IATA estimated that the airline industry suffered a net loss of $118.5 billion last year amid the impact of the global health crisis. The numbers are still daunting, with a projected loss of $47.7 billion in 2021. However, there has been some light at the end of the tunnel, with passenger activity slowly picking up amid the easing of restrictions across the continents. To help travel reboot safely, SITA, the IT provider for the air transport industry, has been working with airlines, airports, and other market stakeholders on new technological initiatives.
Turning it around
SITA President Europe Sergio Colella spoke exclusively with Simple Flying about his group’s programs in this recovery period. Altogether the focus is largely on measures to keep passengers moving safely and efficiently in the new climate.
By SITA’s numbers, passenger activity was down around 60.5% last year from 2019. This figure is approximately the same number that the industry transported in 2003. Even though recovery is certainly underway, Colella doesn’t expect passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023.
Altogether, the health crisis continues to reshape procedures across the passenger journey. Travelers have to deal with new health requirements, while airlines and airports need to ensure safe, frictionless passenger processing. Factors include the efficient management of health documentation to avoid bottlenecks and boost passenger confidence.
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The right tools
Colella explains that recovery from the crisis will take time and will be highly complex. With the complications, SITA has been working on a series of solutions to help the market as it emerges from the difficult period. The group believes these projects will play a major role in enabling a safer, simpler travel experience for all travelers.
SITA highlights that its new Health Protect solution can help as it can easily integrate with multiple travel pass or ‘health passport’ schemes, bridging the gap between these schemes and aviation and border processes.
Another initiative involves a recently-announced partnership with Indicio.tech and the Aruba Health Department to trial the Aruba Health App. Destinations such as Aruba rely heavily on tourism for their economy. Therefore, these locations are focused on rebuilding their tourism industry following the impact of the pandemic.
Colella explains that this solution is a pilot that makes it easy for visitors to share a trusted traveler credential, based on their health status, privately and securely on their mobile device. This credential will then provide access to participating hospitality sites. Notably, the program uses modern tech such as blockchain to offer this seamless approach.
“Using blockchain technology, visitors to the island who have provided the required health tests to the Aruba government will be issued with a unique trusted traveller credential via the Aruba Health App. This credential then can be verified by hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues through the unique QR code on a visitor’s mobile device without sharing any private data,” Colella told Simple Flying.
“The digital credential also enables the Aruba government to restrict visitors from leaving their hotel rooms until they have received a negative PCR test result. It is vital to ensure we open borders safely and securely. Projects such as this bring us one step closer to expediting the industry’s recovery, by giving passengers more control, convenience, and security when it comes to their data.”
The wider overhaul
Blockchain isn’t only providing a significant contribution on the front end. It is also revolutionizing background systems such as aircraft fueling. Digital aviation refueling is making it far more efficient and secure to refuel planes, saving airlines time and money.
Aviation digitization has advanced by years amid the pandemic. Airports across the globe have gone touchless with their systems, while airlines have been keen to use apps to cut down on customer contact.
While the experience has been transformed, SITA explains that the changes being introduced are naturally in line with a long-established trend by passengers and the air transport industry to move towards a more automated passenger journey. The group concludes that greater automation has brought on higher passenger satisfaction.
What are your thoughts about SITA’s technological initiatives as the travel industry tries to rebuild? Let us know what you think of the prospects in the comment section.