Traveller needs to drive airports’ IT investment strategy

Airports around the world are using  a raft of technologies to improve the passenger experience, according to the latest Airport IT Trends Survey.

The study, commissioned by Airline Business in partnership with the Airports Council International and SITA, is based on the responses of 165 airports.

Aviation is particularly exposed to the current economic climate, which is prompting airports to prioritise  IT investments are targeted at helping passengers. Over 70% of the sample, weighted by revenue, put this as the key driver for its IT strategy.

Dominic Nessi, deputy executive director at Los Angeles World Airports, said: “We have already found a number of ways to achieve savings, simply through better management controls…If our budget is cut substantially, it may impact services. However, our goal is to maintain our current level of support despite any budget cuts.”

Overall, the investment outlook for 2009 is cautious – 44%, weighted by revenue, are forecasting an increase; 30% expect their budget to be unchanged with 26% ready for a drop.

Self-service kiosks are currently the main focus of customer-friendly IT investments. Over the next two years self-service will be the primary means for ­passenger processing in check-in areas at about a third of all airports, growing to nearly two thirds within three-to-five years.

Manchester Airport Group’s director of group technology and innovation Martin Smith said: “They will be dispensing bag tags, ­selling upgraded services. Kiosks will be part of the overall mix, but the shape of it will be a little different.”

Manchester Airport’s Bluetooth technology tracks passengers through the airport to assess how  the airport is performing at each stage of the airport experience. This year the project is analysing the security/search process, with next year’s plan to look at the timing of the door-to-gate experience.

The infrastructure used at Manchester will also be able to be rolled out at other airports within the group.

In addition to self-service check-in, automated passenger ­boarding gates look set to be installed at 45% of airports within the next two years.

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