Digitalisation of African airports key to economic recovery, says SITA - THE NATION
Global air transport information technology and communications systems provider – SITA has declared that critical aviation personnel and capacity shortfalls in Africa which impede the continents’ economic recovery could be rapidly and affordably addressed with the adoption of trusted, secure cloud-based solutions.
SITA’s President for Africa and the Middle East, Hani El Assaad, who made this known, said the recovery of Africa’s air transport market, which lags behind many bigger markets by a year, needs to take pre-emptive steps to advance the growth of their airports if they future-proof their operations so as not to become transport choke- points as they ramp up.
Speaking in an interview, he said there was a golden opportunity for cash-strapped airports, including smaller provincial and regional facilities, to alter the stakes.
This, he said, could be achieved by digitalising their various passenger processing systems.
Such processes, the SITA boss said, include health status verification, check-in, and boarding.
His suggestions align with data from the airline trade body- International Air Transport Association (IATA) , confirming that commercial airline traffic to, from and within Africa, is still below half of 2019 levels, sufficient evidence that recovery is under way.
According to IATA, African airlines reported a 91.8 per cent increase in demand for air travel this March compared with the same month last year and an improvement on the 70.8 percent growth seen in February.
“With so many skilled and experienced people having left the industry during the pandemic, the clock is ticking for airports to ensure they are ready and able to meet the ever-increasing volumes of travellers, their luggage and cargo shipments.The solution is for all airports – from mega-hubs to small municipal and regional facilities – to digitalise and automate time-costly processes like passenger processing and baggage handling. Agile cloud technology platforms that are efficient, flexible, and scalable to fluctuating passenger volumes can help alleviate the pressure. By empowering passengers to use their mobile phones as a remote control for travel, we can reduce bottlenecks and offer a more seamless passenger journey,” said Assaad.
Until recently, tech-infrastructure costs and support requirements deterred many smaller African airports from investing in digital systems. However, capable and scalable cloud-based technology has become significantly more affordable. It is now also well within reach of smaller, regional airports that need to meet the combined needs to be integrated into the global air transport system and to be able to instantly switch-on additional capacity.
In Africa, so much economic activity depends on airports having sufficient capacity to facilitate efficient, reliable, secure, and safe air transport services. By transforming the passenger experience and meeting their customer airlines’ demands for better efficiencies, smaller airports will be promoting themselves and the communities, industries, and markets they serve as safe, convenient, competitive, agile, and user-friendly destinations.
Over the past decades, the air transport industry has encouraged governments, regulators, and airport and airline operators to embrace digital technology. The result has been the advent of things we now take for granted, such as customer self-service check-in and self-baggage drop solutions, smart-phone boarding passes and various mobile apps, and Digital Health declarations and Trusted Travel Passes for storing and verifying boarding passes and COVID vaccination status, and more. SITA’s print is all over such technologies, and the post-pandemic recovery is a golden opportunity to accelerate and expand digitalisation and take full advantage of the benefits and opportunities it unlocks.