Air travel industry’s $50B investment in biometrics and other IT improves passenger satisfaction

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The air travel industry is finally making significant headway on improving customer satisfaction levels and average processing time, and it only had to spend $50 billion on technology like biometric facial recognition to do it, according to the latest research from Sita.

The new Sita 2019 Air Transport IT Insights report shows that after spending a record $50 billion in 2018 on airport IT, 60 percent of airline CIOs report a year-over-year improvement in passenger satisfaction, with some increasing up to 20 percent.

Airline IT spending increased for the first time in several years, and airlines spend 4.84 percent of their revenue on IT in 2018, compared to 6.06 percent by airports.

“The increase in airline spend over the past year was driven by the larger airlines which continue to invest to speed up the pace of digital transformation,” explains Sita President of Air Travel Solutions Matthys Serfontein. “Investments in business intelligence and cloud services have emerged as priorities.”

“Overall, we can see that the industry is focused on improvements to its operations to make it more efficient and facilitate better collaboration with partners and other stakeholders in what is a highly integrated industry. This in turn is having a profoundly positive impact on the service they are able to provide to passengers.”

As investment takes off, NEC Corporation of America has launched a dedicated website, with a purpose described in a Linkedin post by the company’s Vice President of Federal Operations Benji Hutchinson as a way to demonstrate its technologies for modernizing air travel.

The new NEC Aviation site declares that “biometric technology is taking flight,” and provides an interactive birds-eye-view picture of an airport detailing ten different contact points and transaction types, and how they are affected by technology. It also shows a cycle of a dozen ways face recognition is changing travel experiences. The site also includes several explanatory videos, links to recent news, the company blog, and white papers.

Modernizing airport processes with new technology standards also requires changes to legacy travel documents, such as the ePassport system used in the Philippines. Philippines Entertainment Portal reports that the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has advised all passport holders to renew their passports at least a year before they expire, as extensions of the validity of ePassports does not comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

The DFA posted an advisory on its website, stating that ePassports are no longer eligible for extension, starting this October. The DFA had issued ePassports with an integrated circuit containing biometric data to applicants experiencing delays in the issuance of their new machine-readable passports, according to the report.

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