New insights survey reveals accelerating digital transformation | SITA


Airlines and airports spent a record US$50 billion on IT last year to enhance the passenger journey. This massive investment has improved both passenger satisfaction and average processing time, according to SITA’s latest Air Transport IT Insights report.

Boy holding yellow toy airplane

It’s significant that the 4.84% and 6.06% figures for airline and airport IT spend, as a percentage of revenue, compare favorably with IT spend in other industries. This varies from 1.5% for construction, for example, right up to 8% for banking. So air transport sits well on the range.

Airline IT spend rises

After several years of flat growth, airline CIOs expect IT spend to increase in the medium term, after reaching $40bn in 2018, the report says. Top investment priorities include cloud computing, cybersecurity and business intelligence (BI).

Airlines see these technologies as ‘doing the heavy lifting’ to realize digital transformation. They lead to more effective operations, improved passenger flow and baggage processing, and greater alignment.

Airlines: focused on the journey

A keen focus of airline IT investments is on delivering an ever-more efficient passenger journey – by reducing queues, speeding transition through airport processes and providing better information to travelers.

Passengers are already reaping the benefits. Last year 60% of airline CIOs recorded up to 20% year-on-year improvement in passenger satisfaction, while 45% noted improvements in processing speed of up to 20%.

The next phase of airline IT investment

Airlines continue to work 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.

Key to the self-serviced journey are passenger mobile apps. With check-in and mobile boarding apps almost universal, airlines are turning their attention to personalized services as well as artificial intelligence (AI)-driven chatbot services. More are looking to enrich self-service by keeping passengers informed about missing bags, irregular operations and service issues.

AI in the mainstream

The direction of airline IT over the longer term is bound to what AI can deliver. Today’s key applications include virtual agents, chatbots and predictive analytics, but as AI enters the mainstream, this emerging technology promises many exciting possibilities, says the insights report.

Airports: making passengers happier

A focus on the journey and on making passengers happier, is also the case for airports. They’re channeling investment into automating the passenger journey – to provide a faster, more pleasant airport experience. As passenger numbers keep growing, most airports are now leveraging BI to improve passenger processing.

Investment in passenger flow management has already delivered happier passengers. As many as 68% of airport CIOs reported a year-on-year improvement of up to 20% in passenger satisfaction levels. And 44% saw an increase in average processing times.

Mobile on top

To keep reducing passenger frustration, airports aim to offer personalized communications over mobile devices, including wait-time alerts as part of flow management.

Airport mobile apps increasingly provide the essentials: flight status, customer relationship management and airport status. Looking ahead, we’ll see more personalized information for passengers, including real-time bag tracking information and AI-driven chatbots.

Biometrics mainstream

High on the agenda is biometric ID management. This enables airports of all sizes to use existing resources to deal with more passengers. Most airports plan to invest in initiatives to process passengers without the need to keep showing documents as they go through the airport. Biometrics are set to move into the mainstream.

In short, a key takeaway from this year’s Air Transport IT Insights report is the determination of both airlines and airports to streamline the journey. Their IT spend and investment priorities are increasingly similar. As synergies develop, expect more new thinking on all sides.

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