As Covid-19 restrictions begin to lessen worldwide the travel industry has started finding its wings again as airports begin preparation for take-off once more. However, reduced restrictions do not mean the pandemic has vanished entirely, which sees airports continuing to implement methods and technology to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Technology focused on minimal exposure risk and contactless technology has been included by Sydney Airport in the form of condensed baggage system interfaces, increased mobile passenger journey apps and efficiency-based solutions.

With the signing of a five-year contract with SITA, Sydney Airport hopes that the inclusion of SITA technology will improve passenger experience, minimise exposure and increase operational efficiency.


Sydney Airport technology upgrade

The technology provided by SITA sees terminal 1 for international flights, and terminal 2 for domestic flights at Sydney Airport receiving solutions which will enable low-touch airline-ready passenger solutions.

SITA Flex -one of the technologies being included at the airport- is common-use (allowing more than the airline to use the system) technology facilitating low-touch, fully mobile passenger experiences using cloud technology. The introduction of this technology allows passenger and staff to reduce their physical contact due to the use of smart devices.

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The technology provides passengers with the ability to use their smart devices throughout their airport journey from self-check in to flight information. As well as assisting passengers, SITA Flex also provides benefits for the airlines at Sydney.

Head of passenger processing, SITA, Sean Farrell explained: “Our Flex platform allows (typically) the international airlines that are flying in and out of Sydney to run all their business applications in the Sydney Airport environment so they can process passengers.”

“They can check them in, board them, and so on. Its purpose is so that each airline does not have to have its own dedicated IT systems at an airport, it means that they can operate into lots of different airports around the world and be confident that when they operate in those environments, they’re able to run their own systems, checking their passengers using the same processes that they can do in every other location.”

Alongside SITA Flex, SITA Bag Message is also being included at Sydney Airport which aims to eliminate the need for various baggage systems between airlines and airports. The technology can process over 3.8bn messages -according to SITA data in 2019- allowing for airports and airlines to access messages over one system and connection.

The implementation of one baggage message system eliminates the cost for Sydney Airport to include multiple airline interfaces which would allow them to connect to airport baggage systems globally.

Farrell said: “We are involved in all of the messaging that goes on behind the scenes on how bags get processed, it’s data exchange between the airlines and the airports around the handling of the bags. We facilitate the exchange of the data across the industry, there’s a lost and found service for bags as well -we will trace where your bags are if they get lost at some point. You can use that system if you’re on an airline anywhere around the world.”

Alongside the inclusion of this technology the airport has upgraded over 600 digital touchpoints across the terminals including kiosks, computers, and gates. The upgrade has been achieved via the use of SITA Connect (formerly known as Airport Connect) which implements network connectivity within the airport to allow the airport and airlines to run their back-end systems.

Sidone Thomas, general manager technology, data and digital at Sydney Airport explained: “This upgrade has seen the implementation of SITA’s software platform Airport Connect which improves the passenger experience, gives additional features for our airline partners and improved security.”


Benefits: the airport, the airline, and the passenger

When addressing the key benefits of this new technology it can be looked at from three perspectives: the airport, the airlines, and the passengers themselves.

The implementation of the technology at Sydney Airport offers airlines a reliable platform to run their apps and business applications on. Similarly, Sydney Airport can offer a service to airlines which allows them to check-in their passengers and operate in a simple, universally recognised manner.

For the passengers the key benefit is consistency – being able to have a consistent process no matter which airline they are flying with from Sydney Airport.


Contactless cloud

The technology and information provided by SITA Flex will be stored in the cloud – allowing the data to be used and stored easily. The inclusion of cloud technology eliminates the need for contact between passenger and surfaces around the airport which is preferable due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The introduction of contactless, low touch technology has been a popular choice for airports due to researchers finding that Covid-19 can stay alive on surfaces for up to three days. A study carried out by New England Journal of Medicine in April 2020 showed that Covid-19 can survive on plastic and stainless steel for up to three days.

The use of the cloud will allow passenger’s smart devices to act as a virtual travel manager – eliminating the need for contact, long waiting times and surface touching.

“Airports and airlines are very interested in making self-service technologies completely touchless and that’s obviously related to stopping the sharing of the virus.”

Farrell explained: “Airports and airlines are very interested in making self-service technologies completely touchless and that’s obviously related to stopping the sharing of the virus. That means doing more from your mobile device, so if you can do things like printing out your bag tag by using an app on your mobile device that means you don’t have to touch a shared kiosk, that’s one possible solution that’s enabled by some of the new technologies that we have built into our Flex platform”


Future Technology

The inclusion of the SITA technology at Sydney Airport will assist its roadmap – a vision for development which has been laid out in the form of a 2039 master plan.

Thomas commented: “Key to our roadmap will be leveraging technology to improve the passenger experience. Off the back of this inclusion there are several opportunities to quickly implement new initiatives such as touchless, automation and biometrics just to name a few.”