Middle East airport operators are expected to invest $60bn in new and upgraded facilities over the next five years, according to Geneva-based analysts Sita. Of that $60bn, $5bn will be channelled into technology.

Carriers too are investing in systems to improve their customer management processes and are looking to mobile handset technology to enhance passengers’ experience and their own operational efficiencies.

Modern mobile technology enables passengers to book flights, check in, breeze through customs, track their baggage and navigate their way around concourses using their handsets. Airports and airlines can track passengers, keep them updated and shepherd them to their flights with a minimum of fuss.

But this requires a degree of integration that has proved slow to arrive. Airlines, airport operators, and customs and immigration departments often operate incompatible systems, in many cases, more than a decade old.

To achieve the aim of smoothly integrating multiple systems between various partners, many different agendas must be addressed and back-end IT systems brought up to date or replaced. Costs could rise to hundreds of millions of dollars for development, installation and integration alone.

When it happens, integration will streamline the experience for passengers, as well as generate greater profits for airlines and airport operators. Until then, improvements will be incremental.