How Airline Tech Is Gearing Up For A Sustainable Recovery

While critical progress has been made in the return of air travel this year, the aviation industry is still going through many ups and downs, with significant restrictions still in place and some regions yet to open up consistently. As aviation continues to transition, Simple Flying caught up with SITA, the IT provider for the air transport industry, to learn more about how there can be a sustainable recovery.

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Passengers will notice a plethora of new systems in place as they return to the airport. Photo: Getty Images

Ready to roll

SITA is covering numerous bases in this next stage of aviation. It’s cultivating modern solutions such as AI to help find and repatriate lost items on aircraft and at airports. Meanwhile, it is addressing new requirements such as managing travel health credentials in the current climate. Overall, the group is working with important industry partners such as IATA to help ensure safe and seamless air travel remains in place.

The global health crisis had absolutely rocked aviation from top to bottom. For months on end, passengers worldwide were unable to see loved ones, go on vacation, or travel for work.

Travelers are keen to hit the skies again. In fact, 60% of passengers are ready to fly again, but ongoing barriers are keeping many people on the ground. Following the easing of certain conditions, numbers have been promising in countries such as the United States for several months, with millions of fliers flocking to the air on a daily basis. Also, while Europe had gone through several highs and lows, airlines across the continent are also seeing positive activity.

Despite the light at the end of the tunnel, several markets remain suppressed. For instance, practically all of South America is cut off from direct links with the United Kingdom amid government restrictions. Along with this, Australia has maintained stringent border closures since the rise of the pandemic in early 2020. These are just a few examples of how the pandemic is still taking its toll on airlines and passengers alike.

Initiatives such as SITA Health ETA provide vital health information to help keep passengers safely moving as borders reopen. Photo: SITA

Three pillars

Sergio Colella, SITA President Europe, highlights that a key part of the industry, SITA is owned by the carriers. It is strongly focused on backing a sustained recovery of the industry. The organization shares that it supports the recovery in three core areas.

  • For operators, passengers numbers generally remain below what they were in 2019, while the surging oil price is driving up the cost of fuel, one of an airline’s largest costs. So, a focus is to make fleets more efficient through solutions such eWAS and OptiFlight, which help to reduce fuel burn.
  • Alongside governments, the industry needs to ensure that it can securely reopen borders while making the process seamless. This is where Health ETA will be a valuable asset.
  • At the airport, the concentration is around automating the journey where the passenger’s face is their passport, and their mobile device is a remote control for travel leveraging Smart Path and SITA Flex.
eWAS gives airlines real-time access to multi-source weather reports for turbulence, thunderstorms, and lightning. Photo: Getty Images

The wider sustainability mission

Sustainable recovery transcends across wider sustainability goals. There are ambitious targets in this field, with stakeholders keen to become carbon neutral and operate in a net-zero ecosystem in the coming decades.

As a result, the market requires solutions that help it reach its carbon reduction objectives. Thus SITA is collaborating with the industry on sustainable aviation initiatives.

Colella shares that SITA’s solutions can help carriers and airports considerably cut down fuel burn and associated emissions, with more sustainable flying through enabling more direct and efficient flight paths and management of disruption from weather impacts to reduce delays.

“For example, our eWAS Pilot integrated with Safety Line’s ‘OptiFlight’ reduces fuel consumption, costs and limits aircraft CO2 emissions at key flight stages – it optimizes take-offs, descent and flight paths based on historical data and real-time updates for weather, head, and tailwinds. Climb fuel savings of 5-6% are possible for each flight without affecting passenger safety or comfort, and, it’s estimated that aviation could avoid 5.6 million tons of CO2 emissions a year if all the world’s airlines optimized the climbing phase of a flight,” Colella told Simple Flying.

“Also, Transavia have used OptiClimb & OptiDirect which has delivered estimated savings on fuel and carbon emissions of 82kg per climb, with 223 CO2 tons reduction a year per aircraft tail. Our technologies also contribute to a paperless cockpit through Electronic Flight Bags and FlightFolder, optimize operations to prioritize and track specific environments, utilize sustainable, lightweight design – for example, for SITA’s self-service kiosks, gates and bag drops. Finally, it is also a solution to utilize cloud-based capabilities to reduce energy consumption and emissions at airports.”

OptiClimb matches plane tail-specific machine learning with 4D weather forecasts to suggest tailored speed changes at different altitudes. Photo: SITA

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A critical period

Altogether, the next chapter of aviation is perhaps the most crucial in the industry’s history. The pandemic has shaken up operations, and even if most regions recover sooner or later, the fleet setups and route networks are already looking notably differently.

SITA Biometric
Smart Path and SITA Flex seek to reduce passenger touchpoints, utilizing biometric and cloud technology. Photo: SITA

As passenger numbers head in the right direction, stakeholders will be keen not to have a repeat of the disastrous downturn that the globe saw over the last year and a half. It is also a priority for airlines and airports to operate in a more environmentally-friendly fashion. This motive also supports additional goals of increasing efficiency and cutting costs. Therefore, there is a mission to operate more sustainably on all fronts.

What are your thoughts about the plans to recover in a sustainable manner? What do you make of the overall targets in this field? Let us know what you think in the comment section.