Connecting the dots across the air travel chain

posted on 20th August 2019
Connecting the dots across the air travel chain

As air traffic keeps on rising, investment in IT systems to enhance operational efficiency, performance and reduce costs is key to the success of ground handlers, airlines and airports alike, and Amadeus is at the forefront of developments across the chain

The aviation industry is embracing new technology with each sector at different stages of the digital revolution and as air travel continues to soar the need to invest has never been so high.

Stakeholders have a better chance of future success if they adopt new technologies that have the potential to improve the efficiency of operational processes, save costs and boost the bottom line.

Amadeus is at the forefront of this marketplace and the IT company provides various products to the industry and now works with 120 ground handlers (GH), 130 airlines and other stakeholders while continuing to develop new solutions.

Ground handling is a relatively new sector for Amadeus, and Stephan Hirmer, Head of Passenger Systems, said since it entered the market in 2012 it has worked closely with ground handling clients.

The sector is a low-margin business and companies are under constant financial pressures and Hirmer said its ground handling customers are always looking for more functionality in systems and it plans on rolling out more in future.

He explained of one new function that will boost business and improve efficiency: “One example is the soon to be launched multi-merchant function. We are bringing that to the ground handling business,” he said. “Companies will be able to collect money directly from the airlines without any tax issues.”

Hirmer said Amadeus is signing up new ground handlers all the time and it is looking to develop its product offering for GHs every year. “Our promise for GHs is they can use one interface with multiple airlines. There is no switching over which creates inefficiencies in ground handling and people can use the same system,” he added.

“We want to try to provide them (GHs) with the tools they need to be more efficient and improve their operations. We look into what products and see how we can make them more useful and create additional revenues.”

Hirmer said Amadeus also continues to work IATA on One Order – the concept of a single Customer Order record, holding all data elements obtained and required for order fulfilment across the air travel cycle – such as customer data, order items, payment and billing information, fulfilment data and status.​ He added that One Order might be disruptor in the market and “we need to be ready”.
One Order will facilitate product delivery and settlement between airlines and their partners with one simplified and standardised order management process. All parties will follow a single process to service customers throughout their entire product purchase and delivery experience.

COMMON BIOMETRIC PLATFORM

Amadeus works across all sectors of air travel and another initiative has seen it team up with Ljubljana Airport, Adria Airways and LOT for a biometric boarding pilot, a step towards their vision of a common, centralised industry platform for biometrics.

The pilot saw passengers enrol using an Amadeus smartphone app that captured a ‘selfie’ alongside their passport photo and boarding pass, all stored securely on a remote server. A photo of the passenger was then captured at the boarding gate and matched against those stored on the server to validate the passenger’s identity and flight status. Upon successful matching a message was conveyed to the Departure Control System and the passenger was able to board smoothly.

“The pilot was a great success,” Hirmer said. “It is all done on a mobile phone and you can use it anywhere. Passengers are in full control and we want to resolve this piece of the puzzle.”

The pilot saw the average passenger boarding time reduced by about 75 per cent with boarding taking two seconds, rather than the typical five to 10 seconds per passenger. It paves the way for a common biometric solution making check-in, security and boarding easier.

THE ANSWER TO QUEUES

The technology is seen as an answer to lengthy queues at airport as passenger numbers continue to rise and enable faster and smoother airport processes for passengers.

For airports, the technology can deliver an improved service to their airline partners, reducing bottlenecks and freeing up ground handling staff to focus on other customer-facing activities. For airlines, there is the promise of greater efficiency and a speedier turnaround of flights.

Hirmer said Amadeus is looking to roll-out the platform to other airport and airline partners in future. “The airline and airports like it and we were able to validate the technology and we are now talking to more customers,” he said. “For passengers it was hassle free from the usual processes.”

The solution is in line with IATA’s One ID vision meaning it works across all participating airports and airlines so passengers can arrive at the airport ready to travel.

The approach Amadeus said addresses the fundamental problem of biometrics in airports today: the need for passengers to register at each airport separately, but with a centrally hosted solution that sits between airports, airlines and passengers, Amadeus said it will deliver a common standards approach that works for everyone.

Importantly, this means biometrics can be rolled out and scaled up quickly in areas such as check-in, security and boarding.

“We are looking into the solution to ease the end-to-end process and make it as frictionless as possible,” Hirmer added.

“We want the passenger to be in full control and so the passenger can do it all from their mobile devices and then just show up at the airport where they are recognised and they have a smooth and seamless journey through. We are now looking at rolling it out.”

LAST PART OF THE JIGSAW

Another big move by Amadeus is completion of the acquisition of ICM Airport Technics (ICM) for an undisclosed sum. ICM develops passenger automation and self-service bag drop solutions for airports and airlines and is based in Sydney, Australia.

The addition of ICM’s portfolio of solutions strengthens Amadeus’ ability to re-imagine check-in, boarding and security in ways that significantly enhance the traveller experience, improve efficiency of operations and reduce costs.

Hirmer said this brings the whole service into the IT firm’s portfolio meaning it can now carry out an integrated strategy and it complements Amadeus’ offering for airport operations.
Amadeus is now able to design, configure, implement, operate and support all airport systems needed to manage passengers and their baggage from end-to-end.

“It is a big step forward,” Hirmer said. “We initially entered the market with just software and now are adding the hardware. It helps us move towards providing an end-to-end solution and we can combine our software with hardware.

“Airports are looking at one firm providing all services and with this acquisition we can do this. It is a giant step into our strategy to combine with our software as we move towards creating frictionless travel.”

Interesting times ahead at Amadeus.