The demands of the growing number of tech-savvy travellers will have the biggest impact on the digital plans of airports and airlines over the next six years to 2025, according to industry executives.
The findings are revealed today in a new report published today by IT provider SITA.
The report, 2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age, shows that by 2025, 68% of all passengers will be digital travellers and will expect to manage their travel in much the same way they do every other aspect of their daily lives – using their mobile phones.
This demographic shift has created digital travellers who are demanding more automation and hands-on control over each step of their journey.
In particular, they expect to use their mobile phone to access services ranging from baggage location notifications, to boarding and payments.
They also expect their trip to be delivered as a single, unified experience across airports, airlines, border control and other modes of transport – from the moment they leave home to when they arrive at their destination.
Barbara Dalibard, SITA CEO, said: "This demographic shift brings with it the expectation to use technology everywhere – including during travel. This will have a profound impact on how passengers interact with airports and airlines by 2025.
"In fact, 83% of airport and airline IT leaders surveyed by SITA believe that this demographic shiftwill be the most important influence on their passenger solutions strategy by 2025.”
Dalibard maintains that this shift requires more efficient operations and collaboration between airlines, airports and other stakeholders responsible for delivering that experience.
Baggage is a prime example. For a single journey, a bag can change hands a dozen times between the airline, airport, the ground handler and customs agencies.
And if the right data is not shared between the entities, it is difficult to keep track of that bag or to provide the information the passenger seeks on their whereabouts of their bag.
“Without this collaboration, we will not be able to deliver the journey digital travellers want.”
Biometric technology is one of the key enablers to delivering more automation as well as smoothly linking each step in the journey, according to SITA.
This technology, it says, is already being used at airports for border control and boarding aircraft and that is set to grow significantly, both in terms of geographic spread and functionality.
According to SITA’s research, more than over half of the industry’s IT leaders believe biometric travel tokens will be the key driver for the future passenger experience.
To date, the focus has largely been on using biometric identity across a single journey or airport but more and more the industry is shifting its focus to 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.”
SITA is already working with industry organisations such as ACI, IATA and ICAO and is founding steward of the Sovrin Foundation, a private-sector, international non-profit whose mission is to enable self-sovereign identity online.