SITA eases passenger flow
Air transport technology firm SITA is marketing fast evolving new products which will allow Asian and other airports to use their space and other resources more efficiently, Ilya Gutlin, SITA’s president of the Asia-Pacific tells Asian Aviation.
Space is of particular concern for the region’s airports with passenger numbers growing by up to 10%, but airports unable to expand physically by the same margin. Technologies smoothing passenger and baggage flow can help them move volumes easier as well as make for a better experience for travellers, says Gutlin.
Stress can impact a passenger’s experience, particularly the stress caused by security procedures, followed by transfer issues and the “will we, won’t we” make it dilemma, delays and lack of information.
Gutlin has a sophisticated version of this. Go one level down and ask what causes stress and it’s the loss of time and the perceived loss of time compounded by the lack of information. To back up his point he quotes a survey that found 44% of those asked got stressed by this. “It will always seem too long,” he said and few would disagree with him.
Using a bluetooth scanner which can measure things to a metre, at Tampa Airport in Florida, SITA collected information about the flow of passengers and posted it on television screens, thereby removing part of the tension from the experience.
This is the sort of information and procedure that airports covet, with a number of Asian airports negotiating for it, although Gutlin declines to provide details. Such technology also has other uses, namely transfers, resulting in speed and efficiency benefits.
“The next step is self-boarding,” says Gutlin. “The trend is more and more end-to-end self service,” he adds. SITA’s vision really goes beyond the kiosk, with passengers first conducting their own bag check-in and then self bag drop. Facilities have to be common use for this to work.
Both airlines and airports in the Asia-Pacific region are interested in this as it would make turnaround times quicker. There is already an Asian precedent here. During the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, Beijing had common use infrastructure. “We were able to serve 260,000 passengers – a daily record for processing passengers,” says Gutlin.
Airports in Asia Pacific are, according to Gutlin, very positive about the technology and its application as it allows more efficient use of what he terms “their real estate” and staff. Gutlin himself believes that the shift from a dedicated to a common use environment allows airports to process up to 50% more passengers.
Currently there are self boarding trials going on at a couple of airports in Australasia, one of which is in Brisbane. The Brisbane trial has seen self-service bag drop slash the process from 25 seconds to just 17 seconds.
The airport of the future will be very much an airport of kiosks.
“Our order book for kiosks is the strongest I’ve seen it in 10 years and [kiosks] will be there in 10 or 15 years. I see a future for kiosks,” says Gutlin, who is less optimistic about the future of traditional staffed check-in. “I think the actual check-in desk will be replaced by a bag drop unit.”
This is not the sort of thing that employees at an airport want to consider, especially if they are in the read and rip bits of paper part of operations. Those jobs, because of the economic viability of this technology, are going to go. Gutlin says there will be a reduction in this sort of employment.
And it will happen as the technology is attractive to airports and airlines, allowing both to use labour and space much more efficiently. “There is a large number of other airports looking at implementing this. It gives them a lot more freedom and efficiencies,” says Gutlin, without naming airports, although one is expected to sign a deal with SITA this quarter.
A third of SITA’s operations are for the airports and just over half, or some 55%, are for airlines. Others, such as governments, make up the rest. For example, during the 2010 World Cup SITA helped the South African government manage airline traffic and passenger flows – Michael Mackey.