My Introduction to the Air Transport IT Summit 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2014 Air Transport IT Summit, jointly hosted by SITA and Airline Business.

This year the theme for our IT Summit is: ‘More Ground To Break’. In choosing this theme we wanted to capture the exciting things that airlines and airports are achieving with IT and communications. But we also wanted to look ahead to consider how to build on those achievements, and focus on the potential for technology to deliver even more value to the air transport industry.

In preparing for this Summit, our research with previous delegates and customers told us that you wanted to hear about how IT can drive industry transformation, and how IT supports the industry’s change agenda. What trends and technologies will help us evolve the passenger experience – while anticipating the demands of air travel of tomorrow?

One major factor shaping air travel is the increasing expectations of tech-savvy passengers. Nine out of ten of the world’s airline passengers say technology helps them when traveling… according to SITA’s Passenger IT Trends Survey. Over three quarters of them carry a smart phone when they travel…compared to just 28% in 2010.

Yet usage of mobile services, such as: check-in and booking – is still below 5%. With passengers at the edge of really ‘going mobile’… this is an excellent example of an opportunity to break more ground.

We must also plan for growth. By 2017, we can expect: 4 billion passengers, a growth rate of 5.6% a year… and 5.5 million more tonnes of freight – a growth rate of 3.6%… that brings the total to 37 million freight tonnes.

From an airport perspective, ACI figures show that passenger numbers will ‘more than double’ to 6 billion by 2031.

With that order of growth, along with higher passenger expectations, our industry will need to break new ground – in order to work in much smarter ways. This means we must harness the full potential of technology. We know the industry recognizes the value that technology can bring to its customers and operations.

Three-quarters of airlines expect to invest more heavily in new IT projects this year – according to our 2014 Airline IT Trends Survey. This is corroborated by our latest Airport I.T. Trends Survey – which records a rise in airports’ total I.T. spend to $6bn in 2013… versus $4.3bn in 2010.

So if I may be so bold as to propose the drivers of the industry’s IT, they are:

  • Improving airport operations;
  • Enhancing the passenger experience throughout their journey; and
  • Improving manpower efficiency and effectiveness, and
  • Services for connected aircraft

Common to all of these are quality data and business intelligence. Better intelligence is the heartbeat of a smarter air transport industry. 100% of airlines and 90% of airports are investing to provide business intelligence across their operations – according to our IT Trends Surveys.

Within the 24/7 ‘connected everywhere’ air transport environment… ground-breaking change will come from the power of this intelligence combined with advances in:

  • Social media…
  • Mobile…
  • Analytics, and
  • The Cloud.

This combination lies at the root of services to passengers:

  • from managing flight disruptions
  • real-time flight and bag status information
  • to searching for fares.

We have, I suggest, only just begun to scratch the surface of the potential in: merchandising… tailored advertising… personalized customer interactions… and more.  This is across multiple touchpoints and channels, on the ground, and now of course, in the air.

As we move towards real-time analysis and use of data, as well as predictive and prescriptive analytics, there is great potential for airlines and airports to evolve increasingly smarter operations.

To truly harness this potential, we must work together to exploit the data and intelligence that will truly break new ground for our passengers and operations.

About paulcoby
I am CIO at the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. I was Chair of SITA - the airline solutions company owned by the Air Transport Community - for 11 years. I am also on the Boards of Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Pets at Home. Previously I was Head of BA Services and for 10 years CIO at British Airways. I am interested in Roman and Military History. The views expressed are entirely my own not my employers.

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