Airport technology investment rises

Despite the economic problems of
the recent past, airports worldwide have been investing heavily in new

This is in preparation for
anticipated rises in passenger numbers, according to the Airport IT Trends
Survey 2010 released by SITA, an industry body specialising in aviation
information technology.

There were 128 airports surveyed,
representing 220 worldwide. The total IT investment as a percentage of revenue
in 2010 was 3.6 per cent, compared to 2.7 per cent in 2008, when budgets had

This was driven largely by the aim
of reducing business costs, which 52 per cent of the airports also said was
their highest priority. Improving customer service was the top priority for the
other 48 per cent of airports.

Airports expected their budgets to
remain the same of increase during 2011, with 78 per cent saying the outlook
was positive. Investments would include upgrades to infrastructure and
cost-reducing tech upgrades including virtualisation – which 70 per cent were
planning to deploy by 2013 – and voice over IP systems, which nearly 50 per
cent said would be heavily invested in over the next three years.

Ilya Gutlin, Vice President Airport
Solution Line at SITA, said that the survey showed investing in IT
infrastructure remained a high priority for airports.

“They recognise that it delivers
cost savings and greater efficiencies for airports, as well as a smoother
travel experience for passengers.

“With passenger self-service in
areas such as kiosks for check-in becoming the norm, the survey confirms that
airports are now looking to invest in new areas such as e-gates for boarding,
and providing information and services via passengers’ mobile phones,” said the
vice president.


Kiosk technology

According to the survey, 60 per
cent of airports had already implemented kiosk technology and 55 per cent of
those expected to add extra kiosks. By 2013, an additional 26 per cent of
smaller airports planned to introduce kiosks. Tag printing for bags, flight
transfers and passport scans are also on the cards for that date and airports
also reported that an increase in self-boarding e-gates to automate boarding
and security check points would reduce queue times and speed up processing.

Airports are less vulnerable to
short-term economic cycles and the majority of investments and capital projects
already under way during the 2008 banking crisis went ahead as planned. Short
term tactical adjustments did affect IT spend a little and a small number of
airport projects were delayed, staggered or put on hold. Economic stimulus programmes
in China, the US and Europe also unlocked some large public infrastructure
projects, said the survey, which had a cushioning impact on capital investment.


Social media

Airports are increasingly using
social media to communicate with customers. At present, around 30 per cent are
active in the on line space and 60 per cent are considering using these
technologies for flight and operational updates. Others said they would use social
networking for surveys, focus groups and emergency updates.

“Social media is expected to make
one of IT’s biggest impacts in improving airport operational efficiency. It can
enable improved collaboration and decision-making among the different organisations
responsible for the smooth running of an airport, both air side and land side.
The survey shows strong interest in the implementation of Shared Airport Operations
Centres – where stakeholders can gain access to integrated data and real-time
communication,” said the survey.

Also included in the survey was
passenger flow monitoring, data from which will assist in planning, resource
utilisation and reduction of wait times. Mobile devices are now used by 31 per
cent to help with baggage and by 17 per cent to assist in apron and ramp operations.
By 2013, 31 per cent of airports said they would enable remote updates to the
aircraft and boarding gate.

The body now known simply as SITA
was founded in 1949 as Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques.
It now has over 550 members, operates across 200 countries and territories and
provides services to airlines, airports, freight, plus a host of distribution
systems, governments, aerospace, ground and traffic control systems. Consolidated
revenues in 2009 were US$1.49 billion.


Airports and airlines worldwide are intro-ducing self-service check-in kiosks, including this one by Air France.
Photo: File

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