AviaDev Africa provides perfect platform to support connectivity to and within the continent

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While June has already been packed with aviation events, the end of the month will see airport and airline executives as well as suppliers heading to Cape Town for AviaDev Africa, which is set to deliver more than 300 route development meetings.

The event, which provides a perfect networking platform for airports, airlines and suppliers, such as Airbus, Swissport, Boeing, Embraer, SITA and Rolls Royce, is taking place at Century City in Cape Town, South Africa from 29 June to 1 July. This year will mark the sixth edition of the networking event which is themed: Connect. Collaborate. Change.

Commenting on the upcoming event Wrenelle Stander, Wesgro CEO and Official Spokesperson for Cape Town Air Access, noted, “We look forward to welcoming our industry delegates to Cape Town and the Western Cape. We thank AviaDev for the opportunity to showcase our world-class destination as a business hub at the forefront of essential conversations and collaborations, especially regarding increasing air connectivity within Africa.”

A comprehensive conferencing programme will be held alongside the route development meetings with sessions addressing the role of air cargo and diversifying airport revenues, building airline partnerships, financing African airlines and exploring the opportunities for OEMs. Meanwhile a pre-conference workshop specifically for airports and tourism authorities will focus on the skills needed to drive active route development and what airlines look for when placing a new route.

Underlining his support for aviation in Africa Jon Howell, CEO AviaDev Africa stated: “We have supported the industry through the pandemic with numerous digital engagements and will continue to do so, but it is clear the industry needs to meet and discuss future route development for Africa in person. AviaDev Africa provides the perfect mix between an educational programme, focused pre-arranged route development meetings and industry networking. We are confident that as a result of the event, new relationships will be forged that will deliver the connectivity that Africa deserves.”

SITA partners with Alstef Group on speedy self-bag drop solution

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Mexico City’s Felipe Angeles International Airport has become the first hub to install 20 Swift Drop units – the new self-bag drop solution from SITA and baggage handling specialist Alstef Group. According to SITA, Swift Drop “significantly” speeds up the experience of checking in baggage.

Passengers using Swift Drop are able to check their bags promptly, avoiding long queues at traditional check-in points. This will give passengers more time to spend airside, providing a boost to airports’ retail revenues. Once a passenger has printed their own bag tags without need for assistance bags can be loaded directly onto the accessible conveyor that is situated close to the ground.

“In airports globally, our Smart Path passenger solutions has delivered faster, automated passenger experiences,” said Drew Griffiths, Head of SITA at Airports. “The partnership with Alstef Group – leveraging their significant baggage handling portfolio – enriches our end-to-end offering with a fast, convenient and reliable self-bag drop solution. This solution has the added benefit of being easily biometrically enabled.”

Part of SITA’s Smart Path passenger processing portfolio, Swift Drop is comprised of SITA’s TS6 Kiosk and Alstef Group’s fully integrated bag processing solution. The system is capable of identifying overweight and oversized bags in seconds. Advanced camera tag-reading technology ensures baggage will also be processed faster, with an average first-time tag read rate of 95%.

Meanwhile Philippe Hamon, Sales Director, Airport Solutions, Alstef Group said: “Taking the stress out of baggage is fundamental to any passenger’s journey. Our baggage processing solutions have been successfully implemented in hundreds of airports globally to do exactly that. It is therefore pleasing that we can extend theses benefits to the whole passenger journey through our partnership with SITA.”

Skyports teams up with SITA to deploy digital solutions for its vertiport locations

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Vertiport infrastructure specialist Skyports, has tasked SITA with providing its digital solutions for Skyports’ vertiport locations.

Initially SITA’s technology will be implemented at the Skyports Cergy-Pontoise vertiport testbed in Paris, which is planned for completion in September 2022 to demonstrate the full passenger journey, from arrival at the vertiport terminal to eVTOL aircraft departure. The collaboration will highlight the ease with which passengers can navigate the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) ecosystem.

