This paper discusses types of the technology that involved in today’s airline industry. It covers such issues as: Internet, reservation systems, electronic ticketing, automated check-in, self-service kiosks, smart cards and security. These factors were identified and analyzed in aspects of their missions, aims, and appearance into the market; importance and application in the airline industry. In addition it shows how different airline companies are using new technological trends. It is concluded that without application of technology in the airline industry, there will be no evolution, progress, development, as well as no grown in the consumer demand.
Nowadays tourism is “the world’s largest industry”. According to Sharpley and Telfer (2002), by the end of the 20th century, global tourism activity (international and domestic) has been generated some US $3.5 trillion. Tourism has been recognized as a grown industry and current expectations of an annual increase of about 4% in international tourism arrivals and spending suggests that, by 2020, international tourism will be generating up to US$2 trillion a year. Definitely it can be called a modern social phenomenon.
Tourism and transport are linked together. There is no type of tourism which is not involving transportation, except walking. Because all travelers require some means of getting from one place to another. Tourists have possibility of doing it in different ways, from the primitive- horses, camels; till the modern- airplanes, automobiles, trains, ships, etc. Transport is necessity for getting to and from the destination as well as for traveling around the destination, as well it can be a feature of the holiday, e.g. cruises, safari trips. There are three forms of transportation: air, land, and water. In a modern world more and more people are choosing air transport as their type of traveling. Due to the convenience, flexibility, facilities, speed that is very important in modern temple of life. Airways are universal ways to all parts of the world (Benson, Bugg and Whitehead, 1994).
Air transport history goes back to the beginning of the 20th century. Deutsche Luftschiffahrts AG was the first airline company. It was established on the 16th of November 1909 in Frankfurt, Germany. It operated zeppelin airships. The first scheduled flight was on the 1st of January 1914 from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida. After five years the British Royal Air Force established first international commercial flight from London to Paris. Continual scheduled passenger service started by Colonial Air Transport in 1927. (Dittmer and Griffin, 1996). But there were no progress and development in the airlines until the piece of the Second World War. At that time a lot of people started travel.
As a result tourism demand had rapidly increased. Air transportation’s expansion increased as well. Technological developments in the airlines have led to increase an aircrafts capacity; many companies started reducing the ticket price. Consequently, it had opened “a door” to the air transport for large number of passengers. Since those times it has started to develop. There have been a lot of progress and now it turned into a worldwide industry. According to Hanlon (1999), there are 1200 scheduled airlines in the world with 1.7 million employees. Each year they have 1.5 billion passengers and revenue of $300 billion.
SITA Company has published a report “Information Technology Trends in the Airline Industry”. It shows that nowadays world’s major airline companies are paying more and more attention to the latest Internet-technologies. 85% of these airlines are already started modernize information systems by Internet and technologies (www.aviaport.ru/news). The technology involves in the airline industry of today includes Internet, reservation systems, e-ticketing, automated check-in, self-service kiosks, smart cards, security and these issues will be further discussed in the following essay.
Internet firstly appeared to the market in the 1960. It became accessible to the large number of people only in the middle of 1990 years. A variety of organizations and systems are involved in the Internet global system. Air transport companies are not an exception. Air companies are using Internet for advertisement, selling flights, gathering information, and to be in contact with their customers. Buhalis (1998) describes the Internet as a provider of unique opportunities for multimedia presentations, transforming uninspiring, text-based screens of global distribution systems into interactive electronic brochures (Pedley, 2001). For example, easyJet is a low-cost airline sells tickets only through Internet or by telephone. Customers can book flight and get a reservation number (instead of paper tickets, easyJet provide customers with e-tickets) sitting in the office, at home or in the internet-cafï¿½. Booking the flights in two or more months advance can be proceed only online. As a departure date is approaching, ticket fares are becoming higher and higher, therefore the lowest fares will always be available in the Internet.
Major airlines have been upgrading their web site by offering non-air-based travel products along with their own products. Customers are also like to have a choice of fares and routing, which might be provided by online agencies over airline web sites. Consecutively to choose the right combination of airline sites people may need advanced knowledge concerning which company operate on which routes. In addition, time searching the different airline’s sites can be extremely time-consuming (Pedley, 2001).
Air Transport Association (www.airlines.org/public/publications) announced:
There are major changes in air transportation, which simplify the process for airline passengers to make a reservation and purchase a ticket. E-commerce is playing a significant part in the airline industry.
Customers have an opportunity to reserve their tickets either in travel agencies, airlines or by using telephone and personal home computers. In case with travel agencies, the customers are coming there. Operators offer different possibilities of the ticketing, depending on the customer’s budget, date of the flight, and other factors. Almost every travel company is using viewdata to be in connection with airlines. Viewdata based on the telecommunication tools such as telephone lines, modems, keyboards, and videotexts. Moreover, many travel agencies have there own own reservation systems or access to one.
There is also computerized reservation system (CRS), which made up of information databases. These databases contain information about the number of available seats on the plane, ticket rates, price discounts, etc. CRS has become necessity for the airlines after applying the deregulation policy, when variety of services and fare types appeared.
Another way of reserving the tickets is online booking. According to US Business Reporter (www.activemidea-guide.com/airindustry.htm) from the 30th of January 2002, switching from travel agent booking to Internet online booking is one of the most promising trends for airlines industries. This could have great affect on the industry cost structure. Unlike viewdata and computerized reservation systems, with their related focus, the Internet has both a far wider audience and application. (Pender, 2001). Nowadays many airlines selling their flights and seats online, through Internet. Services offered by ticket booking Internet companies may make consumers more prices sensitive. For example, Sabre, Expedia and Priceline.com offer customers the ability to choose a ticket price they want to pay for the ticket and consumers are automatically booked if price is hit. When a fare drops to preset level, they are alerted. This may also force airlines to match the deals of their competition (www.activemedia-guide.com/airindustry).
