Air Transport World

SITA, soaring at 50

The airlines' $1.2 billion communication provider sees an 'explosive' high-tech future

LONDON-SITA, the airline industry's own communications provider, marks its 50th anniversary next year but there will few celebrations of those days when flight departures were notified over crackling telephone lines and seat sales were chalked up on schoolroom blackboards.

Today, SITA is a $1.2 billion high-technology business and those who run it are too busy concentrating on what John Watson, its director general, terms an "explosive" future to worry too much about the past.

Watson, who came to SITA in 1996 after 25 years with British Airways and its predecessors, sees one of the most significant upcoming trends as outsourcing by the airlines of information technology. He is confident that SITA is well-placed to corner the lion's share of such business due to its worldwide coverage, built up since 1949 so that it has what he calls "points of presence" in 185 of the 226 territories listed by the United Nations, and 655 customers, 580 of them airlines.

"There's no one supplier that can do everything," he agreed. "Airlines pick and choose their suppliers. …

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