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Airport IT spending is on the increase


GENEVA (SITA) - Global airport IT survey shows strong investment aimed at improving the passenger journey through the airport

Results of the 2005 Airport IT Trends Survey, presented to industry leaders at the Airports Council International (ACI) world conference in Auckland, New Zealand, provide strong evidence that investment in new information technologies such as check-in kiosks, wireless connectivity and biometrics, promise to make the experience for the four billion passengers travelling through airports each year faster, safer, and more productive. The survey also shows that airports’ IT spending is increasing both as a percentage of revenues and in real terms.

Respondents to the annual survey conducted by SITA, ACI and Airline Business, represent nearly 50% of revenue at the top 200 airports, based on the latest Airline Business magazine financial rankings.

Self-service check-in kiosks: at least 42% of airports globally have already deployed some form of self-service kiosk and the results show that, over the next two years, this figure will rise to 70% WiFi access: over 90% of airports surveyed will offer public access to a WiFi network within the next two years Managed network services: Within the next two years, 75% of airports will have an airport-wide communication network to support new passenger and airline services, such as Voice over IP (VoIP) Biometric identification: 33% of airports plan to deploy a biometric identification system for check-in and boarding within the next four years, an eleven fold increase on today’s figure The survey also presents a picture of an airport industry rapidly adapting to the challenges posed by significant traffic growth and the needs of the increasingly influential low cost carrier sector and airline alliance groups.

Airport operators are making smarter use of technology to help meet these challenges. In particular, shared-use service models have provided airports with flexibility in assigning limited space and facilities to airlines with the ability to scale operations, both critical operational imperatives in today’s highly competitive marketplace.

John Jarrell, SITA Senior Vice President, Airport and Desktop Services, said, “The survey results show that airport IT investment levels have climbed to 4.6% of revenues, up from 4.1% last year. With passenger numbers continuing to rise, leading to increased airport revenues, the trend for increasing IT budgets in the future looks positive. We estimate that airport IT spend in 2005 is around the US$2.5bn level.”

“Given that passenger traffic is forecast to almost double by 2020 to 7.4 billion, it is not surprising that airports are looking for IT solutions to play a bigger part in their operations. As the industry becomes increasingly competitive, we are seeing airports across the world using IT to attract both airlines and their passengers by providing efficient and safe airports.”

Findings in detail

Self-service check-in

A major issue facing airports will be the countering of terminal congestion as a result of the anticipated doubling of passenger numbers over the next twenty years. Airline-neutral check-in kiosks are seen as part of the answer. The first generation of kiosks was largely dedicated to a single airline as evidenced by the survey results, which show 42% of airports have deployed them. But the introduction two years ago of common-use self service (CUSS) kiosks, providing check-in capabilities for multiple airline-use, is starting to make an impact.

Currently, only 8% of airports have deployed CUSS kiosks. The survey results show that, within the next two years, that percentage will increase significantly to 70%. In contrast, underscoring the accelerating shift towards common-use kiosks, only 2% of airports plan to opt for dedicated kiosks. Other technologies that look set to alter the passenger’s airport experience include self-service boarding, with over 60% of airports planning to provide the capability within two years.

Staying connected

To complement the speeding up of the check-in process, the survey shows that airports are increasingly providing passengers with alternative ways to use their time, including the provision of wireless Internet capabilities, allowing travellers to stay connected while they wait for their flights.

The clear choice is WiFi: over 90% of airports surveyed said they already offered or planned to offer it in the next two years. The WiFi standard is of industrial strength, which makes it a particularly suitable underlying infrastructure for providing shared-use services to both the public and airport tenants such as shops and ground handlers.

Other technologies being considered by airports are mobile phone applications for both remote check-in and m-commerce, which allow travellers to purchase goods and services within the airport terminals. To date, these have only been implemented in around 5% of airports. However, within two years as mobile connectivity becomes all pervasive, this figure is expected to rise to the 40% level.

Managed Campus Networks

As the needs of airlines and their support operations grow, airports are increasingly deploying a single airport-wide communication network to reduce the cost and complexity of existing systems, and provide a platform for new services, such as VoIP and WiFi. Campus Area Networks (CANs), as they are known, are already deployed at 38% of airports, and this figure will double over the next two years as the benefits and operational efficiencies become more widely accepted.

Biometric identification

Getting the balance right between tight security and streamlined passenger procedures is a modern day challenge for most airports. Biometrics are seen as the most positive development to achieve this, but with issues such as reliability, privacy, and global technical standards still not agreed upon most airports are adopting a wait-and-see approach. Currently only 3% of airports globally have deployed passenger biometric identification systems for check-in or boarding, but the survey indicates this will jump to 33% within four years as the different technologies mature and standards are adopted.

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