Multinational information technology provider SITA has released a new report outlining key technology trends it believes will transform air travel in 2021, as the industry tries to emerge from the struggles it has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though 2020 was an undeniably difficult year for the air travel industry, with passenger numbers plummeting as a result of government-imposed travel bans worldwide put into to place in efforts to slow the spread of the virus, SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques) is providing some hope, noting that many emerging technologies that had been largely ignored during the previous decade have now been thrust to the forefront as the industry looks to regain its footing and solve some of the COVID-19-related challenges it is facing.
Among the technologies that SITA singles out is the digitization of travel documents, which has led to reduced contact between travellers and airport staff, leading to an increase in passenger safety.
“A key benefit during the COVID-19 era is that the process removes the need to touch any airport equipment, reducing the risk of infection significantly,” writes the author of the report, David Lavorel, the head of SITA AT AIRPORTS AND BORDERS.
Similarly, Health ETAs (Electronic Travel Authority), which allow airports to verify a passenger’s health status before allowing entry into a country, have improved safety and are likely to be relied upon more as vaccines become available throughout the course of the year.
The rise in digital identity solutions is also allowing passengers more freedom to control how their personal information is shared, reducing transaction costs for airlines, and providing better security against fraud and identity theft.
Biometrics have played a central role in the digitization of travel, with facial recongition and document verification used to allow for more self service check-ins at airports.
“Automation and biometrics will become the norm rather than the exception at leading airports globally in the next few years,” writes Lavorel. “SITA has already implemented Smart Path self-service biometric and mobile technology and automated the outbound passenger journey at several airports, including Beijing and Miami.”
Aside from its uses in passenger processing and improving flow, facial recognition has also been used to authenticate crew members, allowing them to complete mandatory security questions via their mobile devices, replacing a kiosk-based approach.
Lavorel also points to the Internet of Things (IoT), the convergence of 5G, and Artificial Intelligence as playing important roles going forward for the industry, and highlights their uses in addressing immediate needs for sanitization, the automation of customer support services, and helping to enforce social distancing practices.
Finally, Lavorel notes that the rise of blockchain-based technologies is a positive for the air travel industry, writing that “PwC estimates that the use of blockchain could increase aerospace industry revenue by as much as 4% or $40 billion while cutting Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) costs globally by around 5% or $3.5 billion.”
January 21, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis