Sergio Colella, president of Europe at SITA, looks at four key areas
In 2021, the air transport industry was forced to consistently adapt to ever-changing regulations and travel requirements due to emerging new Covid-19 variants like Omicron.
We also saw a record number of extreme weather events showing the increasing need to address problems that come with rapid climate change.
With this in mind, four critical travel technology trends have emerged from the pandemic and are set to transform the industry in 2022 and beyond.
Automation & Digital Health
Despite budget cuts across the board during the pandemic one area that has rightfully seen an increase in spending is automated passenger processing.
With the introduction of Covid vaccination passports and increased travel restrictions and requirements, automation is crucial in restoring confidence to passengers while they travel.
Introducing biometric technology and standardising digital health verification will help to ensure a safer and more seamless travel experience, while also reducing wait times.
SITA is helping to support the recovery of the travel industry in 2022 by making its Digital Travel Declaration solution, which lets people share any required travel and health documentation ahead of departure, available to governments globally for free.
Airport efficiency contributing to sustainability
Operational efficiency, agility, and scalability have become keystones of airports’ business models due to quick changes in the travel landscape during the pandemic.
Airports adapted to fluctuating passenger numbers and discovered how to operate more efficiently.
Industry figures have estimated that improving aviation operations and infrastructure could improve emissions by up to 10%.
With passengers demanding more sustainable air travel and the ACI reporting that 235 airports across Europe have committed to going net-zero by 2050, with 90 committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, improving airport efficiency is also an investment towards long term sustainability.
SITA has teamed up with Envision Digital to develop net-zero technology to help decarbonize airports and is committed to expanding its focus to offer new technologies that support ground movements as well as aircraft condensation trail reductions.
Post pandemic boom for Regional & Domestic airports
Regional airports will play an increased role in the coming years due to the fast recovery of domestic travel in bigger markets.
These airports must prepare for this increased demand and capacity as passengers will expect the same digital experience and efficiencies that come with international hubs.
However, regional airports will be put under strain in terms of airline expectations, staff multi-tasking, route volatility, space constraints, and more.
As travel becomes more connected having unified digital systems that simplify passenger journeys will become increasingly important. Ready-to-go cloud-based (SaaS) airport management capabilities to help optimise resources while supporting collaborative processes and decision-making will be essential for these airports to ensure passenger satisfaction, capacity, and profitability.
Blockchain will be key
Blockchain holds immense potential for the air transport industry because of its unique ability to share information instantly, securely, and privately between dozens of stakeholders across airports, governments, airlines, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
SITA has helped to create technology to improve efficiency in the air travel industry developing a proven blockchain-based solution enabling the verification of an electronic personnel license (EPL) for pilots without network connectivity, allowing offline verification that is efficient and private.
Blockchain can also be used to improve passenger experiences as well. In 2021 SITA, with Indicio.tech and the Aruba Health Department, trialled the Aruba Health App which used blockchain technology to easily share their travel and health credentials securely on their mobiles to gain access to participating hospitality sites on the island.
The airline industry is still facing challenges but, as long as we commit to working on building a more efficient and sustainable travel industry with the help of technology, we can both emerge from the pandemic stronger and be better equipped to deal with any future crises.