Airports accelerated technology investment during pandemic

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Airports Council International (ACI) World has issued a report revealing that airports have accelerated investments in technology to aid their recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

ACI World has collaborated with SITA for the past 17 years on the annual Airport IT Trends Survey, which feeds into SITA’s Air Transport IT Insights, and this year’s report found that airports have been agile in adapting to the changing health and safety requirements, focusing on automated and touchless solutions for both customers and staff.

Results from the survey showed that airports are spending 5.46% of revenues in 2020 on IT – which represents about US$3.5bn in absolute spend – and that 55% of the responding airports estimate that their 2021 IT budgets will either stay the same or increase.

The survey revealed that 87% of airports confirmed that programs to address passenger health and safety protocols have either been implemented or are planned. These include sensors, video monitoring and robots to automatically monitor passenger social distancing, temperature checks, sanitization and other health criteria.

Business intelligence tools, which can be linked to these technologies to help staff maintain a safe airport environment for all customers and staff, ranked third in airport’s top investments. Touchless self-service offerings at airports have been an unsurprising investment, with an increasing number of airports having implemented solutions during the pandemic. Biometric technology is the focus for airport investment with 64% of airports aiming to roll out self-boarding gates using biometric and ID documentation by 2023, three times as many as in 2020.

“Airports have done so much already to improve the customer experience, our industry cannot afford to lose ground on this progress, despite the challenging environment we are in,” noted ACI World director general Luis Felipe de Oliveira.

“These findings are encouraging. There is no doubt that the health and well-being of customers, and their experience, remains airports’ top priority. This is not just an investment to meet the demand of the pandemic, but in line with a longer-term trend and a solid investment in the future.”

Other notable findings of the report included:

  • 89% of airports confirmed they offered self-service check in options;
  • 64% said they have implemented biometric-enabled immigration border gates;
  • 79% of respondents said they provided bag tags capability at kiosks;
  • 77% of airports will implement the infrastructure or have already done so, to support biometric touchpoints across the airport;
  • 67% of airports will implement or have implemented self-service boarding gates;
  • 52% of airports have or plan to implement ACRIS standards for data sharing; and
  • 83% of airports are implementing a major cybersecurity program with 11% looking into a pilot program.
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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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