SITA would like to digitize our air travel in the future

This week, the IT industry leader responsible for the aerospace industry SITA invited media representatives and aviation professionals to Lisbon to share the latest progress on various projects. I was also able to attend and received some new insights into the digitization of the aviation industry during the 1.5 days of the conference. First of all: Both flight and accommodation were taken over by SITA. However, this did not affect the content of this article at any time.

But first I would like to write a short summary about the provider for all those who have not heard of SITA yet. Simply put, SITA can be thought of as an IT service provider to the aviation industry. The company works with (almost) all airlines and airport operators in the world to enable a consistent approach to flight IT. Employed are 4,700 employees in 197 countries.

One of the technologies that SITA provides is a system that allows passengers to get from check-in to the plane using their boarding pass and digital face scan. Specifically, this is already used in Miami and at an airport in Greece. Here you can find our coverage.

One thing in particular became clear in the various events of the conference: The current focus is on the further digitization of the business in order to achieve even greater customer satisfaction. To this end, airlines and airports invested about 50 billion US dollars in 2018. So far, this measure has actually achieved the desired goal: According to a survey, customer satisfaction rose by 20 percent compared to the previous year.

And that's not all. Both airlines and airports are investing an increasing share of their revenues in the IT infrastructure. Expenditure in 2016 was $ 28 billion, or about 4.39 percent of airport revenue, and is expected to grow to $ 61 billion this year (equivalent to 6.26 percent of revenue). Especially in the areas of cloud services, cybersecurity and business intelligence (ie the collection, processing and use of data) are in the foreground.

The term I heard most during my stay was customer satisfaction. After all, you want tourists, commuters or other air travelers to come back as soon as possible and at short notice. However, as airports can not be expanded arbitrarily (for example, because of the lack of space), one sees great potential in the digitization of the same. In the future, the live location of every piece of luggage, the waiting times at the security checkpoints or during boarding and the flow of visitors should be recorded to the minute. Customers can then access this information via apps and plan their stay optimally.

But not everyone finds the digitization at the airport an open ear. Especially non-technical travelers are usually dissatisfied with their journey, as people who are familiar with the matter. Depending on the process, the satisfaction varies by 0.7 percent (in the case of baggage) up to unbelievable 8.6 percent (when picking up the luggage). What I personally regretted was that the "older" groups (ie the people who crossed the 40-50) were hardly an issue. The focus was on the younger generation.

Satisfaction varies according to technology affinity (Image: SITA).
Because what brings it, if Grandpa at 75 years before a digital face scan check in and despair on the touch screen? It may be that digitization has a much simpler process for many, but people outside the main target group should be respected.

I was able to address this topic in a personal interview with Michael Urbaner, Vice President Sales for Central Europe. You can find this in the next week in a separate article on our blog.

In addition to all the functions, privacy should also play a role.
Conclusion: Digitization at airports worldwide brings both opportunities, but also disadvantages and risks. What could be nicer than getting from the check-in to the plane quickly and easily, and always keeping up-to-date with the current status of your own luggage? The networking not only brings more comfort, but also significantly more hygiene (eg through sensors in sanitary facilities).

New potential is also opening up for the airlines. Engines are networked and, in addition to lower consumption, which has a positive impact on society and the environment, also provide new data that ground control can use to handle follow-up traffic. Especially the cyber security aspect will play an increasingly important role here in the coming years.

Nevertheless, one should not only keep an eye on digital networking, but also question more positively the positive aspects. What happens if the internet goes down temporarily? What happens if Grandpa can not handle the machine? What happens if an attacker has access to the infrastructure? Because next to the best case, there should always be a plan B, if something is not planned and networked runs.

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