Aviation spends big on IT for improved travel

Sunday November 10 2019

Heathrow airport

Unused check-in desks are pictured in a near-deserted departure area at Heathrow airport Terminal 5 in west London on September 9, 2019, as the airline's first-ever pilots' strike began. PHOTO | BEN STANSALL | AFP 

PAULINE KAIRU
By PAULINE KAIRU
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The aviation industry spent a record $50 billion on information technology to refine passenger satisfaction and enhance management of processes at airports and in aircraft in 2018.

The Air Transport IT Insights 2019 report, released on November 5, in Lisbon, Portugal, shows a sharp increase in airport and airline total IT spend as a percentage of revenue.

Airports stepped up their IT spend by 6.06 per cent of revenue in 2018, and airlines by 4.84 per cent of their revenue, according to the report compiled by SITA, a multinational information technology company providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry worldwide. The report was launched at the SITA EURO IT summit in Lisbon.

The increase in IT spend has been hailed as the highest in the industry so far, after several years of virtually flat growth.

“The good news is that the growing investment in automating the passenger journey means the industry is providing a faster, more pleasant airport experience,” said Matthys Serfontein, SITA president.

The report says significant resources from the investments have gone into automation of the passenger journey, a revolutionary step amid rising numbers.

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The industry also recorded positive growth in customer satisfaction by reducing pile-ups at airports through quicker passenger processing times.

“This is a real success story for automating the passenger journey particularly at a time when we expect numbers to double over the next 20 years, with physical airport infrastructure struggling to keep pace,” Mr Serfontein said.

“Technology is key to alleviating the industry’s capacity crunch and avoiding negative impacts on passengers.”

Investment in intelligence to provide real-time and historic views of airport and airline operations helped operators proactively manage processes, from baggage and passenger flows to aircraft turnaround and the allocation of key assets.

Figures published by SITA show that 60 per cent of airline chief information officers (CIOs) and 63 per cent of their airport counterparts recorded up to a 20 per cent year-on-year improvement in passenger satisfaction.

The report says 45 per cent of airline CIOs recorded up to 20 per cent improvement in the turnover rate at which passengers were processed.

These strong returns on investment in technology were also seen at airports, where 44 per cent recorded quicker passenger processing times.

Both airlines and airports also recorded an improvement in their business performance. SITA projections for 2019 show that these investments will continue to grow.

Christelle Laverriere, head of SITA Insights, said that Business Intelligence (BI) and biometrics for ID management were some of the top technology trends among emerging technology investments for airports, while cybersecurity, cloud services, BI, common use infrastructure and self-service processes topped airport investment priorities.

“The vast majority of airports are leveraging BI to improve passenger processing. The next few years will see biometrics move out of small scale experimentation and into the mainstream. In the meantime, airports are turning their attention to further reducing passenger frustration by providing personalised communications over mobile devices, including wait time alerts,” Mr Laverriere said.

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