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Airports and airlines will spend nearly $33 billion on IT this year as they bid to enhance their operations and put passengers more in control of their journeys.

Airports will invest more money on IT than ever before this year and their commitment to spending big on technology is being matched by the airlines, with both focusing their efforts on similar priorities.

Indeed, according to SITA’s latest report, Air Transport IT Trends Insights, top of the agenda for CIOs at both airlines and airports are investment in cyber security and cloud services. In addition, they are prioritising investments in passenger self-service.

SITA’s research shows that their IT spend remains strong, with a colossal $33 billion expected to be invested by the world’s airports and airlines on new technology in 2017.

It says that spend as a percentage of their overall revenues will rise by an estimated 5% for airports and 3.3% for the airlines as they invest $8.43 billion and $24.3 billion respectively on IT in 2017.

Looking to 2018, over 70% of airlines and 88% of airports are expecting their IT spend to increase or remain at the same levels as today.

Cyber security

And as IT spend rises, says SITA, both airports and airlines agree that the number one priority for their investments is cyber security.

Nearly all of them – 96% of airports and 95% of airlines – plan to invest in major programmes or R&D on cyber security initiatives over the next three years.

According to SITA, this shows alignment across the industry on the importance of investing in this area.

SITA has conducted in depth research into the level of cyber security maturity at airlines and airports in the fight against this global threat and, according to its findings, there are very high levels of security awareness among staff at airlines (82%) and airports (85%).

This year, beyond cyber security protection, SITA reveals that the industry is focusing on threat detection and response management.

Indeed, it claims that 47% of CIOs at airports are implementing security events and correlation monitoring, while security incident response management is being put in place at 60% of the world’s gateways.

“Airlines and airports are building their critical defenses and preparing to deal with common threats, but we must all bring it to the highest level and integrate cyber security at executive and board level,” says SITA CEO, Barbara Dalibard.

“Together we must identify, detect and react to cyber threats and protect the industry’s assets from attack.”

Digital transformation

Cloud services are another top investment priority with 95% of airlines and 85% of airports planning to invest over the next three years, continuing an upward trend that SITA has recorded since 2015.

The third key area of investment that was highlighted by both airports and airlines is the desire to provide extra self-service options to passengers.

At airports, self-service processes at check-in, bag drop and boarding are increasingly popular with passengers and 89% of airports are investing in these processes.

Airports operators have a keen focus on improving the journey through the terminal and are looking to new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), beacons and sensors, to support their goals.

SITA’s insights show that 80% of airports are investing, or planning to invest, in these technologies over the next three years.

Nearly three quarters, 74%, are investing in wayfinding solutions and 68% in solutions to improve personalisation for the passenger.

AI, chatbot and beacons

Another revelation of the new report is that airports and airlines are increasingly embracing new technologies and turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to support their customer service efforts.

In fact according to SITA, over the next three years, 52% of airlines plan major AI programmes or R&D and 45% of airports will invest in R&D in the next five years.

Airlines are looking at how technology can help minimise the impact of disruption on the passenger experience and their business and, over the next three years, 80% of them plan to invest in major programmes or R&D into prediction and warning systems, which rely heavily on AI.

Another technology that is catching the attention of the industry, says the report, is chatbots. Today, 9% of airports and 14% of airlines use chatbots, however, there is said to be a “significant appetite” among air transport CIOs to embrace this technology over the next three years.

So much so, in fact, that Air Transport IT Trends Insights predicts that 42% of airports and 68% of airlines plan to adopt AI-driven chatbot services by 2020.

Jim Peters, SITA’s chief technology officer, says: “We know that passengers prefer to use technology and when it is well designed it can really improve the passenger experience.

“Airlines and airports are investing in AI and mobile programmes to make services even better for the passenger, supporting sales and providing customer support, particularly during times of disruption.

“The industry is using a healthy mix of in-house and outsourced development which will combine expert and industry-specific knowledge with emerging approaches to tech offerings.”


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