The International Air Transport Association is calling on governments and the airline industry to join forces and make better use of modern technology.
During a speech in Warsaw at the IATA Global Airport and Passenger Symposium (GAPS), Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and CEO, said greater efficiency can be achieved in the industry and passenger journeys can be improved through the strategic use of technology.
To improve the passenger experience, technology options should focus on what the passenger wants, according to de Juniac.
A 2019 IATA Global Passenger Survey revealed strong preferences among travelers for technology that does such things as enables tracking of baggage in real-time and expedites a passenger’s journey through the various airport processes.
The industry has solutions for both these passenger expectations, said de Juniac, in the form of the One ID initiative, and RFID for baggage tracking. Both need the support of stakeholders, including governments, he said.
IATA's One ID initiative is helping the industry to transition towards a day when passengers can move from the curb to the gate using a single biometric travel token such as a face, fingerprint or iris scan.
"Biometric technology has the power to transform the passenger experience. Airlines are strongly behind the One ID initiative. The priority now is ensuring there is regulation in place to support the vision of a paperless travel experience that will also ensure that their data is well protected," said de Juniac.
On baggage, airlines and airports are working together to implement tracking at key journey points, such as loading on and off aircraft. In June, airlines committed to the global deployment of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for baggage tracking.
"Implementation of RFID has seen some good progress, especially in China where the technology has been thoroughly embraced. In Europe several airlines and airports are successfully working together to introduce RFID, notably Air France at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The industry needs to be reminded that in addition to meeting our customers' expectations, implementation of RFID will help reduce the USD2.4 billion cost to airlines from mishandled bags," said de Juniac.
De Juniac’s commentary also touched on the key role infrastructure will play in meeting customer expectations.
Developing infrastructure that can cope with future demand, without relying on ever-bigger airports, is essential, he said.
In cooperation with Airports Council International (ACI), the NEXTT (New Experience Travel Technologies) initiative explores important changes in technology and processes to improve operational efficiency and the customer experience.
NEXTT is examining various new operational approaches including:
—Increasing off-site processing, which could reduce or even eliminate queues.
—Using artificial intelligence and robotics to more efficiently use space and resources.
—Improving data sharing among stakeholders to enhance efficiency.
"Accommodating growth by building bigger and bigger airports will be challenging from a public policy perspective,” said de Juniac. “NEXTT provides a major opportunity to focus on using the latest industry technology standards for a sustainable future. “
The CEO of LOT Polish Airlines, Rafal Milczarski, who also spoke at the event, reinforced the need for industry transformation using new technologies to ensure a sustainable future for aviation.
"As Poland's flag carrier and the leading airline in CEE, we believe that European aviation needs significant transformation and we opt for an industry that is fair for all. For airlines to remain competitive and sustainable and to respond to growing passenger demand, it is crucial to implement solutions which will be based on cutting-edge technologies,” said Milczarski.
Before wrapping up his comments at the event de Juniac also touched on two key issues that are also critical to the industry’s future – gender balance and climate change.
With regard to gender balance, De Juniac called for airlines to support the recently launched 25by2025 Campaign.
"Global air connectivity is delivered for people by people. We need a diverse workforce that has the training and skills for an increasingly digital and data-driven world. We will not have the capacity needed for the future if we don't fully engage the potential of women in the workforce at all levels," said de Juniac.
The 25by2025 Campaign is a voluntary program to address the airline industry's gender imbalance. Participating airlines commit to increasing the number of women at senior levels and in key positions by 25 percent or to a minimum of 25 percent by 2025.
As for climate change, de Juniac said airlines have long recognized sustainability as the key to their license to grow and spread the benefits of global connectivity. These benefits, said de Juniac, are linked to 15 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
For more than a decade, the industry has had a target to cap emissions from 2020, he said.
This goal is to be secured by the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) which was agreed in 2016 and reaffirmed earlier this month.
By 2050, said de Juniac, the industry target is to cut net CO2 to half of 2005 levels.
Already emissions from the average journey are half what they were in 1990, according to IATA. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), the organization suggested, offer the biggest and most practical opportunity to cut carbon.
But IATA stressed that governments must develop a supportive policy framework to realize the potential of SAF.