Survey shows airlines have big plans for health apps

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digital health passport [credit: ronstik/Shutterstock.com]
One-third of airlines have enabled mobile apps that verify the health or vaccination status of customers. Photo Credit: Ronstik/Shutterstock

So far, one-third of airlines have enabled mobile apps that verify the health or vaccination status of customers, while another 51% intend to implement such technology by 2024. 

Meanwhile, airports have big plans for deployment of biometric identity solutions, with 38% saying they plan to enable end-to-end biometric airport journeys by 2024. 

These are among the findings in the annual Air Transport IT Insights survey undertaken by aviation IT company SITA. Survey results, SITA said, came from airlines that collectively represented 30% of global air traffic in 2019 as well from 161 airports that collectively represented 30% of global passenger traffic that year. 

The survey found that for 2021, 48% of airlines had planned to increase IT spending compared to 2020, while 44% of carriers planned to spend less. The trend line is more bullish this year, with 61% of carriers expecting to increase their IT spend, compared with 16% that expect to spend less. 

The top IT investment priority for carriers is cybersecurity, with cloud services and mobile applications for passenger services trailing closely behind. 

Among those mobile app investments for many airlines will be health verification apps, which are also known as health passports or vaccine passports. 

IATA has repeatedly identified automated health verification as essential to speeding check-in processing times for international air travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, as countries have implemented a complicated milieu of entry and exit requirements. The SITA survey found that 33% of airlines now offer health-certificate verification via mobile app.

In addition, 4% of carriers offer health-certificate verification via kiosk. By 2024, 84% of airlines expect to offer a vaccine passport app, while 49% expect to be verifying health documents via kiosk. 

An increasing number of airlines are also turning to biometrics. Twenty percent of carriers said that they have already begun utilizing biometric identity confirmation technology for ticketless self-boarding, up from just 5% in 2020. By 2024, 50% of airlines expect to have deployed such solutions, according to the SITA survey.

On the airport side, the survey found that 48% of facilities had planned to increase IT spending last year, compared to 33% that expected a decrease. This year, 55% of airports plan to increase their IT investment, compared to 19% that anticipate reducing it. 

As with airlines, the top IT investment priority for airports is cybersecurity. Cloud services and self-service processes were the second and third priorities.

From door to gate, airports are ramping up in investments in biometrics. Thirty-two percent said they have implemented automated border gates at departure using biometrics, while 30% said they have implemented automated arrival gates.

By 2024, 59% of airports expect to have biometrically-enabled international departure, and 51% expect to have biometrically-enabled international arrival.

Meanwhile, 24% of airports say they now house biometrically-enabled, ticketless, self-boarding gates, with 62% of airports expecting to implement the technology by 2024. 

Just 3% of airports said they have enabled an end-to-end biometric journey, in which passengers can pass from check-in, through security and onto their plane without displaying a ticket or an ID. 

However, 38% expect to implement biometrics at all touchpoints by 2024, according to the SITA survey. 

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