Taking the perspective of the flying public, the International Air Transport Association is meeting for its second World Passenger Symposium in Abu Dhabi this week and focusing on three big aspects of air travel that could change the flying experience in the future.

“Airlines expect to carry some 3 billion passengers in 2013. And that number will double by 2030,” said IATA Director General and CEO Tony Tyler to open the event. “Serving that growing demand will require innovation. We need to understand what consumers expect and what they value enough to pay for. Aviation is team effort. And that is a challenge for all industry stakeholders. Travel agents, airports, air navigation service providers, regulators, manufacturers, ground service providers, global distribution systems (GDSs) and many others must work together.”

Among the innovations IATA is spearheading are:

1. Fast Travel

This program will increase the number of self-service options available to passengers at airports in six key areas: check-in, bag check, travel document scanning, boarding, flight re-booking, and baggage tracking. According to an IATA survey, more than half of travelers would prefer to print their own bag tags at home and 77 percent would prefer to use a self-boarding gate at an airport. “Fast Travel responds to these and other consumer demands for more control over their journey,” said Tyler. “Our 2020 vision is for a fast, seamless curb-to-airside experience that is predictable, repeatable, secure, and globally consistent. An important component of that vision is ubiquitous one-click access to Wi-Fi at airports. This will enable travel services providers to exchange data in real-time with passengers,” said Tyler. It will also provide the most up-to-date travel information to other parties connected to a traveler’s journey, such as a meeting planner.

2. Checkpoint of the Future

Imagine walking through a security checkpoint experience without stopping, taking off your jacket or shoes, or removing liquids and laptops from bags. That’s the vision for the Checkpoint of the Future, or CoF.

“CoF will replace today’s one-size-fits-all approach to screening with a model based on risk assessment. By focusing resources where the need is greatest we will make the system more secure and reduce the hassle for our customers,” Tyler said. Key to achieving the goals of CoF is the use of passenger information that is already required by many governments for purposes of customs and immigration. This could be supplemented with voluntary known traveler programs. “Sharing information about passengers is a sensitive subject, but our Passenger Survey shows that nearly three out of four air travelers would be willing to share personal information with governments to speed up security screening,” Tyler said.

CoF is moving forward in a staged approach. The initial focus is on making today’s checkpoints more efficient through such steps as introducing dedicated known traveler lanes, which can increase efficiency by up to 30 percent. Trials of specific CoF components are currently being carried out and the full CoF should start trial operations in 2014.

3. New Distribution Capability

About 40 percent of ticket sales (by value) come through airline Web sites. But most come through travel agents using global distribution systems. As a result, according to IATA, it is impossible for airlines to tailor offerings directly to these customers. Furthermore, this model is focused only on finding the lowest ticket price, which is commoditizing air travel even as airlines innovate their products.

A New Distribution Capability will enable airlines to offer more options to customers regardless of distribution channel. “The Internet economy has reshaped the ways in which sellers and consumers interact. Customers are used to receiving tailored offerings based on their past purchasing behavior,” Tyler said. “Airlines are able to participate in this new model with those customers purchasing directly from their Web sites. They can recognize return visitors and make offers based on travel history, loyalty status, credit card brand or other metric. And customers have complete visibility of additional products and services on offer.”

The NDC will allow this type of experience even for passengers booking through agents, Tyler said. “The solution is the NDC powered by open XML standards … which will close the gap between airlines and their customers so that customized offers can be made to travelers even through travel agents.”

IATA’s role, he explained, is to work with partners across the travel value chain—including the GDSs—to create an open set of global software standards, and to propose a roadmap and business case for the NDC. The standard will be completed in 2013. “Then competition and travelers’ needs will guide airlines, agents, system providers, and new entrants with tremendous opportunities for innovation. Forty years after the birth of the current distribution paradigm, we have an opportunity for a revolution in airline retailing,” he said.

You can read Tony Tyler's entire presentation or visit the IATA Web site for more information on the organization’s mission and current projects.