ATM 2024: Innovation ‘essential’ as passenger numbers soar

ATM 2024: Innovation ‘essential’ as passenger numbers soar

Aviation experts gather to discuss technology and the role it plays in air travel

Passenger numbers in the Middle East are expected to reach 429 million this year, according to aviation experts who gathered at the Arabian Travel Market to discuss the importance of innovation in the sector.

The ‘Looking Skyward for Innovation: How Technology is Disrupting Aviation’ session touched on changes in the market and predictions for the future of air travel.

Hosted by travel expert Mark Frary, the discussion included panellists from Cirium, IATA, AviationXLab and Riyadh Air.

Off the back of research from IATA showing that international passenger traffic had increased by 20 percent in March 2024 compared with the same month last year, IATA’s Regional Director, Africa and Middle East, Kashif Khalid, acknowledged that innovation was essential for enabling the industry to accommodate significant growth.

“Without innovation, the future will be very challenging,” he said. “We cannot continue building bigger infrastructure with the level of passengers we anticipate, so we have to look at how we manage passengers and cargo differently through digital solutions and innovation.

“On the ground, the industry is working on several innovations, not only to make aviationmore sustainable but also to use infrastructure more efficiently. 

“One of these solutions is One ID, where we digitalise tokens for passengers, which enables us to facilitate passengers seamlessly. How we use the traditional infrastructure of airports is going to change dramatically.”

With a launch date of 2025, Saudi’s new national carrier, Riyadh Air, will be the first digitally native airline, according to Abe Dev, the airline’s Vice President, Digital and Innovation.

“Technologies such as AI and cloud computing have matured in the last few years, and so have customer expectations, so we have a unique opportunity to deliver a technology-enabled guest experience that has never been seen before,” he said.

Panellist Kevin Hightower, Vice President of Product, Cirium, stated that data sharing is the key to increasing efficiency in the aviation space and helping the industry accommodate increased demand. 

“That which is measured can be improved. As we share more data across boundaries, we will start to see the benefits today. Where a decision used to take hours, technologies such as Generative AI enables us to make decisions in seconds.”

AviationXLab Manager Amna Al Redha made a poignant point about sustainability.

“We can’t talk about the future without having a sustainability focus - it’s not about being the fastest and biggest anymore; it’s about which aviation companies are going to operate in a sustainable way.”