Passengers want to be able to use technology at every point of the journey, and many already do according to the latest SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Survey.
Although the vast majority (78%) of passengers are generally happy with their travel experience, half of all passengers see room for improvement while 22% report major levels of dissatisfaction.
Globally, collecting baggage at the destination is the most frustrating travel step with 27% of passengers wanting significant improvement.
Not surprisingly security was also high on the list of pain points needing a big improvement for one in four passengers.
The Americas region had the highest proportion of passengers (28%) wanting to see a significant improvement, followed by Asia Pacific, while passengers from Europe and Africa/Middle East were generally happier with their travel experience.
Technology helps reduce frustration
Responses to the survey indicate that, in general, travel steps where technology has been, or is starting to be, widely implemented – such as the searching and purchasing of tickets, check-in and in-flight – give passengers lower levels of frustration.
Bringing technology solutions to the most frustrating steps is already starting to happen.
Streamlining security processes are a focus for the industry. Initiatives, such as IATA’s Smart Security program are gaining traction and the deployment of Automated Passport Control kiosks for faster inbound clearance, are going to make passengers’ lives easier.
There are also plans to improve the bag delivery stage of the journey with initiatives such as the IATA resloution with Resolution 753 to be in place by 2018. In addition, mobile apps that inform passengers how long their baggage will take and at which carousel their baggage will arrive, are under development. This will enable passengers to make better use of their waiting time in the baggage hall.
Where do passengers want the industry to invest?
Passengers have clear views on where they think technology can make a big difference to the travel experience.
Top of the wish list is making it easier to compare air fares, with 54% of passengers globally suggesting it should be a priority investment.
While some travel markets, such as Europe and the United States, are well served by flight comparison websites, passengers in others find airline by airline comparisons a time consuming process.
In particular, 67% of passengers surveyed in the Middle East and Africa region stated a definite need for investment in this area.
Real-time information and in-flight Wi-Fi take up the remaining two places in the top three priority wish list each with 52% of passengers wanting further investment in these areas.
Investments in additional self-service options were ranked lower priorities across all regions, although passengers in the Americas had the highest requirement for the introduction of more kiosk services.
Investment in mobile services had a strong regional dimension with half of passengers in Africa and Americas wanting more services, but it was a much lower concern in Asia Pacific and Europe where just over one-third of passengers saw it as a priority area.
Online technology has had the biggest impact
Passengers appreciate the positive impact technologies are having on their travel experience with online, smartphones and airport kiosks particularly valued.
Accessing online services has been almost universally adopted by travelers, with 95% of surveyed passengers using websites for some part of their travel arrangements.
Of these, a majority (53%) rate the experience as a ‘definite’ improvement over traditional means. In particular, the internet is highly rated for improving the pre-flight experience, such as fare searches, flight booking and, to a lesser extent, check-in.
Although self-service kiosks have been around for over ten years, 13% of passengers had yet to use one. Nevertheless, for those that have used them, 40% thought they were a ‘definite’ improvement.
Mobile is making its mark
Smartphone apps are less well established with 24% of passengers not currently using them for any travel related activities.
However, of those passengers that do use the smartphone, 43% indicated they have made a ‘definite’ improvement to their travel experience, with a further 51% rating them ‘nice to have’.
The latest innovations have been well received
Newer self-service technologies, such as unassisted bag-drop and automated boarding gates, are not yet widely deployed across the industry, but for those passengers who have experienced them, 37% and 40% respectively, believe they are a ‘definite’ improvement.
The survey also indicates a strong migration of travel interactions to the smartphone. While passengers expressed an intention to use all technology choices more in the near future, the strongest growth is in the usage of mobile apps, with online and kiosks also growing, but to a lesser extent.
The impact mobile devices are having on travel continues to increase. This year’s survey found 97% of passengers carried a phone, a laptop or a tablet when they traveled. In fact, 18% of passengers travel with all three.
More often than not the phone carried by passengers is a smartphone loaded with travel apps. Just over four in five passengers now have a smartphone and 76% of smartphone owners use airline apps, either occasionally or on a regular basis.
This high level of penetration is giving the airline industry a solid basis to use the passenger’s mobile device to offer new services and applications.
Strong interest in new services
Passengers surveyed expressed a strong interest in using newer mobile services. Wayfinding at the airport leads the list with 57% of passengers wanting access to such applications.
The second most popular application is the ability to scan a phone for access, such as for boarding or entering a business lounge.
Despite the mobile phone playing a more important part in travel activities there are still signs of reluctance to use it for activities involving high levels of security.
But when it comes to using a smartphone to make payments or go through security passengers are split. Nearly half would definitely use it but nearly one fifth are not willing to use their smartphone for these activities today or in the future.
Smartphones and other personal communication technologies have opened the door to providing tailored services to passengers. And that is just what they want, according to passengers themselves.
In particular there are two areas – disruption management and in-flight entertainment – where using a personal mobile device can make a big difference to easing the travel experience.
Passengers have a high expectation that airlines should provide a personalized alert and response in the event of travel disruption.
Over half (53%) of passengers definitely expect the airline to inform them of problems via either a mobile app or a voice call. In comparison, only 29% of passengers would definitely expect notification through social media.
The majority of passengers also expect personalized re-arrangements, with automatic rebooking, to resolve the impact of disruption. A significant percentage (45%) of passengers would expect to have access to self-service options via a mobile or a kiosk.
One of the hottest tech trends around is the use of wearable computing devices, such as Google Glass and smartwatches. Some airlines are already starting to look at how they can be integrated into the passenger’s journey. But how will passengers react?
Results from our survey suggest a large majority of passengers have no problem with airline or airport staff using wearable devices when serving them, particularly if it leads to a more personalized and efficient service.
Nearly four out of five passengers are comfortable with the technologies when helping to get through the airport, although it drops to three out of four passengers for security checks and during the flight.
The 9th annual SITA-ATW Passenger Survey was conducted across 15 countries worldwide with nearly 6,300 participants. The 15 countries involved in the survey represent 76% of total global passenger traffic.