Biometrics-based paperless air travel coming soon to India: SITA

Jaipur:  Even as Aadhaar's credibility is being questioned, paperless travel could soon become a reality, according to a top aviation expert.

"Our research shows that 70 per cent of passengers in India said they would definitely use biometrics if given the option, removing the need to show a passport or boarding card at key points at airports," Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President -- Indian Subcontinet, Eastern and Southern Africa -- for SITA told IANS in an interview here. He said this was well above the global average of 57 per cent.

SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques) is a multinational information technology company specializing in providing Information Technology (IT) and telecommunications services to the aviation community, owned by a consortium of airlines and aviation industry members.

Leveraging India's national Aadhaar biometric identity system, together with SITA's Smart Path technology, would be able to provide secure and efficient journey through the airports, he added. SITA is IT and communications service provider for air transport.

Jaikrishna had announced at the recent Air Transport IT Summit in Jaipur that paperless travel would be a reality in India soon.

Asked about paperless travel in view of Aadhaar's credibility being questioned on security issues, he said many more passengers were quickly adapting to innovations and technologies when it came to air travel. Referring to SITA's 2017 Passenger IT Trends report, he said passengers prefer technology to face-to-face interaction.

Talking about SITA's Smart Path which uses biometrics as the single identification token at every step in the passenger journey, Jaikrishna said it was easily integrated into existing airport infrastructure and airline systems. "This includes standard common-use, self-service equipment in the form of check-in kiosks, bag drop units and gates for secure access and boarding. These systems make rapid deployment easy and cost-effective," he added.

He said the Smart Path works by integrating government systems and databases, allowing integrated immigration and border checks. Designed to be modular, it allows airports to implement whole journey identity management into the passenger self service.

Speaking on efforts being taken on successful implementation of Digiyatra -- the governmenta's initiative to digitise air travel -- he said the Airports Authority of India had chosen three airports, including Varanasi and Vijayawada, to implement the biometric access system for passengers' boarding process. Such initiatives showed that Digiyatra would definitely be the future of air travel, he added.

Further, as India is also forecasted to be among the top three passenger aviation markets by 2025 -- with air passenger numbers in India consistently seeing a double-digit growth over the past few years -- he said SITA was playing a critical role in transforming Indian aviation and the passenger experience through innovative ICT solution. 

In last few years, airports in tier II and III cities had witnessed a robust growth rate. Hence, SITA was also set to provide modern infrastructure to these airports. "We have included the provision of modern and standardised infrastructure throughout the country. With the development of the UDAN scheme, we are seeing Tier II and III cities becoming a key area of development in terms of airports and connectivity," he said.

At the Air Transport IT Summit 2018, SITA had announced that MIHAN (Multimodal International Hub Airport, Nagpur) would be deploying SITA's technology like Common Use Terminal Equipment (CUTE) and Common Use Self Service (CUSS) to allow any airline to use any agent desk, gate position or self-service kiosk for passenger check-in and bag drop. It will also deploy the baggage tracking solution.

SITA will also extend its technology for better baggage handling to 15 other airports under AAI including Trivandrum, Chennai, Kolkata, Goa, Lucknow, Jaipur, Amritsar, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad.

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