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Getting passengers quickly past the hurdles that separate flyers along the way from the street to the airline gate might seem like a pipe-dream for many travelers, but new technology could significantly simplify the process over the next three years.
Airlines and airports around the world want to cut the hassle out of the check-in and security process so that the average passenger can get from the harried curb to relax in the airline lounge or get some shopping therapy in as little as ten minutes, says Matthys Serfontein, Vice President, Airport Solutions Line, at aviation information technology company SITA.
“Such has been the impact of technology on the way we travel already, that for those of us working on the technology side of the industry such an idea is no longer a flight of fancy” writes Serfontein in a recent SITA report.
Streamlining the check-in process will involve a combination of better methods for check-in, which avoid the check-in desk entirely, improved automatic bag drops which are more readily available, and the incorporation of geolocation technology that lets the airport recognize passengers throughout the journey. Aviation aims to make flying easier and more personal eliminating many of the hassles through IoT (Internet of Things) program implementations currently underway.
SITA’s 2015 IT Trends survey projects that 20% fewer passengers will check-in counters at airports by 2018. Passengers will instead rely more on a combination of automatic and self-service methods to register for their flights.
“Passengers typically want a stress-free trip and airlines are deploying more technology-based services to meet that need,” SITA states in its 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey. “In particular, passengers are switching to mobile apps and the web for check-in, which give passengers less stress and more convenience.”
The aviation information technology company credits low-cost carriers (LCC) for driving this trend, saying that nearly 23% of passengers flying LCC airlines already use self-service methods for check-in, close to the number SITA expects will do so globally by 2018.
Passenger use of automatic check-in procedures, SITA says, which register a passenger for the flight by default and lets the passenger opt-out of check-in only if they won’t make their trip, will rise to 10% of check-in methods used by 2018, up from 4% today. Only 22% of airlines have launched automatic-in systems on some routes, but SITA expects that number to rise to 68% by 2018.
SITA also predicts we’ll be 15% more likely to help ourselves on our smartphones and tablets by 2018 than we are today, and 3% less likely to use our desktops or laptops to check-in in advance of our flight.
Airport-side kiosk use is expected to rise by 5% by 2018.
Just Drop It
Ensuring that passengers reap the benefits of self-service check-in, and reducing stress in the pre-flight process, also requires more automatic bag-drop solutions.
“The industry is now very much focused on baggage processes to bring them into the self-service sphere,” Serfontein states. “At SITA, we have worked with a number of airports, such as Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia to deploy bag-drop solutions. The impact has often been immediate with self-service bag-drops operating much faster than traditional baggage processing—our units typically process 60 passengers an hour, compared to 24 using staffed counters.”
SITA reports that the number of airlines offering bag-drop services has risen from the 9% reported in its 2014 IT survey to 17% in 2015, but is expected to rise dramatically by 2018 with 74% of airlines letting passengers check-in their bags at automated bag-drops.
The Security Hurdle
Getting through security is still an issue and improving that process requires cooperation between airlines, airports, and the border security authorities. But Serfontein is optimistic on that front.
“Close cooperation is starting to happen in some countries and IATA (International Air Transport Association) and ACI (Airports Council International) are doing a great job of driving improvements to the security processes through their Smart Security program,” he writes.
Technology will help there too. “Automated gates and kiosks are going to be at the heart of the improvements,” he states.