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Pain of flight disruptions to ease as airlinesinvest in smart technologies

SITA survey reports 90% of airlines plan new initiatives over next three years.

Airlines are investing in smart technologies to manage flight disruptions better, according to the 2014 Airline IT Trends Survey, co-sponsored by SITA and Airline Business. The survey, launched today, reports that by 2017, 90% of airlines plan to use business intelligence solutions to manage flight disruptions more effectively and efficiently, and 87% plan to use self-service technologies to improve passenger services during periods of disruption.

Flight disruptions, or irregular operations (IROPs), affect airlines, passengers and the entire economic eco-system surrounding the industry. With the majority of flight delays caused by unavoidable weather, such as extreme rain or snow storms, airlines continually strive to find the best way to manage disruption. This year’s survey reveals how they plan to invest in smart technology to do so.

Launching the survey at the Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels, Francesco Violante, CEO, SITA, said: “The survey results show three quarters of airlines are increasing their investment in new technology initiatives to manage their business. Innovation is absolutely vital in any business. In the past decade, airlines have achieved great success using technology to improve the passenger experience, and this year’s survey shows a new focus in the area of disruption management.

“Airlines are investing in business intelligence, self-service for passengers during disruption, and of course the expansion of mobile services. The aim is that when incidents happen the industry will be better prepared to minimize disruption. The fact that airlines are focusing on this very difficult area is a healthy indicator of the desire to deliver a better passenger experience while improving airline efficiencies.”

The survey examined four main areas of disruption management: communications, passenger recovery or re-bookings, staff awareness and prevention. Airlines across the world plan to invest in each of these areas.

The initial focus is on real-time communication to passengers and between stakeholders. Informing passengers of disruptions in real-time via mobile is now offered by just over half of the airlines surveyed, and 92% plan to do so by 2017. In addition, more than one third of airlines currently use social media to keep passengers informed, and 80% plan to do so by 2017.

Airlines are also focusing on IT to provide more efficient recovery from disruption to improve the passenger experience, and self-service re-booking is a key area of investment. Few airlines have this in place at the moment but they show strong ambitions. Currently, just 14% of airlines let passengers use kiosks to manage their flight changes caused by disruption, but this is set to rocket to 63% by 2017. By then, 73% also plan to offer this service on mobiles, a rise from 11% today.

In the area of prevention, 90% of airlines plan to have business intelligence initiatives in place by 2017 to help manage disruptions, with 51% having integrated systems to predict potential disruptions and impact before they even happen.

The survey reports that 75% of airlines expect to increase their spending on new IT initiatives this year. Major new investments are aimed at boosting self-service for passengers, as well as leveraging the mobile devices they carry. These airlines are looking to get ahead of the competition by using technology to improve efficiency, operations and passenger services.

The Airline IT Trends Survey is an independent poll of senior IT personnel working within the top 200 passenger carriers; this year’s respondents together carry more than 50% of the world passenger traffic, and include 13% classified as low cost carriers, and 29% were airlines carrying over 20 million passengers.

*The report was launched today at SITA’s Air Transport IT Summit. Further details on the survey are available here and customized data from all of SITA’s industry surveys can be accessed on the IT Trends Hub.

2014 Airline IT Trends Survey