AS part of the parternship SITA will apply its expertise in airport technology to the emerging AAM industry to develop bespoke biometric and vertiport technology in line with Skyports’ vision for the passenger experience. Passenger autonomy, ease and convenience are all central to the success of the industry and the widespread adoption of AAM. SITA’s biometric solution, Smart Path, will enable eVTOL passengers travelling with Skyports to enjoy a seamless, technology-driven experience throughout their journey. They will be able to book and reserve eVTOL flights via a mobile app powered by SITA’s biometric capabilities. Once at the skyport passengers will then be able to use SITA face pods to identify and verify themselves before boarding an aircraft.

Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports commented: “AAM has presented us an opportunity to re-imagine the entire travel experience, from the vehicles we use and energy sources we rely on, right down to the way passengers book and check-in to flights. We are partnering with SITA to move into this next crucial stage in the planning and development of the AAM industry – defining the experience for end-users. Everything we do at Skyports is underpinned by the belief that there is a faster, smarter, more streamlined way to travel.”

He also noted that to make AAM work there needs to be a demonstrable benefit to the end-user. “Hence the passenger experience is fundamental to our success.”

SITA will also provide an automated scheduling solution to support Skyports’ airside operations. So, once a passenger requests a booking, a flight slot will automatically be secured at both departure and destination, ensuring the aircraft is operationally ready and waiting when the passenger arrives. It will also ensure that all the resources needed to support that flight and ensure on-time departures are in place.

Sergio Colella, President of Europe at SITA added: “With Skyports, we have the potential to use existing airport technology to totally redesign the passenger journey, with a light-touch process using just your mobile or facial biometric to complete the various steps in the journey. Together we will also work with existing airports to support AAM solutions in the future.”

The coming months will see Skyports begin passenger experience trials at its Cergy-Pontoise vertiport testbed facility, Europe’s first operational testing site for AAM, which is being developed in partnership with Groupe ADP.


Frankfurt Airport selects SITA to transform passenger experience

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SITA, the technology provider for the air transport industry, has been selected to deploy its biometric-enabled kiosks and baggage messaging services at Frankfurt Airport, in line with the airport’s plans to increase operational efficiency and improve the passenger experience.

The installation of 87 SITA TS6 kiosks is expected to be completed later this year. The versatile biometric-enabled kiosks, which work alongisde SITA Flex, enable passengers to check in quickly and obtain bag tags for later self-bag drop services. The new SITA TS6 kiosk was the winner of the 2021 IF Design award and was credited for its slick, sustainable and adaptive design, which can be tailored to suit the airport’s brand design and specific customer requirements. Its modular design also mean modifications and enhancements can be made without replacing the entire kiosk.

“Offering passengers innovative, safer, and smarter ways to travel while also ensuring we have resilient and efficient airport operations is vital as our industry recovers from the impact of the pandemic. SITA supports us in achieving this ambition and we look forward to welcoming more passengers back to the skies,” said Pierre-Dominique Prumm, Executive Director Aviation and Infrastructure at Fraport.

The deployment at Frankfurt Airport marks SITA’s largest implementation in Europe.

Siemens and SITA collaborate on future-proof technologies for Kansas City Airport

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In line with Kansas City International Airport’s new terminal project, dubbed Build KCI, Siemens and SITA are providing the Kansas City Aviation Department with future-proof, scalable technologies.

The new 1 million sq. ft. 39-gate terminal will include a variety of building automation, fire and life safety systems, and security systems from Siemens as well as IT networks and next-generation airport systems from SITA. These solutions will help create a smart airport terminal that can grow with the aviation department‘s long-term needs, decrease operation and maintenance costs and enhance the passenger experience through automation.

“Together, Siemens and SITA are providing the virtual and physical infrastructure that will ensure Kansas City International Airport’s New Terminal is equipped to deliver an exceptional journey for our passengers; one built on innovation, industry expertise and a true understanding of what travellers want today and into the future,” said Kansas City‘s Director of Aviation, Pat Klein.

The project is focused on delivering a seamless transition from the construction to the operation phase, delivered through integrated life safety and emergency communications systems, a virtualised IT network and agile passenger touch points. The airport also wanted to implement interactive technology that could be easily understood by airport staff, while also deploying next-generation passenger touch points such as contactless kiosks, flight information display systems and video walls that provide a more intuitive journey through the new terminal.

