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Digitalization of air travel ramps up, driven by biometrics, amid continuing airport chaos

Digitalization of air travel ramps up, driven by biometrics, amid continuing airport chaos

Pent-up demand for both business and leisure travel emerging from the pandemic is seeing passengers embracing mobile and touchless technologies further, including biometrics, says a new report by SITA.

More specifically, the 2022 Passenger IT Insights survey outlines a substantial increase in passenger use of mobile devices for booking flights, onboarding airplanes, and collecting bags in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2020.

However, SITA also notes that health verification, still largely manual, was a pain point in the industry that slowed down end-to-end automation.

“[We found] reduced technology adoption in the early stages of the journey (check-in, bag tag, and bag drop) in favor of manual processing,” reads the report.

“Uncertainty about health requirements and travel rules has likely led passengers to seek more staff interaction when starting the journey.”

In terms of biometrics adoption, passengers’ comfort levels with the technology scored an average of almost 7.3 out of 10.

“Passengers ranked identity control, security, and boarding the highest, possibly because they already expect various checks to occur in these areas,” SITA wrote.

“Conversely, check-in, bag drop, and lounge access came out as the lowest ranked, perhaps because passengers do not see the value of biometric identification at these stages.”

The SITA survey also hints at the desire of individuals to travel more, with the average passenger estimating 2.93 flights per year for business and 3.90 for leisure.

Sustainability was also a key element of the SITA survey, with the majority of respondents saying they would pay on average 11 percent of their ticket price to offset carbon emissions from their flight.

New technologies to support this goal include tools monitoring airport environmental performance to reduce emissions, and solutions to reduce fuel burn.

“It is exciting to see demand recovering and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels, not just for leisure but also for business travel,” comments SITA CEO David Lavorel.

“The use of IT to help drive and sustain the recovery of air travel is vital today, and it is also critical to the post-pandemic digital journey of tomorrow.”

Despite the increased adoption of these technologies, however, the travel industry, particularly in Europe, is undergoing a period of severe disruptions, caused by pilot and airport staff shortages, increases in ticket pricing, and hundreds of canceled flights.

On Thursday alone, Heathrow Airport in London canceled 30 flights during the morning peak, and Paris’ main airport witnessed a workers’ strike. And earlier today, Dublin Airport was hit by several Aer Lingus cancellations.

Will the increasing adoption of digital technologies in air travel help contain this crisis? Biometric Update will follow the events and cover new developments as they become available.

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