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The Future of Air Travel

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According to SITA’s new report - Flying into the Future, by 2015, the way we travel will change significantly fuelled by innovation in IT - used by airlines, airports and passengers.

Over the next three years, the industry will see a major transformation in the way passengers buy travel services and use self-service along their journey. In addition, these journeys will take place in a fully mobile and social environment with airlines and airports intelligently using vast quantities of data to deliver real service and operational improvements.

Nigel Pickford, Director Market Insight, SITA, said, “Information technology has already had a major influence on air travel. And with the number of global travelers expected to double by 2030, it will continue to lead the way for the industry. Our survey analysis shows four major IT trends which will shape the entire travel experience, from how we book flights to how we interact with airlines and airports during the journey, to the kinds of services we expect.”

Based on SITA’s most recent surveys of airlines, airports and passengers worldwide, the four major trends which will shape the future of global air travel are:

1. The way passengers buy travel will change. By 2015, both airlines and airports expect the web and the mobile phone to be the top two sales channels. Passengers are asking for a more personalized buying experience, and the industry is responding. For example, Alaska Airlines is one of several airlines with a travel app that alerts fliers to airfare deals from their hometowns and to cities where their friends live.

2. Passengers will take more control. By 2015, 90% of airlines will offer mobile check-in - up from 50% today. Passengers will use 2D boarding passes or contactless technology such as Near Field Communications (NFC) on their phones, at different stages of their journey, such as at boarding gates, fast-track security zones and to access premium passenger lounges. Japan Airline’s Touch & Go Android is one example of an app, which will allow passengers to pass through boarding gates using their NFC-enabled phones. France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport is piloting a similar service.

3. Customer services will become more mobile and social. By 2015, nine out of ten airlines and airports will provide flight updates using smart phone apps. The industry is also exploring apps to improve the customer experience. At Japan’s Narita Airport, roaming service employees personalize the customer experience by using iPads to provide airport, flight and hotel information to passengers. In addition, Edinburgh Airport is one of several airports with apps that help passengers plan their journeys to and from the airport, track their flights, access terminal maps and reserve parking spots before they arrive.

4. The passenger experience will improve thanks to better business intelligence. By 2015, more than 80% of airports and airlines will invest in business intelligence (BI) solutions. Most will focus on improving customer service and satisfaction, often through personalized services. For example, one European airline, Vueling, researches customers via social media in an effort to understand them better. It then integrates this information into their BI programs to improve loyalty.

 “Passenger needs and preferences are changing. Today’s passengers want more control throughout their journey. They expect transformation in both the kinds of services airlines and airports offer, and the way they communicate with them. At the same time, the industry is investing in business intelligence solutions and collaborating more to increase operational efficiency and improve customer service and loyalty,” Pickford added.

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