Digital Border and Airport Technologies: Smoothing the Way for Visitors to the World Cup

Today’s major world sporting events such as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar depend for their success on the ability of the host country to handle the sudden influx and exodus of tens of thousands of competitors, team support and equipment, officials, VIPs, media and, of course, spectators. It’s a testing time at the border and for even the largest of airports.

Advance Passenger Processing

For more than 35 years, SITA has been working alongside host countries and cities to help smooth the path for those involved in global sporting and religious events. We go right back to the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, for which SITA introduced the world’s first common use terminal equipment at Los Angeles International Airport.

Welcoming Millions of Spectators

In the approach to the World Cup 2022, and throughout, SITA worked with the Government of the State of Qatar, Hamad International Airport (DOH) and Qatar Airways. As part of the close cooperation, SITA’s Global Services team of aviation IT experts were deployed at the airport for the duration of the event.

The tournament’s statistics are mind-boggling. Event organizers cite over 3.4 million spectators attending its 64 matches, with 1.4 million of those spectators coming from destinations all around the globe.

Hamad International Airport and Doha International Airport conducted a staggering 43,600 aircraft movements during the months of November and December alone.

On top of that, a host of other official competition-related events took place, including draws, team and referee seminars and workshops, opening and closing ceremonies, award ceremonies, cultural events, press conferences and launch events.

Digital Identities at the Border, for Hotels, Spectator Areas, and More

Despite the massive influx of visitors and spikes in travel, Qatar stood well prepared for kick off – with investments in digital technologies at the border, at the airport, and at onward venues, to speed up passenger processing for the unprecedented number of arrivals and departures.

At the border, that includes SITA’s Advance Passenger Processing (APP), enabling a passenger’s border security status to be determined when they check-in. SITA’s APP provides passenger and crew data in real-time allowing for the issuance of ‘a board or no board’ directive, effectively helping to export a country’s border to the point of embarkation. Pre-clearance also avoids airlines having to bear the cost of repatriation that would happen if a passenger is ever turned down at the destination border.

With governmental approval of travel before departure, passengers arrive at the airport pre-cleared, which minimizes hassle and queuing. It also includes the rapid collection of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data so that governments can carry out additional assessments.

With APP, once identity and travel are checked quickly and digitally, then processing passengers is touchless and smooth, with the possibility of using biometric-enabled gates or traditional checkpoints. Put another way, digital borders for the World Cup or any other major event help to ensure safe and secure passenger flow, which bodes well for the experience of spectators and officials alike.

The Smart Hayya Card – Easy Entry, Quick Access to Transport and Venues

The visitor experience was enhanced by the integration of hotels into the system for the World Cup, as well as the provision to spectators of a digital Hayya Card, to authorize and expedite entry into the country as well as easy access to the metro, buses, stadiums, and spectator areas.

SITA’s expertise in integrating digital identity and authorization into the Hayya Card, for local and international ticketholders, contributed to a smooth and secure flow of fans throughout the country as they traveled among the eight ultra-modern air-conditioned stadiums built for the tournament.

Hamad – Enhancing the Passenger Experience and Operations

Qatar’s principal airport, the award-winning Hamad International Airport (DOH), was well prepared for the event. Since opening in 2014, as part of its digital strategy for the future, Hamad International Airport has founded its operations on the world’s best passenger processing and airport operations technologies to provide a fast-flowing and stress-free passengers experience, virtually eliminating queues.

As Hamad International Airport moves towards its digital future, a number of critical airport improvement IT projects stand it in good stead for the years ahead. They include working with SITA to implement common-use self-service systems, infrastructure re-design, facial biometric capture at security gates, off-airport check-in of passengers, and more.

In its latest initiative, the airport has implemented SITA Airport Management to enhance operations as part of its plans that boosted capacity to 58 million passengers annually. Intelligent airport management systems such as this are core to managing and optimizing every aspect of operations – from airside to landside – in a complex multi-user airport ecosystem.

To help with the World Cup, utilizing Airport Management, Hamad International Airport configured operations in its existing and new facilities and satellite areas. The system allows the airport to optimize and allocate resources such as aircraft stands, check-in desks, and boarding gates, to reduce flight delays and bottlenecks. The airport’s operations team were able to separately process specific groups, such as visiting delegations, teams, and VIPs, for privacy, security, and speed.

Airport Management also enables the airport to securely share important data with stakeholders, such as real-time flight information, to manage the higher levels of private aviation expected for the major sporting event.

In addition, SITA’s ultra-modern flight information display screens throughout the airport improve passenger experience. The screens’ real-time information ensures passengers receive timely information about their flights.

Hamad’s Digital Future: Evolving Fast

Playing a key role in Hamad International Airport ’s digital future is SITA Smart Path, the industry-leading biometrics, self-service and mobile-enabled platform, which delivers ‘Your face is your passport and boarding pass’ travel experiences. Passengers quickly enroll their facial biometric and journey details, in advance, via their mobile or at an airport touchpoint.

Passengers will receive fast, touchless identity verification, which will enable greater throughput of travelers at Hamad International Airport, as it begins to deploy the SITA Smart Path initiative. This will further increase the airport’s capacity for the years ahead, in the face of double-digit passenger growth.

As part of its smart airport program, in mid-2022 Hamad International Airport also launched an innovative digital twin initiative with SITA, combining 3D modeling techniques, data analytics, and artificial intelligence to provide a real-time view of airport operations. Picking up the prestigious ‘Smart Solution of the Year’ accolade at the Qatar IT Business Awards, Hamad’s digital twin optimizes resources and minimizes asset downtime, offering intelligent recommendations to make more informed decisions and streamline operations.

Know-How behind the World’s Major Sporting and Religious Events

Ever since introducing passenger processing technology at Los Angeles International Airport for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, SITA has played a critical role in the world’s major sporting and religious events, such as the World Cup, Olympics, Formula 1, Hajj, and others.

Our digital border and passenger processing solutions have helped to enable the smart and smooth running of events such as Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 Summer Olympics, Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, South Africa World Cup 2010, Shanghai World Expo 2010, World Cup 2014 in Brazil, Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, and Olympic Games Beijing 2022 – to name just a few.

In the wake of the World Cup, SITA has already set its sights on providing the border and passenger technology and know-how for the world’s future major sporting and religious events.

This article was originally published by SITA.


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