Airports ramp up digital technology investments to meet demands of air travel recovery

Airports Council International (ACI) World and SITA today announce the results of the latest 2022 Airport IT Insights Survey, revealing how airports are ramping up their investment in technology to digitalize their operations and streamline the passenger journey through more self-service options.

ACI World and SITA have collaborated for the past 19 years on the Airport IT Insights Survey, the most extensive study of IT trends within the global airport industry. The report reveals that with the quicker than expected recovery of air travel demand, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are eager to leverage IT solutions to fortify their operations against disruption while automating the passenger experience.  

The industry’s IT spend is projected to continue its steady year-on-year growth trend since 2020 to support this push for digitalization, with 93% of airports expecting their IT spend to stay the same or increase in 2023 compared to 2022. Last year’s airport IT spending rose to an estimated US$6.8 billion.

Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General of ACI World, said: “The pandemic and the subsequent recovery has further highlighted the importance of the digitalization of airport operations, crucial to the overall airport customer experience. This year’s Airport IT Insights Report reveals a significant acceleration in the investment of digital solutions to make airports smarter, easier for passengers to navigate, and their interaction with numerous stakeholders seamless.”

Streamlining the passenger journey with smart technologies

Airports are investing in key technologies to smoothen the passenger experience across every step of the journey to help curb bottlenecks and alleviate pressure caused by workforce challenges. Biometrics and self-service technologies are at the forefront of this change.

Airports are prioritizing self-service initiatives, placing strong emphasis on self-check-in and self-bag-drop, with 86% planning implementation by 2025. Airports’ implementation of a secure single biometric token across all touchpoints has surged from just 3% in 2021 to 39% in 2022, with over half planning implementation over the next three years. This signals a strong commitment to the next-generation travel experience where passengers can breeze through the airport using their face as their boarding pass.

Digitalizing operations to achieve more with less

Demand for cloud services features high on the CIO agenda. It is central to optimizing cost, driving efficiency, and introducing new passenger services. Cloud services also offer scalability, which is crucial to managing sudden peaks in passenger volumes.

Business intelligence solutions are also at the forefront of airport IT investment priorities, with 93% or more planning business intelligence initiatives for asset management and flight operations by 2025. The emphasis on agility, adaptability to disruption, and prompt communication with customers and stakeholders is clear: by 2025, a majority of airports are seeking to implement automated predictive alerts prior to flight disruption events as well as business intelligence initiatives to enable the scaling of operations based on demand.

David Lavorel, CEO, SITA, said: “Air travel has recovered faster from the pandemic than anyone in the industry had initially expected, particularly in Europe and the US. While the recovery is welcome, airports and airlines have found themselves on the back foot with staff and resource shortages. This has put strain on operations, resulting in an increased risk of congestion, delays, cancellations and mishandled baggage. Digitalization is seen as key to addressing these challenges, providing more scalability and flexibility.”