Dana Soukup, President of Solutions and Services for Region Americas, Siemens Smart Infrastructure USA, said: “Integrating the disparate airport systems has simplified and enabled data sharing across the airport ecosystem. Siemens and SITA, through a joint project management approach, are combining their expertise in airport facilities systems, operations systems, and IT systems to provide the aviation department with a solid technology infrastructure and intuitive, easy-to-use systems that allow terminal staff and operators to transition from their two current airport terminals to a new, technology-advanced single airport terminal.”

Diana Einterz, President, SITA Americas, added: “Emerging from the pandemic has taught us the importance of implementing scalable and flexible systems that can accommodate unexpected changes in real time. SITA is providing the airport operations backbone that will give MCI the agility it needs to operate in this new environment.”

SITA partners with NEC and Star Alliance to expand touchless journey for passengers

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SITA has teamed up with the world’s largest airline alliance, Star Alliance, and NEC Corporation to allow frequent flyer programme customers of Star Alliance to use their biometric identity across any participating airline at any participating airport.

The agreement between the three companies is aimed at accelerating the availability  of biometric self-service touchpoints across Star Alliance’s member airlines while delivering a faster, touchless airport experience.

By connecting to SITA’s Smart Path solution, the Star Alliance biometrics platform will be able to use SITA’s shared airport infrastructure already available in more than 460 airports.

In addition, Smart Path can be easily integrated with NEC I: platform, which allows passengers who have opted to use the service to be identified quickly and with a high degree of accuracy, even on the move. The I: Delight platform is also able to recognise passengers even when wearing a mask, an increasingly important feature for travel during the current pandemic. The platform is already being used at several European airports by Star Alliance member airlines.

Once a passenger has enrolled in Star Alliance’s biometrics platform, they can then pass through biometrically enabled touchpoints across multiple member airlines and participating airports using just their face as their boarding pass. This speeds up passenger flow through the airport while making each step completely touchless, supporting health and hygiene safety measures as a result of the global pandemic.

“Together with NEC, SITA is pleased to be supporting Star Alliance in bringing the full benefits of biometric identity to their member airlines,” said Barbara Dalibard, CEO, SITA. “Passengers have long welcomed the advantages of control and speed automation brings to the passenger journey; a trend that has been accelerated by COVID-19. With this agreement the benefits of biometric identity will be extended from a single airline or journey to a vast network of airlines. That is truly unique and demonstrates the benefits digital identity can bring to the passenger.”

Jeffrey Goh, CEO, Star Alliance reiterated Dalibard’s message, saying, “This agreement is instrumental in bringing further scale to our biometrics service, with the inherent benefits of speed and meeting customer expectations for a more touchless and hygienically safer experience across all of our member airlines. Biometrics is a key element of that experience and our strategy of leading the way in digitalising the passenger journey.”

Are regional airports set for a post-pandemic surge of passengers?

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With domestic air travel in bigger markets such as the United States the first to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, regional airports are set to play an outsized role in the coming years, according to David Lavorel, CEO, SITA at Airports and Borders. The question is, he says, are they prepared for a surge of passengers?

As air travel ground to a halt in April last year, regional airports were as hard hit as their international counterparts with near-stagnant passenger and flight activity levels. But as we emerge from the crisis and operations normalize, these airports are expected to recover faster than their larger peers. And with that, they will once again face the same landside and airside capacity constraints they were experiencing in pre-COVID times but with the added challenge of managing new COVID-era health requirements.

Changing populations and remote workers

Several factors are at play in the rapid recovery for regional airports. Ramping up the pressure will be inward migration from the bigger cities due to the pandemic’s influence on population movement. With work less tied to the office, the lure of the big city is losing its appeal. For many remote workers, moving away from major urban areas becomes a distinct possibility as the everyday commute to the office fades into the distant past. A Gallup Poll early in the pandemic found nearly seven in 10 employees in the US to be working remotely all or part of the time. Similarly, Gensler Research Institute’s City Pulse Survey revealed a spike in popularity of second-tier cities, with one in four London and New York respondents considering moving to smaller, less populated areas.

