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How technology will change your future airport experience
Today, 50 percent of airports offer flight status updates via smartphone. Expect that number to skyrocket.
Expect kiosks to become the norm.
Expect kiosks to become the norm. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Travelers want to get through the airport as quickly as possible with access to updates at their fingertips. Airports are answering that desire by investing heavily in technology that improves passengers' experience.

The majority, or 68 percent, of airport surveyed in SITA's 2013 Airport IT Trends Survey consider passenger experience as the most important driver of IT investment.

Global airports are expected to spend 5.43 percent of revenues on IT investments in 2013, which totals $6 billion for the global airport industry. Approximately 90 percent of airports plan to increase or maintain their spend in 2014.

Here are the most significant changes that flyers should be on the lookout for through 2016.

1. Kiosk check-ins available at 98 percent of airports

Almost all airports will offer kiosk check-ins by the end of 2016. Check-in kiosks speed up passenger entry into the airport and cut down on staff for airlines.

One of the main challenges is making the kiosks accessible for all flyers. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced new rules that ensure flyers with disabilities have equal access to booking websites and automated airport kiosks.

2. Flyers can check their own luggage

Kiosks with bag-tag printing will also become commonplace. In three years, 82 percent of airports will extend self-service to flyers with check-in bags. This is more than double the 40 percent of airports that currently offer the service.

European airports are particularly bent on the trend with more than 90 percent planning to roll out self-service kiosks with bag-tag printing by 2016.

3. Bag drops that let flyers free themselves of luggage immediately

Assisted bag-drops where airport staff takes bags off flyers' hands are available at 41 percent of airports surveyed and 90 percent of hubs expect to offer the service by 2016. The real opportunity for growth is the unassisted bag-drop, whose availability is expected to increase from 13 percent to 68 percent of airports over the next three years.

4. Airports keep flyers updated with mobile apps

Almost every airport (95 percent) is currently investing in building a mobile app in an effort to deliver real-time information to passengers' pockets, up from the 50 percent of airports that currently provide flight status updates to passengers via mobile.

Two-thirds of airports surveyed rate "keeping passengers informed" as the highest value of investing in a mobile. This mean no more craning up to look at departure boarding, but looking down in response to delay alerts.

5. Flyers pay via mobile apps

Mobile apps also provide airports an additional source of revenue. Only 18 percent of airports' mobile apps currently exploit the retail opportunity, but based on airports' plan to set up mobile payments for services like Wi-Fi and parking via mobile app, that number could increase to 63 percent by the end of 2016.

The percentage of airports that offer retail promotions on mobile apps is expected to grow from 17 percent to 54 percent over the next three years.

6. Airports become better businesses with tech

Eighty percent of airports will invest in technology that helps build revenue opportunities, monitor passenger flows, and sort through their massive amounts of customer data.

Other exciting opportunities for airports that use technology internally are more efficient airport security, expedited cargo operations, and smoother baggage processing.

The full Airport IT Trends Survey can be downloaded here.

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