Air travel: technology has a huge role

Aviation, Default, Featured — By on November 20, 2012 at 8:12 am

A record crowd at SITA’s 2012 Air Transport IT Summit underlined the conviction that technology has a much bigger role to play in air travel.We sat down with SITA CEO,Francesco Violante, to get his take onwhere technology can help the industry and what tomorrow’s air travelers can look forward to.

Is there a strong appetite fortechnology investment in the current economic environment?

Many airlines and airports know thatthe sources of their competitive advantage are more and more connected to technology. I think thatis something that came over clearlyfrom the speakers at the IT Summit.And despite the downturn there areareas of the world where the industryis growing and the fundamentals aregood.The Middle East, for example, isseeing double digit passenge rgrowth, while much of the Asian market is still profitable. Brazil andIndia are also doing well. This iswhat we’re seeing in our own figureswith customers in industry hotspotsstill making technology investment,particularly in areas where there’s aclear route to lowering costs andincreasing efficiency.

Given all the trends discussed atthe IT Summit, which were the bigthree for you?For me, mobility, cloud services andbusiness intelligence (BI) stood out.The first two are consumer driventrends. Together they’re generating alarge amount of new data points,which opens BI by providing anunprecedented opportunity to extractuseful information by analyzing andinterrogating that data. This shouldradically improve the performanceof the industry through betterdecision making and insight.Mobility is all pervasive now in theconsumer world. Where do you seethe main impacts for air travel?Nearly every passenger carries withthem a mobile phone when theytravel and increasingly that phone isa smartphone loaded with travelapps. This brings benefits on almostevery level – self-service, customerservice, sales and operations – so we’re seeing airlines in particularprioritizing IT investment in thisarea.Ticketing and check-in are alreadywidely available via a passenger’smobile phone. But there is a lot moreto come. For example, there are anumber of projects underway usingmobile devices with sensor technolo-gies like Bluetooth and Near FieldCommunications (NFC).Bluetooth is being used for locationsensing of passengers to determinequeue lengths at checkpoints. This issomething we are working on witht h e Tr a n s p o r t a t i o n S e c u r i t yAdministration. NFC will allowairlines and airport systems toexchange information automaticallywith a passenger’s mobile phone atprescribed points in the airport journey.This could be for access to an airportlounge or for receiving flightinformation rather than searching forthe nearest flight informationmonitor. Eventually the phone willallow the passenger seamlessmovement by being used for bothbiometric identity verification atcheckpoints and access through thegate to board the plane.Mobile brings big savings for theindustry. For one thing the hardwarefor check-in will be the responsibility of the passenger not the airline orairport. A passenger’s mobile phoneis their responsibility to fix it, so thisis one less headache and cost for theairlines.InterviewwithSITA CEOFrancescoViolanteTechnology can help lead the wayfor the industry. So I think a bigpart of our role is anticipatingwhere the industry is going andensuring that the capabilities arein place when they are needed. Ourcloud infrastructure is a goodexample of how we are doing thisin practice.- Francesco ViolanteThe second trend is cloud. Whatdoes it mean for our industry?Cloud technologies will give theindustry much greater speed andflexibility in deploying IT to run itsoperations. The traditional ITsystems that the industry hasdepended on are struggling to copewith the increased demand on themfrom digital technologies.For example, if airlines want to give aunified experience to their customersglobally – whether it’s via their

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