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22 August 2019

How will IT improve air travel passengers’ experience over the next 20 years?

In October 2018 IATA predicted that air travel will double in less than 20 years. If you haven’t read the news, here is the link:

IATA Forecast Predicts 8.2 billion Air Travelers in 2037

Obviously, that’s good for the aviation industry in general when it comes to jobs and business growth potential. With such a massive increase in traffic — both in airports and in the air itself — this prediction will without a doubt be the trigger that makes today’s ways of doing business be reassessed and re-evaluated in order to optimize efficiency at all levels, with a customer-centric approach. This will open doors for technology to play a role in various aspects of tomorrow’s traveler experience (that today’s traveler is only dreaming of).

During this period of growth, passenger experience might not need to only be improved but truly transformed in a more customer-centric way. Should we look at passenger experience as a series of steps and stages in the process of flying from one place to another or instead, do we need to reconceive it as a continuous flow including IT as part of the solution?

Let me know in the comments — I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are.

As we’ve all experienced over the last years, you’ll agree that old-school silo mentalities are obsolete. From what I’ve read over the last months, airports and airlines share a huge overlap when it comes to passenger experience. Their operations are tightly integrated and their shared workflows need to run smoothly. Advanced BPM and ERP integrations can improve organizational agility and enable cross-functional collaborations among various stakeholders.

IT companies, I feel, will shine and step in with solutions that span the entire spectrum of these shared operations, such as:

  • Passenger apps
  • Check-in
  • Security
  • Ordering food from airport concessions while waiting to board (this is one on my list for sure!)
  • Boarding
  • Knowing exactly where and when to get your baggage at the carousel (this might be the
    second one on my list!)

With IT, these can all be not just modernized and optimized, but also integrated from front-end to back-office. As well, I believe cloud platforms and data analytics will play a key role in improving passenger experience by gathering real-time information on flights, weather conditions, delays at other airports, security line wait times, fluctuations in passenger traffic, and so on. Artificial intelligence can assess and even predict delays. That domino effect caused by delayed flights (especially at hubs) can definitely be prevented with a little IT help (or at least make my delay experience better if it can’t be avoided 😊).

By definition, airlines obviously need to get passengers on and off planes as fast as possible, and get those planes back in the air as quickly as possible, allowing for more planes to land and onboard even more travelers to get where they need. We all understand and accept the need for increased aviation security — that’s our 21st century reality — but who likes having to arrive at the airport three or four hours before a flight? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if with today and tomorrow’s technology, we could find ways to have higher levels of security at the airport with less time waiting? (Although I do love spending time at the duty free…)

Biometric technologies like facial recognition are increasingly becoming a reality in airports around the world. Forbes reported in October 2018 that 77% of airports and 71% of airlines are looking at implementing biometric technologies for security and identification (Biometric Technology Is Taking Off As 77% Of Airports and 71% Of Airlines Review Digital ID Options). Boston Logan airport is the latest, having just deployed CLEAR biometric “pods” to get through checkpoints faster. This doesn’t just save time — it’s also cool to actually use something you used to see only in science fiction movies (at least the first few times). Even augmented reality can be used to help passengers navigate gigantic airport terminals using their smartphones. The wow factor alone can encourage adoption. Why not make going to the airport to catch a flight feel like stepping into the future?

All this being said, we have seen it ourselves and we know that digital transformation is the driver of innovation in all areas of the aviation industry. To succeed in meeting customer expectations during this massive growth in traffic and beyond, according to my observations and the trends I’ve been following, these technologies need to be developed and deployed in an accessible and agile customer-centric way. Here’s what we need to consider:

  • Should the passenger’s experience be in steps and stages from departure to arrival or should it
    be reconceived as a continuous flow?
  • What’s been your experience as an airline passenger in the digital age?
  • Have any particular new technologies made a difference for you personally?
  • From a business and industry perspective, do you see any real game-changing technologies
    around the corner?

Let me know what you think in the comments — I’d love to hear from you and your perspective!

P.S. I’ll be at the AZUR Group booth at the #IATAaviationdatasymposium & AI Lab in Athens, Greece,
June 25 to 27. You too? Please let me know! 😊

Karina Lemay,  Creative Dynamic Customer Centric Digital Transformation Enthusiast and AZUR Group Key Account Manager for IATA

https://www.linkedin.com/in/karinalemay/