Another factor is that with constantly changing entry and health requirements around the world, passengers will increasingly pivot from long-haul and business travel to domestic leisure travel, fueled by the pent-up demand from travelers seeking a break.

The future is about lower costs, efficiencies, and better ways of working

In the face of these profound changes, regional airports will need to adjust their strategies to address the post-pandemic environment. Like bigger airports, regional airports will need to consider a digital shift to cope with future capacity constraints.

Passenger and airline expectations

Passengers traveling from regional airports are also demanding the same digital experience and efficiencies they receive at international hubs. On top of that come greater airline expectations, route volatility, space constraints, staff multi-tasking, and a myriad more. Then, of course, as journeys become more digital, there’s the growing need for seamless interoperation across travel systems and technologies – not just among airports large and small, but also with other modes of transport.

The cloud: making the digital journey accessible

From our experience in digitizing the industry – before and during the pandemic – we see common issues facing highly cost-conscious regional airports, with a desire to be able to fund the types of smart digital ways of working found in larger airports.

The good news is that cloud technology makes the digital journey and cutting-edge IT affordable and accessible for regional airports. With leading passenger processing capabilities accessible via the cloud, airports can enable shared common-use approaches in the most cost-effective way, saving on infrastructure, space, and maintenance. Not only that, they’re well placed to embrace further capabilities as they choose, such as self-boarding, self-bag drop, off-airport processing, and more.

For example, available now, our own SITA Flex brings leading cloud-based passenger processing capabilities acting as the enabler of the digital passenger experience, based on safe and healthy low-touch, contactless and self-service journeys from check-in to boarding. Airlines get the ability to enable passengers to use their mobiles to have a near walk-through, touchless airport experience, while airport workforces can use mobile devices to coordinate and perform tasks efficiently.

It’s also important to have ready-to-go cloud-based (SaaS) airport management capabilities to help optimize resources while supporting collaborative processes and decision-making. Talking to our airport customers about their needs for operational flexibility, we have solutions providing digital ways to manage capacity challenges better, keeping a proactive eye on passenger flow and disruptions.

Best in class baggage and airport management IT

One of the biggest demands we see is for cost-effective access to best-in-class baggage and airport management systems. SITA recently launched a simple, scalable, and more affordable version of our leading baggage reconciliation system, SITA Bag Manager, that allows smaller airports to reduce the number of mishandled bags by up to 20% by automating the typically manual process of reconciliation. They can also shore up dwindling revenue; an airport that processes 4 million bags per year could generate approximately $100,000 over the course of five years by implementing SITA Bag Manager Lite.

Beyond that, we’re working with regional airports to introduce the most advanced flight information display systems along with simple operational messaging and network capabilities – as already used by hundreds of airports in all corners of the globe.

Let’s be prepared

What’s clear from our conversations with regional airports is that as they look to a new operating environment, they want to be prepared for the changes coming and a return to capacity. With more scalable technology available, they now have the ability to deliver the same experience to their airlines and passengers as they would as major hubs.

SITA launches AI-enabled solution to address issue of lost items

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SITA has launched an artificial intelligence-enabled solution that address the million-dollar headache for airports and airlines of reuniting passengers with their lost property.

Every year passengers leave millions of items – including phones, wallets and bags – in airports and on aircraft. It’s an issue that costs the industry millions of dollars in repatriation costs and can cost up to $95 to manage and repatriate a lost item, including registration, handling inquiries, customer calls, storage and postage.

SITA’s new WorldTracer Lost and Found Property solution can cut costs by 90% and significantly reduces repatriation time. Leveraging the technology provider’s WorldTracer solution, which is already used in 2,200 airports by the majority of the world’s airlines, Lost and Found Property cuts the cost of repatriating lost items by 90%. It also dramatically speeds up the time taken to find and return found items, which 60% of these items returned within the first 48 hours.

Using cutting-edge technology such as computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing, WorldTracer Lost and Found Property searches a global database of images and descriptions to match the found item to a missing item report. Image recognition is used to identify details such as brand, material, and colour of the missing item. The airline or airport can then immediately notify the owner and return the item. Passengers have full visibility of the process through the WorldTracer portal no matter where in the world the item was lost, a feature that is expected to significantly improve passenger satisfaction.

