Airline and airport IT executives anticipate the growing number of digital travellers will have the biggest impact on their digital plans over the next six years, a study by SITA has found.

The report, ‘2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age’ found that by 2025, 68% of all passengers will be digital travellers and will expect to manage their travel using mobile phones.

“This demographic shift brings with it the expectation to use technology everywhere – including during travel,” comments Barbara Dalibard, SITA CEO.“This will have a profound impact on how passengers interact with airports and airlines by 2025.”

The demographic shift comes with a demand for more automation and hands-on-control over the passenger journey. In particular, these passengers expect to use their mobile phone to access services such as baggage tracking, boarding and payments.

Dalibard continued: “In fact, 83% of airport and airline IT leaders surveyed by SITA believe that this demographic shift will be the most important influence on their passenger solutions strategy by 2025.”

These digital travellers also expect their trip to be a ‘single, unified’ experience across airports, airlines, border control and other transports.

SITA suggest this requires more efficient operations and collaboration between airline, airport and other stakeholders, such as in bag tracking, where a single journey can see a bag change hands a dozen times between the airline, airport, ground handler and customs agencies, the company argued.

SITA digital traveller

“Without this collaboration, we will not be able to deliver the journey digital travellers want,” Dalibard continued.

According to SITA’s research, more than half of the industry’s IT leaders believe biometric travel tokens will be the key driver for the future passenger experience.

SITA says this technology is one of the key enablers for delivering more automation and linking the steps of the journey, and the technology is already in use at airports for border control and boarding, and this is set to grow in terms of geographic spread and functionality.

While the focus to date has largely been on using biometric identity across a single journey or airport, the industry is shifting to focus on providing a persistent digital identity that can be used across multiple journeys.

SITA is working with industry organisations such as IATA, ICAO and ACI and is a founding steward of the Sovrin Foundation, a private-sector, international non-profit aiming to enable self-sovereign identity online.

Image: SITA

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