In an exclusive interview with Travel Weekly Asia, Sumesh Patel,
president of SITA in Asia Pacific, looks at the root causes of the
current chaos in the skies and the solutions of how air travel can not
only just regain normality, but also advance several steps further than
what it used to be.
Here's what he has to say:
Sumesh Patel, president, Asia Pacific, SITA
Sumesh is a global leader in the air transport industry with decades of
experience working with airports and airlines across the world. He is
responsible for guiding teams in the design and implementation of major
IT initiatives to meet the needs of Asia Pacific’s airlines and
The difference between European and Asian airports
Asia is in a better space for three reasons. Firstly, if you look at
Europe, they’ve reached almost 80% recovery of international traffic,
while in Asia we’re currently seeing a recovery level of around 45%,
thus Asia airports have not yet experienced that amount of traffic yet.
Secondly, airports in Asia started recruiting staff much further in
advance to conduct training and get their employees up to speed, instead
of hiring on the go which will lead to either manpower shortage or
untrained staff mishandling operations.
Thirdly, and most importantly, airports in Asia are looking at
technology. Most of the airports in Asia are working with us [SITA] on a
few solutions. There’s a much better baggage solution where it not only
tracks the bag, it also allows you to home in on the luggage of a
passenger who may be late or have not boarded the flight. That luggage
can then be offloaded within 20 to 30 minutes for it to be transported
onto the next flight with the passenger who may have missed that initial
connecting flight they were supposed to be on.
Our world tracer baggage solution helps you track the baggage
irrespective of the airport, airline or destination. In addition, under
the circumstances of a lost luggage, travellers need not wait hours
looking for a counter staff to file a complain and fill up a form, they
can simply do it themselves on their own device. They can then check the
status on an app and track the luggage through the app once it’s found.
Slow and steady wins the race
SITA’s self-bag-drop system allows travellers to swiftly and efficiency check in their luggage without having to queue for manual processing. Photo Credit: SITA
The true test for Changi Airport and others in Asia would be once China’s flood gates open. We may find ourselves in a similar situation with Europe.
Changi Airport’s successful reopening and efficient operations with
minimal disruptions can be attributed to a lot of proactive planning.
They engaged SITA for automated check-in kiosks and baggage systems to
lessen the load on ground staff. Additionally, they very accurately
predicted how the traffic flow would return to time the incremental
reopening of their terminals.
closed borders also play a part. China had previously contributed a
large portion of passengers. The true test for Changi Airport and others
in Asia would be once China’s flood gates open. We may find ourselves
in a similar situation with Europe. But for the most part, Asia airports
still have the advantage of reopening with a gradual increase in
traffic instead of a huge spike, and they are observing and learning
from what is happening in Europe right now.
Seamless and automated airport experience
Biometric gantries can be implemented on a wide scale all across the airport to automate immigration checks and other fast track other touch points. Photo Credit: SITA
In SITA’s Passenger IT Insights 2022, 80% of passengers say that they
are willing to share their personal information to have a better
airport experience as long as they know what kind of data is being
collected, how long it’s going to be kept and how it will be used.
For example, if travellers don’t have to stand in a queue for 90
minutes at immigration and they can do it in a matter of seconds via an
automated gantry that checks their passport and biometrics against the
information collected previously at the self-check-in kiosk, they would
prefer to do that.
This technology has already been implemented at several airports even
before Covid-19. The Beijing Capital International Airport had
previously implemented a fully automated system from start to finish at
seven touchpoints with 600 devices. From the moment a traveller checks
in, to the bag drop, to the immigration, to the lounge, to the gate and
to boarding the plane, all they have to do is walk through gantries that
will scan their faces and provide them access.
pandemic is only accelerating the demand for this technological
adoption. The next airport that will see an implementation of this scale
is Bangkok, where it should be going live in September.
We can work with pre-existing devices and add on features to those in
order to lessen the costs. We’re working very closely with the airports
and airlines to help them go through these difficult times and of
course also help the adoption of new technologies to drive efficiency
and better serve passengers.