Sat | Feb 22, 2020

The future of air travel and digital travel

Published:Wednesday | January 8, 2020 | 12:14 AM

Advances in digital and artificial intelligence for air travel are coming in thick and fast, delegates at the recent World Travel Market (WTM) in London heard.

Liam McKay, director of corporate affairs at London City Airport, told delegates it won’t be long before biometrics replace paper documents and check-in will be carried out somewhere else.

During a session, titled ‘Gathering Storms, Airlines and Airports’, he said: “In the future, there will be less space than you expect for check-in. It won’t be done in the future at an airport. It will be done at your office or at home.

“Currently, we have travellers flying from London City who work at Canary Wharf who can drop off bags at their offices.

“Soon you’ll be able to turn up without your passport. It will be more or less a paperless experience based on biometrics. That future is much closer than you think.”

Hank Jan Gerzee, chief digital and innovation officer at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, told the moderator, John Strickland, the airport already has the facility for people to drop off luggage at the car park before they get into the terminal.

In another development, the world’s first automatic bridge to allow passengers to walk off the aircraft and into the terminal has been installed at Schiphol, speeding up the disembarkation process for flyers and helping aircraft to be more punctual.

Virtual assistants, multi-language websites and wearable technology will shape the ­future of digital travel, a WTM London session also heard during the session.

The themes emerged in a discussion titled ‘Genesys Session: The Future of Digital Travel’, led by Paul Richer, founder of technology consultancy Genesys.


Daniel Wishnia, chief digital ­transformation officer at German property company Aroundtown, said the $2.1-billion purchase of FitBit by Google two weeks ago illustrated how important wearable health and tracking devices would be in future.

“The message is prediction – to try and understand a person’s behaviour, to see what that person will choose and buy.”

Virtual assistance and voice technology were part of this future, he said. “It’s not only about the weather forecast, it’s about where can I go? My assistant knows I like sushi, and recommends restaurants that are nearby. This kind of data will lead us to understand how we approach our future customers.”

Devices like Alexa and Google Assistant will eventually shape travel ­decisions through learning more about our tastes, lifestyle and health, he said.

“The assistant will be interactive; it will know your calendar and tell you it’s time to take a break.”

Joel Brandon-Bravo, vice-president of travel solutions at translation service TransPerfect, warned of the need for multilingual approaches. He said that of the $30-trillion growth in ­middle-class consumption predicted between 2015 and 2030, only $1 trillion would not come from Asia. Similarly, there were no English-speaking countries among the top 10 emerging markets.

Proxy technology, where an enquiry is redirected to a hosted site in the ­client’s own language, would permit new ­market ­penetration, he said. He also urged ­companies not to think that no new social media channels would emerge, citing the enormous recent growth of short-form ­mobile video site TikTok.