Electronic ticketing was presented in 1996 by Air Tran (formerly Valujet) for cutting the costs and speed passenger through the airport services with minimal effort. E-tickets are different from old paper tickets in one way: the flight coupon or actual ticket is not issuing. It means that all information about the seat and passenger is electronically stored in the airline’s database. Customers have just confirmation number or “record locator number”, which he/she is presenting at the airport. So they no longer worry about carrying or loosing their flight tickets or flight coupons. The e-tickets are might be purchased by telephone, through the Internet, at airline counters or travel agents and paid by cash or credit cards.
E-ticketing is not changing airport procedures. As before travelers check their baggage with a skycap, but now they can do it either with paper or electronic ticket. Then after showing the reservation number or a copy of itinerary, the skycap can confirm the reservation at the curb. Once passenger has to shown his/her ID either at check-in counter or at the gate, he/she will be provided with boarding pass as well as with seat assignment. Also it is possible to use self-service ticketing machines for getting the boarding pass.
Some problems should be solved before applying e-ticketing to the mass market. These issues are refunds for unused tickets and the lack of coordination between airlines- customers can not booked electronically from one airline to another; in case, of changing carriers at the airports, the passenger need a ticket printed before dashing to the connection gate.
Airline industry experts and analysts are saying that in the nearest future electronic ticketing system will standard. It will allow the airlines to document the sales, safe airlines by speeding up accounting process and reduce hanging costs (www.cnn.com/travel).
All major airports are crowded nowadays, because of the growing air traffic. The next step of technological development of the airlines is automated check-in procedure. Commonly customers are using credit cards and airline frequent fliers to start a transaction, and then follow the instructions on touch-screen computers. This service will increase commonplace at the airports and allow passengers to skip long check-in lines, select their seats and check luggage without involving anyone. And if fliers do not have a luggage, they can straight go to the security gates, where attendants will check their identification before getting to the board.
As well as getting boarding pass through automated check-in it would be possible for customers to choose or change their flight seats, upgrade to first class, make same-day flight changes and answer the government-required questions, such as “Did a stranger hand you any items to carry?” (www.cnn.com/2001/travel/news).
Several airlines provide the customers with such service as checking in by phone, a wireless device or computer, and to even print out boarding passes at home computers.
Northwest Airlines introduced a great enhancement to its nwa.com check-in service. Customers who have an electronic tickets reservation and a roundtrip itinerary within 24 hours period may check-in for both the outbound and return flights at the same time. Previously, customers were required to do check-in for each flight separately. The new 24-hour validation is based on the time the passenger checks in, not the scheduled departure time of the originating flight (www.willtravelmanagement.com).
Tom Nulty, travel industry expert and president of Navigant International gave a speech on July 2001:
“I would say the check-in progress over the next five years is just going to change dramatically, and it will be an unusual event to talk to an agent before getting the place”
As well he mentioned that it is a good thing that automation will speed up the check-in process and keep air travel cost under control (www.cnn.com/2001/travel/news).
It is proving the statement that automated check-is is necessity for every airport for increasing demand and supply as well as providing better facilities for customer’s satisfaction.
Very soon electronic self-service machines will be available at all major airports. According to Air Transport Association publications (www.airlines.org/public/publications), self-service machines will provide to the passengers with obtaining class of service upgrades, selecting specific seat assignments, checking baggage with bar-coded baggage tags and as well as receiving their boarding passes. Air Canada can be taking as an example of applying self-service kiosks in the modern world. IBM supplied 142 self-service kiosks across eight Canadian airports. Air Canada passengers able to pass more quickly thought the process of ticketing, check-in, boarding and hanging baggage.
The kiosk is operated with a touch-sensitive monitor, a boarding pass printer and a card reader. Customers with paper or electronic tickets can activate the system by inserting an Air Canada Aeroplan card or the credit card used to purchase the ticket into the kiosk’s card reader. On-screen prompts lead users through the process. They can confirm their itinerary, confirm, select or change their seats through the use of interactive seat maps, request an upgrade or stand-by for an earlier flight and receive instructions on how to check baggage. Boarding gate information is also provided and the process ends with the printing of a bar-coded boarding pass. If there is no baggage to check, passengers can then proceed directly to the gate (www.airport-technology.com/projecys/canadiankiosk/index.html).
With rising usage the electronic ticketing, automated check-in and other Internet technologies is, it has become necessary to invent new facilities for customers at the airport. Smart Card technology is one way of doing it. This type of technology allows recognizing customers, delivering services and accepting payment. Smart card looks the same as credit card. So it is expected that airline companies will sign contracts with banks for issuing “co-branded” smart cards. The airline industry smart card standard allows for up to ten airlines to have their applications on the card. Passengers will be provided with convenient multi-application smart cards by the airlines. They will be able to identify themselves, board on a flight, pay for the ticket and other services and products. On the other hand, airlines will save in distribution costs, get higher protection from the fraud, let more customers to use self-services facilities, and provide better identification means of the frequent travelers. Also in the nearest future smart card’s service will include an access to the electronic ticket information.
At the present time some airlines such as American Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, Delta are using smart card on the limit basis. For example, management of the Lufthansa Airlines issued 130’000 smart cards (called “ChipCard”) to the frequent customer on all German domestic flights and on routes from London and Paris. Lufthansa’s smart cards are multi-application cards. It can be used as telephone card in Germany, a Visa or Mastercard, a Miles ; More frequent membership card for its Frequent Traveler Lounges at the airports, and a boarding authority with a reservation on domestic flights and flights to London and Paris (www.iata.org/smartcard).