World moving to paperless civil travel

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Eighty percent of the world’s leading airport operators intend to make passenger self-service the primary channel for check-in.

In addition, 52% of operators rated the introduction of “electronic documents” as the technology which will have the most significant impact at airports in the near future, initially driven by the adoption of bar-coded boarding passes sent directly to mobile phones – a key enabler for genuinely paperless travel.

The 6th annual SITA Airport IT Trends survey, co-sponsored by Airline Business and the Airports Council International (ACI), had a record 106 responses from airports and airport groups representing 172 airports from around the world including 56 from the Top 100 in terms of revenue and passengers.

The latest 2009 survey also found that IT budgets for airports in 2008 were largely unaffected by the global economic downturn with IT investments as % of revenue decreasing slightly from 3.5% in 2007 to 3.2% in 2008.

The world airport IT industry is estimated to be worth $3 billion and 45% of this year’s survey respondents expect an increase in budget in 2010 while only 14% expect a lower budget.

Khodr Akil, SITA Africa Regional Vice President, says this year’s survey “confirms that self-service is a global trend with almost 80% of respondents planning to make it the primary means for check-in by 2010 as is already the case at 40% of the world’s top 100 airports.

“Airports are also recognising that passengers bypassing check-in counters may be faced with new bottlenecks and queues at baggage drop-off and security screening areas. As a result, airports are turning to various automation tools to track wait times at different checkpoints such as security and immigration, Akil adds.

“Of the respondents who said they will monitor wait times in the future, 60% will use video analytics, 43% will use RFID and 27% plan to use Bluetooth technology.”

The high priorities for airport IT investments are: Passenger Processing & Services” (61%); Passenger Security (56%); and Airport Operations” (51%). Baggage processing and management also remain among the highest ranked investment areas for the Top 100 airports (51%) but is a lower priority for less congested, smaller airports.

52% of airports rated the use of “electronic documents” as the technology with the most significant impact on IT & telecom systems at an airport. Initially this will be driven by the introduction of initiatives such as paperless travel and bar-coded boarding passes (BCBP), but is likely to affect other areas such as aircraft maintenance too.

The majority of airports consider mobility as one of the Top Five trends affecting airports’ IT infrastructure in the short-term. Half of all airports believe providing solutions on mobile devices for passengers or staff at airports will have the highest impact on their IT infrastructure.



63% of all airports already have check-in kiosks which will further increase to 90 % by 2012. When asked about their strategy for kiosk usage, most airports plan to increase the number of kiosks further, whether for check-in (44%) or for new functionality (9 %) such as passport scanning (from 32% today to 58% by 2012) and bag-tag printing (from 17% today to 51% by 2012). New usage areas receiving the highest interest are:

  • Common bag-drop locations – 12% today to 48% by 2012;

  • Automated boarding gates – 8 % today to 42% by 2012;

  • Self-service kiosk for passenger transfer services, – 11% today to 39 % by 2012;

  • Self service kiosk to report lost baggage – 5% today to 36% by 2012.

    Pic: Self-service kiosks (right, middle) at the Cote d Azur airport, Nice, France.