking at the social media aspect, mobile devices allow for individuals to interact at all times, giving airport and airlines a platform to share news and information to a larger audience. SITA mobile software goes beyond this, by developing a specialised platform on behalf of airports and adds functionalities, such as mobile check-ins, boarding passes and general flight enquiries,” he continues.

According to SITA’s 2013 Airline IT Trends Survey, it is predicted that by 2016, 80 per cent of airlines will offer mobile check-in services – up from 53 per cent today. Passengers will use 2D boarding passes or contactless technology, such as NFC, on their phones to complete these tasks. SITA is dedicated to ensure that the solutions are well tested and designed before bringing them onto the market. “We continue to develop our NFC capabilities and look forward to implementing this software in the Middle East region and worldwide,” El-Assad concludes.