China ramps up airport automation

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Airlines and airports in China are embracing artificial intelligence and automation to provide a hyper-personalized self-service experience, IT specialist SITA has found.

According to the SITA 2019 China IT Insights, published on November 28, China’s airlines and airports are using these technologies to expand mobile services and are automating the journey with self-service every step of the way.

A key technology that is attracting investment is artificial intelligence (AI). SITA’s findings reveal that 88% of airports are planning major programs or R&D involving AI by 2022 and that they are focusing on virtual agents and chatbots. This investment matches the demands from passengers; SITA’s research among passengers in China shows that 64% of them want a digital travel concierge.

“China’s airports have a strong record in embracing technology and automation to drive efficient operations and high levels of passenger services. Now they are moving to the next level where they will harness artificial intelligence to deliver more services, faster and to more people,” said May Zhou, vice president and general manager of SITA China.

For passengers of China’s airports, self-service has reached a strong level of maturity, but a step-change is coming as biometrics are being adopted. Today, 27% of airports have self-boarding gates using biometrics with travel documents but in just three years this will jump to 66%, according to SITA. More than half of the airports have plans for secure single biometric tokens for all touchpoints by 2022. Airlines too are committing to self-boarding gates using biometrics with ID, 60% of them planning to introduce the technology within the next three years.

Zhou added, “The adoption of self-service by passengers across China has been very encouraging for airlines and airports. At SITA, we see many in the industry who are now ready and planning to add biometrics to bring self-service to the next level.”

Mobile services are vital to meet China passengers’ demands and by 2022, all airlines and 93% of airports are planning investments in them.

China’s airports are investing in mobile services to offer a more personalized experience for passengers. Services including notifications about flight and airport status, and customer relationship management are well established and are offered by up to 81% of airports. China’s airports are not only using mobile services to facilitate payments. Close to three quarters of them enable passengers to buy airport services and cashless payments via mobile.

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Tara has worked for UKi Media & Events since 2013, initially as a freelancer. She has been a journalist for over a decade and has worked for a range of publications, including Personnel Today, Management Today and The Grocer.

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