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Aviation spends billions on IT to improve experience

Aviation IT Shop, Shopping Mall, Person Dubai Airports already uses biometric technology and is preparing to launch a Smart Corridor to speed up boarding procedures airport aviation IT airports airlines investment Dubai Airports
Passengers at Dubai International. Dubai’s PMI reached 56.6 in January, indicating sustainable growth in the emirate’s non-oil private sector
  • Airports’ $11bn IT spend
  • Airlines invested $35bn
  • IT enhances passenger service

The aviation sector invested billions into IT in 2023, as companies sought to improve passenger experience, according to a new industry report.

Global airports increased their IT spending by 23 percent year on year to almost $11 billion last year, while airlines upped spending by 15 percent to $34 billion, according to the 2023 Air Transport IT Insights report, compiled by SITA, an aviation IT provider.

Based on a survey of 250 global airline and airport executives, the report found that about three-quarters of respondents plan to increase IT expenditure in 2024.

The aviation industry has made significant strides in optimising the passenger experience, with more than half of them implementing IT solutions to improve check-in, baggage tagging and boarding procedures.

In the GCC, Riyadh Airports Company ran a successful trial of facial recognition technology last year, linking passengers’ digital identities directly to their physical passports, simplifying security and boarding processes.

Dubai Airports uses biometric technology – a combination of facial and iris recognition – allowing passengers to complete check-in and immigration procedures without having to present identification documents.

Dubai Airports last week announced that it is ready to launch the Smart Corridor, which will allow travellers to complete check-in, passport procedures and obtain boarding passes before heading directly to their aircraft without stopping anywhere except at security inspection points.

Majed Al Joker, chief operating officer of Dubai Airports, told the state-owned Wam news agency the corridor will be rolled out during the second or third quarter of this year.

The move is part of investments amounting to nearly $3 billion to enhance facilities, transit areas, and technological infrastructure, as the city’s main airport aims to process 100 million passengers per year by 2028, up from 87 million in 2023.

Baggage handling

Emirates airlines has introduced a new system to help track baggage.

“Emirates Bag Connect provides real-time baggage information to operational touchpoints including check-in, airport services and our contact centres,” Jake Sims, senior vice president of Emirates Group, said.

“These teams can query the system to immediately locate a passenger’s bag at any point during their journey. 

“The same data is available on our mobile app giving customers reassurance that their checked luggage has been loaded onto their plane or safely delivered to the baggage carousel at the destination,” Sims said.

The airline has a record for baggage handling, where 99.9 percent of all baggage from Dubai or transferring through reaches its owner on time, at the correct destination.

Aviation businesses in the region are also looking at investments in artificial intelligence, Vojin Rakonjac, vice president of UK-based software development company Endava said.

In December 2023 Etihad Airways became one of the first airlines to use AI to enhance safety management systems. Its AI-powered platform collects and analyses data including flight reports, maintenance and training activities. 

“AI can reduce operational costs by assisting in booking tickets, flight scheduling, feedback analysis and streamline payment processes,” said Rakonjac. 

“As we approach a full recovery of passenger demand for air travel, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels in some regions, airlines and airports have learned from the congestion and disruptions seen in the past two years,” said David Lavorel, CEO of SITA.

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