“WorldTracer is a great example of how SITA continues to evolve its portfolio to meet the changing demands of the industry. For almost three decades WorldTracer has helped to successfully trace mishandled bags. Now, using new technology, we are adding further value by helping the industry be more efficient and reduce costs around lost items at a time when it is most needed,” said David Lavorel, CEO SITA at Airports and Borders.

SITA ramps up airport portfolio with Irish expansion

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To help develop the next generation of its SITA AT AIRPORTS portfolio, the IT provider is expanding its Agile DevOps teams in Letterkenny, Ireland. SITA established its office in Letterkenny in 2003 and since then has grown the team from 20 to more than 100. As part of its expansion, the company’s new roles include software engineers, test engineers, UX designers, scrum masters and product owners.

With the air transport industry now in a confirmed, albeit slow, recovery from COVID-19, airports, airlines and governments are looking to further streamline their operations and passenger journey through automation and digitisation. In response to this growing demand, SITA is accelerating the innovation and development of new solutions across border management, airport operations, passenger processing and border management, which are already being used in more than 1,000 airports globally.

“We are all eager to see our industry rebound and technology is a vital component of its recovery. Airports and airlines are looking to technology to automate the passenger journey while digitalising their operations to drive new cost efficiencies,” said David Lavorel, CEO SITA Airports and Borders.

Commenting on the decision to expand their presence in Ireland, Lavorel noted that Letterkenny, has in recent years established itself as an important hub for software development. “Through the support of the Irish government, Letterkenny is recognised as a vital hub for software innovation, making it an obvious choice as a strategic location for the development of our SITA AT AIRPORTS portfolio.”


Editor’s comment: Automation acceleration

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While aviation remains under extreme pressure amid the global pandemic, what weʼre seeing now is a confirmed recovery phase, according to David Lavorel, CEO of Airports and Borders at SITA.

Speaking during a media briefing to present its 2020 Air Transport IT Insights on Tuesday 23 February, Lavorel said the lack of passenger traffic over the past 12 months had refocused spending priorities for airports. The report’s key findings show that there has been an accelerated investment in automated passenger processing solutions, with the industry focusing on touchless and mobile services in response to COVID. There is also a spotlight on virtual and remote IT services to accommodate the need to work from home and more efficient IT operations to help ramp up communications with passengers. Cybersecurity and cloud services also remain vital areas for investment.

Lavorel pointed out that 89% of airports are currently investing in automated check-in solutions, while self-bag-drop solutions continue to be a rising trend, with 79% of airlines working towards enabling this technology in airports.

As one of the newer trends brought about in response to lockdowns, virtual IT operations have seen greater investment, with 84% of airports investing in this area. Meanwhile, more than 90% of airports plan to invest in more efficient IT operations, and 87% of airports are focused on business intelligence and exploiting their data for better operational decisions.

“The COVID crisis has accelerated a number of trends that were already present. In particular, thereʼs been a strong push for automation and data-based collaboration between industry players,” said Lavorel. “And we see investments being made that are going to be important in managing the crisis and recovery period, but that will also lead to more efficient, better passenger-friendly operations.”

But is there a fear that regional airports and cash-strapped smaller airports will be left behind when it comes to the wider roll-out of automated and touchless passenger processing solutions?

“It’s a question thatʼs certainly in need of attention,” said Lavorel,  as he explained that SITA is already working on a range of solutions to cater for different sized facilities and budgets. “We’re developing a number of products that bolt-on and build on existing IT assets that airports have already invested in,” he said. SITA’s President Europe, Sergio Colella, added: “In addition to making best use of an airport’s existing infrastructure, itʼs also about leveraging the cloud architecture.”

As the industry turns its attention to new automated technologies, itʼs vital that no airport is left behind, but that new solutions deliver consistent improvements to the passenger experience no matter which airport they start or finish from!

I hope you enjoy this weekʼs newsletter and have a great weekend,

Chloë Greenbank,
Editor, Regional Gateway.