Airline executives are eyeing a future where passengers demand seamless travel and more control over the experience, and where digital technology delivers both, a report from air travel technology provider SITA.
The findings were included in SITA’s 2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age report, which said the world’s population was coming to be dominated by members of the “post-digital” generation that have grown up using interactive online technology as part of their lives.
The report noted that in 2025 about two-thirds of the global population would have been born from 1981 onwards, the generation with greater exposure to computers, tablets and smart phones, compared with previous generations who were more comfortable with face-to-face or person-to-person telephone communications.
SITA chief executive Barbara Dalibard said this demographic shift was bringing an expectation to be able to use technology in all aspects of life, including travel.
“This will have a profound impact on how passengers interact with airports and airlines by 2025,” Dalibard says.
The survey found that 83 per cent of airport and airline IT leaders expected this demographic change to be the most important influence on their passenger management strategies by the middle of the coming decade.
In the report’s introduction, Dalibard said modern travellers no longer wanted their journeys to be compartmentalised when they changed airlines, moved between airports, between border agencies and interacted with other stakeholders.
“They expect travel to be seamless, where every step fits neatly with the next, delivered as a single, unified experience,” Dalibard said.
At the same time they wanted more autonomy.
“They want self-service to manage their own journey through the airport and progressively more responsive mobile devices and apps, plus chatbots – supported with the right information,” Dalibard said.
The report said traveller satisfaction was greater for passengers making use of digital technology at every stage of the journey, with the greatest difference in passport control, dwell time, on board experience and baggage collection.
It also singled out biometric recognition as a key focus for the industry to enable seamless transition to be extended beyond a single airport into an entire end-to-end journey.
“The ambition is to adopt a single, persistent digital identity that is secure, recognized globally and, most importantly, allows the passenger to maintain control over that identity,” the report said.
That in turn would require cooperation between airlines and national security agencies, as well as the trust of all in the chain.
“Biometric technology – along with mobile solutions and AI will be critical to creating a secure identity verification solution that everyone – from the passenger to the border agent – trusts,” the report said.
Dalibard said the industry needed to work together to develop and agree on a digital identity that not only provided passengers control over their identity but was universally accepted, just as passports were today.
“This cannot be done in isolation and requires a high degree of collaboration to make it a reality.”
In June 2019, SITA announced it had secured a contract extension to roll out new checkin and baggage drop kiosks at Melbourne Airport.
The hybrid check-in areas would offer airlines the flexibility of having a mix of self-service and assisted kiosks that can be configured depending on the time on the time of day and type of passenger travelling.