2025 and the digital age of travel | SITA


In the space of two generations, the world has changed more radically, more quickly, than ever before. People born before 1980 are increasingly living in a different world to those born after 1980. 

Man taking selfie at airport

It’s all down to digital technology and it’s reshaping air transport. So says the SITA report 2025 – air travel for a digital age1.

Digital demands

Paper and books comprised the tools of learning for those born before 1980. If you’re in this demographic, you’ll be familiar with manual and analogue processes. You probably tend to prefer face-to-face communications. These are typical habits and preferences formed in a pre-digital age.

Those born after 1980 will have been exposed to computers, tablets and smart devices during their upbringing. By 2025, they’ll account for over two thirds of the global population.

These digital natives use technology throughout their daily lives. They don’t even think about it. They demand the same when they travel, and they expect more and more automation and hands-on control at every step of their journey.

A unified trip experience

They want to use mobile devices at every step when they’re on the go.  They want mobile access to services ranging from baggage location notifications, to boarding and payments.

More than that, they expect their trip to be a single, unified experience – from the moment they leave home to when they reach their destination. That’s regardless of who owns what particular step, be it the airport, airline, border control or any other mode of transport.  

Digital = happy passengers

Already most travelers use technology to check-in – whether via a website, their mobile, kiosks or automatic check-in. Passengers are now also increasingly using automated gates or kiosks at passport control (doubling to 44% in 2018, from 21% in 2017, according to SITA’s 2025 – air travel for a digital age report.

What’s more, the report notes, tech-using passengers are happier. They show higher satisfaction levels at every step of the journey, with a marked rise at dwell time, onboard and bag collection.

AI service on the rise

Over the next few years, passengers will demand more services and tools to help them on their journeys. SITA’s research shows that 59% are ‘very willing’ to use their mobiles for ID verification along the journey, for example, with a further 33% open to the idea. They want to make their journey as easy as possible and mobile is top of the technologies they’ll want to use.

Other initiatives are evolving rapidly. Over a quarter of airlines have already implemented artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot services, for example. Another 55% are expected to implement them by 2021. The most common airline virtual assistants and chatbots service is to help passengers with FAQs and flight status information.

Smart biometrics

At the airport, by 2021, most airlines expect to have self-boarding gates using biometrics. SITA’s Smart Path™ common use biometrics solution is at the forefront of initiatives to streamline the airport journey using biometric ID. It’s now in use or being trialed at airports globally, including Hamad International in Qatar and Muscat International in Oman.

Smart Path™ gives passengers the choice to register their biometrics at the first step of the journey – normally check-in. Their face then becomes their passport or boarding card at every further step in the journey.

Everyone working together

Once on the aircraft, we’ll see faster and cheaper inflight connectivity. Already, 5G networks are starting to go live, offering unprecedented speed and quality of connection. At their destination, passengers will find their travel experience transformed thanks to digitally-enabled, stronger integration between airlines, airports and ground handlers, as well as better collaboration with travel service partners, says the report.

Trust and privacy

As digital becomes the norm, the report underlines how crucial trust and privacy are. SITA is among those working with the Sovrin Foundation, an international non-profit organization. Its focus in on using blockchain to secure identity data in a smartphone wallet. This will provide a secure mechanism for people to share their identity data with the different entities they interact with online.

The everyday experiences of mobile-smart 'digital natives’ will shape what they expect when traveling. This is set to have a profound influence on aviation IT investments in the next six years.

Close collaboration is critical

By 2025, we foresee passengers using their mobile devices to plan their trip in a more integrated way – from transport to the airport and services at the airport, onboard and at their destination. It will be vital to drive innovation throughout the passenger journey, so that no stage becomes a weak link in the chain.

It will be critical for the industry to share data in a secure and timely way, as well as agree on standards and processes. This will ensure that all stakeholders are doing what’s required to deliver optimal passenger services. Such initiatives will also enable the air transport community to realize the potential to grow revenues, increase throughput and reduce costs.

For more


SITA CEO, Barbara Dalibard, on air travel for a digital age

Barbara Dalibard“In all walks of life, technology is changing how people act and interact with the world. Not least in the way they like to organize and experience air travel,” according to SITA CEO, Barbara Dalibard. “Their expectations are changing the air travel experience and will shape how we will all travel by 2025.

“By then more than two-thirds of the world’s population will have grown up interacting with online technology and using it as a way to manage their lives. They have grown up in a world filled with digital opportunities. They increasingly use their mobile smartphones as a ‘remote control for life’, turning happily to the use of artificial intelligence to help make decisions and take actions.

“For them, technology is an assumption. They assume they will be able to connect. They assume they will be able to handle a transaction digitally. And they assume that technologies are – or will be – linked together to deliver a personalized solution to their requirements.

“This is already having a profound impact on how passengers interact with airports and airlines. At our Innovation Forum earlier this year, we found that 83% of airport and airline IT leaders believe this demographic shift will be the most important influence on their digital strategy by 2025.

“These demands will be felt in two major ways. First, passengers will expect more autonomy as they travel. And second, they expect a seamless experience across airlines, airports, border agencies and other stakeholders relevant to their trip.

“That places a considerable responsibility onto all those involved – a requirement for more efficient operations and, critically, collaboration. And it requires robust privacy and trust policies, protocols and actions. Without them, we will not be able to deliver the journey digital travelers demand.”

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