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Airports Council International

Airport investment in IT set to take off

Over 60 per cent of airport IT executives expect increased budgets to boost their IT and telecommunications investment from the current average of 4 per cent of airport revenues….

Over 60 per cent of airport IT executives expect increased budgets to boost their IT and telecommunications investment from the current average of 4 per cent of airport revenues. This is according to the results of the first Airport IT Trends Survey – conducted by Airports Council International (ACI), SITA and Airline Business magazine. Overall, airports worldwide are estimated to invest approximately US$2 billion in IT and telecommunications each year.

Robert J. Aaronson, Director General, ACI commented: “IT is a strategic issue central to airports worldwide and with this survey we have established a set of benchmarks to track the key trends. Not only will IT be crucial to bolstering security in the years to come but it must also further reduce costs across the airport and, perhaps most essentially, provide passengers with a seamless journey.”

IT infrastructure projects were rated the top investment priority, closely followed by security related solutions, passenger and baggage processing as well as the integration of current systems, with improvements in operational efficiency ranked the lowest priority. The Airport IT Trends Survey shows that over 80 per cent of airports have already implemented Internet Protocol (IP) systems and this is expected to rise to 93 per cent by 2006. In addition, while just 13 per cent have a Voice Over IP (VoIP) system already implemented, another 60 per cent plan to introduce it in the next two years.

When asked about the major obstacles to overcome when implementing their IT strategies, airport executives stated a lack of budget, the lack of an agreed airport wide IT strategy, security issues and a lack of Board support as the top issues.

Peter Buecking, President, SITA added: “Smart investment in IT is crucial to a speedy and sustainable recovery of the aviation business globally. An integrated IT infrastructure will improve airport flexibility so that changing passenger volumes can be accommodated by opening new kiosks or gates at a moments notice. Improving passenger, baggage and networking IT systems is vital to ensuring the highest levels of safety, security and operational efficiency.”

Passengers will benefit from the introduction of wireless and web services, as over 96 per cent of airports surveyed plan to implement these services by 2006 (wireless access expected to grow by 54 per cent, and web services for passengers expected to grow by 52 per cent). In the next two years 40 per cent of airports also expected to trial e-commerce facilities for tenants and mobile-commerce payment services.

Common-use self-service (CUSS) kiosks shared by multiple airlines while allowing individually branded services, are also expected to proliferate: over 50 per cent of airports in the survey said they intended to deploy these CUSS kiosks in the next two years.

Biometric Security Trends

Around 25 per cent of airports surveyed already use biometric identification for employees, and by 2006 this group grows to over 50 per cent. Only 4 per cent planned to introduce biometric identification for passengers in the next year, but another 20 per cent plan to implement the technology within the next two years. The biometric technologies used for employee trials were fingerprint (67 per cent), hand geometry (17 per cent) and facial recognition (8 per cent). Biometric technologies to be used for passenger trials included: fingerprinting (24 per cent), iris scanning (24 per cent) and facial recognition (6 per cent).

The survey also showed that 8 per cent of responding airports currently offer radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking for passenger baggage, but that plans are in place for this to grow to around a quarter of airports in the next two years. A few plans are in place to expand RFID systems across cargo services in the next four years.

The Airport IT Trends Survey was conducted by NSM research in the last quarter of 2003 and first quarter of 2004. 48 responses were received from the Top 200 airport groups, representing 50 per cent of industry revenues. Commissioned by Airports Council International (ACI), Airline Business and SITA, the survey covers strategic management issues, outsourcing and security. A detailed report and listing of the aggregate data is available to purchase on CD-Rom and provided free to responding airports.

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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.