Research by SITA, the specialist IT provider to the air transport industry, shows that the worlds 3.2 billion mobile phones could be transformed into indispensable air travel tools within five years, and if used as passenger tracking devices they could save cash-strapped airlines up to $600 million on reducing flight delays.
As personal travel folders, mobile phones have the potential to hold boarding passes, baggage tracking information and payment data making travel truly paperless and location independent. There is also the future possibility that they can be used to store visa and biometric information.
The report distributed today at SITAs Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels, includes research from Cambridge University which demonstrates that technology such as location sensing via mobile devices could save airlines up to $600 million by tracking passengers, sending messages and moving them to gates more efficiently; improving turnaround times and reducing delays.
At current growth rates, there will be five billion mobile customers by 2011 and functionality on mobile devices will be increasingly sophisticated. For the air transport industry this opens the door to a new way of doing business as mobile phones are currently used by 90% of airline passengers.
Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA said: These digital travellers, will have on-demand access to a range of mobile-enabled services such as real time flight updates; self-service booking, check-in and boarding; and mobile payments.
Some of these services are already available to passengers, for example in Norway, Japan and Germany paperless travel is a reality on some routes. But what our research shows is that these mobile services will be available to all travellers worldwide over the next five years. In fact, by the end of 2010, 67% of airlines plan to offer mobile check-in. By then 82% of airlines also plan to offer notification services on mobiles.
The report also demonstrates other areas where the air transport industry can gain from adopting these technologies. Using mobiles as tracking devices, airports can not only move passengers more efficiently but also market revenue-earning services. During a trial at Manchester Airport in the UK, redemption of vouchers sent to passengers mobile phones resulted in 45% higher spending than among other shoppers.
Francesco Violante, SITAs Chief Executive officer, said: The air transport industry needs to embrace these disruptive technologies. The rewards will be at the bottom line with improved turnaround time, increased levels of self-service and new revenue streams. SITAs $110 million investment in research and development this year, including the new SITA Lab, shows our commitment to innovation and new technologies, which we believe will deliver benefits to the industry as a whole.
SITA is the specialist provider of integrated IT business solutions and communication services for the worlds air transport industry. SITA manages complex communication solutions for its air transport, government and GDS customers over the world's most extensive communication network, complemented by consultancy in the design, deployment and integration of communication services. Its broad range of airline and airport IT applications and services includes airport operations and integrated baggage services, common use and desktop services, flight operations and air-to-ground communications and end-to-end airline distribution and fares services.
SITA has two main subsidiaries: OnAir, which is leading the race to bring in-flight mobile telephony to the market, and CHAMP Cargosystems, the world's only IT company solely dedicated to air cargo. SITA also operates two joint ventures providing services to the air transport community: Aviareto for aircraft asset management and CertiPath for secure electronic identity management. In addition, SITA sponsors .aero, the Internet top level domain reserved exclusively for aviation.
SITA covers 220 countries and territories and the head office is in Geneva, Switzerland. SITA had consolidated revenues of US$1.42 billion ( 1.06 billion) in 2007.