The shift towards more passengers becoming digital travellers is set to see demand for more automated and seamless journeys grow, a report by SITA has found.

SITA digital traveller

The report, ‘2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age’ found that by 2025, 68% of all passengers will be digital travellers and will expect to manage their travel using mobile phones.

The demographic shift comes with a demand for more automation and hands-on-control over the passenger journey. In particular, these passengers expect to use their mobile phone to access services such as baggage location notifications, boarding and payments.

These digital travellers also expect their trip to be a ‘single, unified’ experience across airports, airlines, border control and other transports, from the moment they leave their home to arriving at the destination.

“This demographic shift brings with it the expectation to use technology everywhere – including during travel,” commented Barbara Dalibard, SITA CEO.

“This will have a profound impact on how passengers interact with airports and airlines by 2025,” Dalibard continued. “In fact, 83% of airport and airline IT leaders surveyed by SITA believe that this demographic shift will be the most important influence on their passenger solutions strategy by 2025.”

SITA suggest this shift requires more efficient operations and collaboration between airline, airport and other stakeholders in order to deliver this experience. Dalibard gave the example of bag tracking, where a single journey can see a bag change hands a dozen times between the airline, airport, ground handler and customs agencies. If the right data is not shared between these stakeholders, SITA comment, it is difficult to track the bag or provide the information the passenger seeks on its location.

“Without this collaboration, we will not be able to deliver the journey digital travellers want,” Dalibard continued.

According to SITA’s research, more than half of the industry’s IT leaders believe biometric travel tokens will be the key driver for the future passenger experience.

SITA says this technology is one of the key enablers for delivering more automation and linking the steps of the journey, and the technology is already in use at airports for border control and boarding, and this is set to grow in terms of geographic spread and functionality.

While the focus to date has largely been on using biometric identity across a single journey or airport, the industry is shifting to focus on providing a persistent digital identity that can be used across multiple journeys.

Dalibard said: “To truly benefit from biometric technology, we as an industry need to work together to develop and agree a digital identity that not only provides passengers control over their identity but is accepted in any airport and across borders, much like passports are today. This cannot be done in isolation and requires a high degree of collaboration to make it a reality.”

To this aim, SITA is working with industry organisations such as IATA, ICAO and ACI and is a founding steward of the Sovrin Foundation, a private-sector, international non-profit aiming to enable self-sovereign identity online.

Images: SITA

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