Airport and airline technology chiefs look to AI to enhance customer service

SITA’s 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights Report shows that airlines and airports are increasingly embracing artificial intelligence (AI) technology to support their customer service platforms, especially to address high volumes during times of disruption.

The SITA study shows a continued growth trend in IT spending by airlines, projected as $24.3 billion for 2017 compared to $21.9bn in 2016.

Airport IT spending is projected to significantly increase, after a slight dip last year, and is projected to reach $8.43bn in 2017.

The top IT spending priority for both airlines and airports is cybersecurity with 95% of airlines planning major cyber security programs or Research and Development over the next three years. SITA reports that 96% of airports surveyed plan to invest cybersecurity initiatives over the next three years.

During the same period, 52% of airlines plan to research and develop or deploy major AI projects and 45% of airports will research and develop AI projects over the next five years.

Artificial Intelligence is expected to prove particularly useful in addressing common questions during times of disruption. Of those surveyed, 80% plan to invest in major R&D or projects for prediction and warning systems, which rely heavily on AI.

SITA also finds that 14% of airlines and 9% of airports are using chatbots today, while projecting that 68% of airlines and 42% of airports will adopt AI-driven chat bot services by 2020.

Airports primarily aim to use for chatbots for notifications and airport guides. They will use beacons and sensors to support context and location-aware services.

SITA’s research shows that 40% of airports consider chatbots a ‘high priority’ for app development, and a further 43% consider it a ‘priority’.

Despite a move towards diverse social media platforms and messaging channels for customer communication, SITA’s report shows that mobile app development is still a top priority among airlines and airports.

SITA finds that 92% of airlines plan to invest in initiatives for passenger services on social media over the next three years, but 94% of airlines and 82% of airports also plan to deploy or research and develop major proprietary mobile services programs.

The primary focus of proprietary mobile services programs for airlines is commercial, aiming to boost direct bookings and ancillary sales.

“Airlines expect sales via their mobile apps to double by 2020 and reach 17% of their total sales. Streamlining services into one single app to deliver a seamless experience is a priority for almost every airline (94%) and a high priority for more than half (58%).”

Speaking at the Future Travel Experience conference in Las Vegas, Jim Peters, chief technology officer, SITA, says:

“We know that passengers prefer to use technology and when it is well designed it can really improve the passenger experience. Airlines and airports are investing in AI and mobile programs to make services even better for the passenger, supporting sales and providing customer support, particularly during times of disruption.

“The industry is using a healthy mix of in-house and outsourced development which will combine expert and industry-specific knowledge with emerging approaches to tech offerings.”

SITA reports that almost three quarters of airlines will use in-house developers for their passenger apps, while 42% will also use bespoke developers to support their projects, or large tech companies.

The SITA report shows that 46% of airports will develop their passenger apps in-house and roughly the same percentage will use external developers.

Related reading:

Aviation heavyweights join forces on cybersecurity

Cybersecurity moves up airline agenda as threats loom

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Marisa Garcia

About the Writer :: Marisa Garcia

Marisa Garcia is the tnooz aviation analyst. She has covered travel technology, design, branding, and strategy for leading publications, including Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, APEX Magazine, AirlineTrends, and Travel+Leisure. She also shares industry insights on her site Flight Chic. Fly with her on Twitter.



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