Airlines and airports in China lead the world in automating passenger travel, with 100% of airlines saying they invest in upgrading their passenger management systems. In particular, the industry is focused on introducing biometrics to more touchpoints along the journey and streamlining health documentation management in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to SITA’s Air Transport IT Insights 2021, Chinese airlines and airports continue to push for digitalization to support operational efficiency, streamline passenger travel and address health and safety concerns. Sustainability has also become a priority, with Chinese airlines and airports exploring strategies to conserve energy and otherwise reduce environmental impact.
A seamless passenger journey and efficient operations
A large majority of Chinese airlines (91%) and most airports (68%) expect to spend the same or more on IT in 2022 than in 2021. 100% of airlines focus these investments on upgrading their core passenger management systems by 2024. Aircraft maintenance solutions, a new priority for this year, are also attracting investment from 100% of airlines over the next three years as they strive to further increase operational efficiency through digitalization.
Chinese airports, which have been ahead of the global curve in implementing passenger self-service, are reinforcing their commitment to a seamless, low-touch passenger journey. Applications to provide digital passenger services (90%) and contactless solutions for both passengers and staff (88%), will remain high priorities for the next three years. Airports are also investing ambitiously in biometric-powered travel, with 86% planning to have biometric-only self-boarding gates in place by 2024, and 58% planning a secure single biometric token for all points of contact.
A key consideration for seamless passenger travel in the era of COVID-19 is the automation of passenger health certificate verifications. While 80% of Chinese airports and 75% of airlines relied on manual health checks performed by staff by 2021, a significant number of mobile app health checks (75% of airlines and 39% of airports) or checks via kiosks (31% of airlines and 34% of airports) by 2024.
While artificial intelligence remains high on the list of emerging technologies being prioritized by airlines (87%), business intelligence (BI) jumped significantly in priority (63%), reflecting a further focus on tracking activities to increase efficiency. maximize. 73% of airports also invest in BI, with A-CDM (Airport Collaborative Decision Making) and flight operations being the main application areas.
Sumesh Patel, President, Asia Pacific, SITA, said: “The lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have created a challenging work environment for Chinese airlines and airports. Despite these limitations, China’s airlines and airports reaffirm their commitment to technology as the way forward to support a safe and seamless passenger journey amid emerging health demands. Technology will enable the industry to respond to rapid shifts in passenger traffic and travel regulations, and drive cost savings through renewed operational efficiencies.”
Sustainability in the foreground
The report’s findings show that both airlines and airports in China are steadily increasing their IT sustainability budgets. They are investigating how to reduce the energy consumption and other environmental impacts of their activities at a time of accelerated digitalisation. In the next three years, more than half of airlines and airports plan to shift their data centers from dedicated infrastructure to an energy-efficient cloud.
Most airlines also plan to implement selection criteria for third-party data center providers that champion sustainability, and nearly half plan to implement IT lifecycle management controls that promote equipment reuse, repair and remarketing. Meanwhile, airports are benefiting from advances in smart building technology and automation, and almost all of them expect implementation by 2024.