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Mon 6 Jul 2009 04:00 AM

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Trend tracker

SITA regional director Middle East and Turkey Jihad Boueri explains the key trends emerging from airports of today.

Trend tracker
Jihad Boueri says minimising passenger queuing time is still a challenge for airports.

SITA regional director Middle East and Turkey Jihad Boueri explains the key trends emerging from airports of today.

What are the biggest challenges facing airports?

Minimising passenger queuing time is still the biggest challenge, not just in the GCC but across the world. Check-in, security and baggage collection procedures take up valuable time for the passenger and airports are constantly seeking new ways to cut down the amount of time spent by the passenger waiting in queues.

Is there a solution?

The biggest emerging trend is self-service check-in and the use of common-use self service (CUSS) technology. Statistics show that across the region, people are getting used to using the technology and airports are popularising the service by directing passengers towards the kiosks rather than allowing them to stand in queues at service counters.

But isn't face to face service preferred in this region?

It used to be the case that Middle East passengers preferred human interaction when checking in but I think this is changing. People are flying more and this technology suits those passengers who travel more than three or four times a year. They have become comfortable with it. Terminal 3 at Dubai International has gone for self-service kiosks in a big way and from next month we will be supplying the technology to Sharjah and Abu Dhabi airports where the service will be available to customers travelling with any airline.

What other trends are facilitating check-in systems?

Web check-in is also growing in popularity, but mobile check-in is the trend for the future. Boarding passes will be sent to a passenger's mobile phone and the whole process is paperless, and therefore cost-saving.

OK, but take-up will be slow won't it?

All stats show people without the internet or access to it will use this system. The technology is currently being trialed by Delta Airlines at Atlanta airport. I predict that two years from now this process will become the main agent for check-in at airports. In addition, an SMS can be sent to a passenger to locate their whereabouts and let them know when their flight is boarding. It will prevent passenger delays and therefore improve the efficiency of the airport.

What else is SITA working on?

Sitting alongside mobile and web check-in technology is the i-border system to help with security. It is particularly relevant to this region, as it helps airports to find out if a passenger holds a valid visa before being issued with a boarding pass. This problem only applies to a small number of passengers but it can cause big hold-ups and obviously it is a cost-saving device for the airlines that have to fly the passengers home.

How can airports make sure the technology works properly?

This is the most important element of the entire process. Airports are 100% reliant on the technology working all of the time - it needs to be both secure and well maintained. When customers purchase the SITA systems and they are implemented they receive maintenance services from SITA for five years or more - Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai all have this agreement.

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