How Biometrics, Bots & Apps Improve Passenger Experience

As we look to the future, passenger numbers as well as expectations are increasing every year – they are projected to double to nearly eight billion by 2036. Technology plays a very important role in improving the passenger experience. Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern & Southern Africa, SITA tells us what to expect in 2018.


ACCORDING TO the 2017 SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey, Indian passengers are becoming more familiar with the use of mobile technology as they use frequently use it on their airline journey. While the use of technology among Indian airline passengers remains high at check-in (87 per cent) and booking (52 per cent), 2017 saw that self-bag drop usage climbed to 21 per cent from 12 per cent in 2016. 

Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President Indian Subcontinent, Eastern & Southern Africa says, “In India, travellers are increasingly demanding the use of self-service and mobile technology in the airport to speed up their journey. This expectation, in many cases, is running ahead of availability in Indian airports today.” The research shows 54 per cent of passengers would rather opt to use self-bag drop than go to an airline check-in counter, compared to 33 per cent globally and well ahead of the current usage.

Jaikrishna adds, “This is good news for the industry as it provides airports and airlines the opportunity to fully benefit from technology to speed up the journey and drive operational efficiencies, helping them meet the demands of rapidly growing passenger numbers across the country.” India is expected to see passenger numbers grow by 337 million over the next 20 years to 2036, quadrupling from the 141 million passengers in 2016.

Another area that is gaining the attention of passengers is the use of biometrics. India’s national biometric identity system is the largest in the world with over 1 billion enrolled members and Indian passengers have shown greater willingness to use biometrics to speed up their journey through the airport. In 2017, 70 per cent of passengers in India said they would definitely use biometrics if given the option, removing the need to show a passport or boarding card at key points in the airport. This was well above the global average of 57 per cent.

“With only 31 million people flying in 1950, compared to a forecast of four billion in 2017, it’s easy to create a fantastic experience when you’re only dealing with a few people. So how can airports deliver the experience passengers want in this new era of super-busy, low-cost air travel?”, tells Jaikrishna whose firm SITA is the communications and IT solution provider for the world airlines and airports, and is constantly working to bring new solutions to the air transport industry and to examine the potential of breaking technologies. Here, Jaikrishna speaks about the new innovations to help airports improve the passenger experience.


Biometric boarding: SITA has worked with JetBlue and the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using biometrics for paperless and deviceless self-boarding. The technology uses facial recognition to verify customers’ identity at the gate. There’s no need to show passports or boarding passes. Behind the scenes, the camera station connects to the CBP to instantly match the image to the passport, visa or immigration photos in the CBP database, and verifies the flight details.

KATE: KATE solves the problem of long check-in queues. It is an intelligent check-in kiosk – a robot – that takes itself to congested areas in the airport, using data that’s already available thanks to SITA’s collaborative solutions. KATE improves the passenger experience by reducing check-in times.

Mobile passport control: Miami International Airport is the first airport to integrate the CBP Mobile Passport Control into its mobile app.


SITA invests significant time and effort with its airline and airport partners, investigating how new technologies can help the industry become more efficient and improve the passenger journey. So what can we expect for the future?

Internet of Things: In airports, IoT can be used to track assets and resources. Using that data, and ideally sharing it, can streamline all sorts of processes including resource allocation, boarding, baggage handling and aircraft turnaround times. Intelligent machines, which are a cross-over of IoT and AI, can do basic tasks that make the passenger journey better, such as the use of personal locator beacons (PLBs) so the relevant teams and equipments are ready at the gate the second an aircraft arrives at the gate, reducing the potential of delays. It all adds up to smoother airport operations, more efficient passenger journeys and, ultimately, a better, more personalised, passenger experience.

Artificial Intelligence: Using cognitive computing, predictive analytics and other progressive technical capabilities, airlines and airports can predict and, therefore, mitigate the impact of any disruptions. That’s good for business and for passengers. They are also investigating AI-driven chatbots, to give passengers access to more information in a very simple way. Flight Information Displays (FIDs) will be able to recognize the passenger, based on their biometric data, and provide the exact information you need at that exact moment, for example your gate number and how long it will take to walk there.

Blockchain/Distributed Ledger Technology: SITA has worked with British Airways, Heathrow, Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport to investigate how blockchain technology can make the air transport industry more efficient and secure. While we’re several years away from blockchain/ distributed ledger technology becoming a mainstream enterprise technology, it’s becoming very clear that it will have an opportunity to make a significant difference to data sharing. And the more data is shared across the industry, the better the decision-making and therefore the better the passenger experience.

When there is a delay, there are often differences between the information provided by passenger apps, airport flight information displays and airline agents. If everyone has access to the same data, passengers can be given accurate and consistent information, and operations can be streamlined. And the beauty of blockchain is that the data is accessible for all parties involved and each party retains control over their own data.

As we look to the future, passenger numbers are increasing every year – they are projected to double to nearly eight billion by 2036 – and passenger expectations are also increasing. With these developments it’s clear that technology has a major role to play in improving the passenger experience.

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