Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

Lisbon, one of Europe’s oldest capitals, proved a fitting host city for SITA’s Air Transport IT Summit 2019, which took place earlier this week.

For nearly 800 years (until 1908) Portugal was a monarchy and Lisbon the home of its kings and queens. The city is awash with beautiful palaces and royal retreats; a lasting legacy of the city’s regal past and the perfect backdrop for Sergio Colella, SITA’s president – Europe, to proclaim that “above all else, it’s important to remember that the customer is king or queen!”

This week’s summit has shone the spotlight on the passenger experience. SITA’s 2019 IT Insights report revealed that with industry stakeholders aiming to deliver a frictionless passenger journey, the total IT spend for airports and airlines reached US$50 billion in 2018.

SITA ITGoing forward, the emerging trends will result in more personalised information for passengers, including artificial intelligence-driven chatbot services and real-time bag tracking information. AI technology specialist Alitheon’s senior director, Heinrich Großbongardt, showcased FeaturePrint. Described as a “smarter baggage tracking solution,” it provides users with the ability to know the ID of any bag in the system at anytime, anywhere.

Biometric identity management also remains high on the agenda with 85% of airports planning to invest in initiatives to process passengers without having to present documents at every step of the journey.

As Colella wrapped up the two-day summit, he once again referenced the customer as the most important factor. And with the industry undergoing a digital transformation, he warned that stakeholders must learn to adapt and meet the demands of their new ‘tech-savvy passengers’.

“There are still many challenges ahead,” he said. “But these can equally be considered as opportunities. Congestion on the ground and in the air, as well as capacity constraints and security threats, are just some of the obstacles facing the industry, but exciting technologies and project realisations are already underway to tackle these challenges.”

Bidding farewell to this year’s delegates, Colella reminded them that as passengers they themselves follow in the footsteps of royalty, as he concluded: “We must remember this is a service industry, it’s about the people and ultimately we are here to serve the customer.”

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