For the 25 Million passengers who flew through Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in 2016, the Future Travel Experience plans a whole new passenger experience.
Future Travel Experience (FTE) is the leading meeting place where airlines, airports, vendors, government agencies, and various other travel industry stakeholders come together to reveal their latest visions.
On day one at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas, the Personalization Symposium featured artificial intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, chatbots, digital personal assistants, apps, big data, and privacy.
The 2017 FTE also had innovations such as “Leo”, a fully autonomous and self-propelling baggage robot; a new way to interact with an airport’s data using HoloLens; and next-generation passenger processing for any airline, at any airport, on any device.
According to SITA, the world’s leading specialist in air transport communications and information technology, airlines and airports are embracing new technologies and turning to AI to support their customer service.
Over the next three years, 52% of airlines plan major AI programs or R&D and 45% of airports will invest in R&D in the next five years, says SITA’s 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights.
Airlines are looking to invest in major programs or R&D into prediction and warning systems, which rely heavily on AI.
Another technology that is catching the attention of the industry is chatbots. Today, 14% of airlines and 9% of airports already use chatbots. The report shows, however, that there is a significant appetite among air transport CIOs to embrace this technology over the next three years. By 2020, 68% of airlines and 42% of airports plan to adopt AI-driven chatbot services. Airports plan to use chatbots for services such as notifications and airport guides.
Mobile app development
SITA’s report also shows that mobile app development is a top priority among airlines and airports. Over the next three years, 94% of airlines and 82% of airports plan major mobile programs or R&D. The main area of focus is in the commercialization of their mobile services with airlines looking to boost both direct and ancillary sales via their apps.
In fact, airlines expect sales via their mobile apps to double by 2020 and reach 17% of their total sales. Streamlining services into one single app to deliver a seamless experience is a priority for almost every airline (94%) and a high priority for more than half (58%).
Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA, speaking at the Future Travel Experience conference in Las Vegas, said:
“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 programs to make services even better for the passenger, supporting sales and providing customer support, particularly during times of disruption.”
Nearly three-quarters of airlines use in-house developers for their passenger apps but 42% also use bespoke developers or large tech companies. In contrast, 46% of airports develop their passenger apps in-house and the same proportion uses external developers.
Beacons and sensors
They are also looking to beacons and sensors to help provide context and location-aware services. SITA’s research shows that 40% consider this area a ‘high priority’ for app development and a further 43% consider it a ‘priority’. Airports clearly recognize the opportunity to provide useful and relevant mobile services to passengers to optimize time spent at the airport.
SITA’s IT Trends are well established as the global benchmark research for the air transport industry. Senior IT executives at the top airlines and airports took part in the research earlier this year.
“New airlines and service to new domestic and international destinations have led to steady growth and new records,” said Ricky Smith, Chief Executive Officer for BWI Marshall Airport earlier this year. “We continue to emphasize customer service, affordable airline fares, and an efficient travel experience for our passengers.”
Smith is one of 12 black airport chief executives in the United States.