Airlines and airports are expected to spend some US$61.4 billion on information technology and telecom (IT&T) in calendar 2019, new figures show.
The 2019 Air Transport IT Insights report from air travel technology provider SITA said airline budgets on IT&T were forecast to total US$49.6 billion in calendar 2019. This was a 21.5 per cent increase from the US$40.8 billion spent in the prior year.
Further, the report said travellers were already reaping the benefits, with 60 per cent of airline chief information officers (CIO) saying there had been an improvement in satisfaction rates among their passengers of up to 20 per cent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, 45 per cent of airline CIOs surveyed said there had been an improvement in processing speed of up to 20 per cent.
“A key focus of airline technology investments is to deliver an ever-more efficient passenger journey by reducing queues, speeding the transition through airport processes and providing better information to travellers,” the report said.
“Airlines continue to strive towards a fully self-serviced passenger journey by rolling out automated self-boarding.
“The introduction of biometric identity at the departure gate and self-boarding over the next few years will bring about the next phase of efficiency.”
Looking ahead, the SITA report said airlines were increasingly focused on personalized services, as well as artificial intelligence (AI)-driven chatbot services.
“The direction of airline IT over the longer term is strongly bound to what AI can deliver,” the report said.
“Today’s key applications include virtual agents, chatbots, and predictive analytics, but as AI enters the mainstream, realising the potential of this emerging technology promises to bring many exciting possibilities.”
Meanwhile, airports were also expected to grow IT&T budgets by double digits.
The report said airports were tipped to spend US$11.8 billion in this category in 2019, up 11.8 per cent from US$10 billion in the prior year.
“The investment priorities of airport CIOs include cybersecurity, cloud services and business intelligence (BI) –technologies which are key enablers of the continued airport digital transformation,” the report said.
“A major trend is the growth of investment in automating the passenger journey, to provide a faster, more pleasant airport experience.
“Facing the challenge of ever increasing passenger numbers, the vast majority of airports are leveraging BI to improve passenger processing.”
The report said 68 per cent of airports had an improvement in passenger satisfaction levels of up to 20 per cent. However, 44 per cent reproted an increase in average processing times.
“The good news is that the growing investment in automating the passenger journey means the industry is providing a faster, more pleasant airport experience,” SITA president for air travel solutions Matthys Serfontein said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This is a real success story for automating the passenger journey, particularly at a time when we expect passenger numbers to double over the next 20 years, with physical airport infrastructure struggling to keep pace.
“Technology is key to alleviating the industry’s capacity crunch and avoiding negative impacts on passengers.”
SITA said the survey represented the views of senior IT airline executives that collectively carried 30 per cent of global passenger traffic, as well as the views of 101 airport IT executives.