70% of air passengers want self-service for more steps of the journey

Date: 6 October 2010
Location: Geneva

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The most comprehensive global survey ever undertaken of passenger use of air transport self-service technology has found popular demand is now reaching out into non-traditional areas of self-service as airline passengers demonstrate their increasing ease with online, kiosk and mobile phone channels.

While online booking and check-in are nearing their full potential, there is now a clear demand from the travelling public for self-service on other steps of the passenger journey including automated security checks, which are now acceptable to 70% of respondents compared to 58% in last year's survey. Similarly, demand for automatic boarding gates is now at 70% compared to 57% last year.

Two-thirds of survey respondents would use kiosks for other purposes including booking/changing a flight; purchasing additional services (e.g. baggage fees, meals), printing bag tags; self-transfer; claiming delayed baggage.

In addition, there has been dramatic year-on-year growth in the percentage of passengers using airline websites to book hotels, up from 21% in 2009, to 38% in this year's survey; car rental, 19% to 35%. Similar growth is being recorded in other ancillary revenue streams including purchase of travel insurance, bus and train tickets and duty free items.

This year's SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey includes two new airports: China's Beijing International Airport which served 65.3 million passengers last year and Germany's busiest airport, Frankfurt, which had 50.9 million passengers.

The 5th annual SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey is an in-depth look at the attitudes and habits of a representative sample of the 287.6 million passengers who use seven leading international airports. It includes previous survey participants: Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta; Mumbai International; Moscow Domodedovo; Sao Paulo Guarulhos, Brazil; and OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg.

Online booking is nearing its full potential in several world regions. Overall, on the day of the survey 74% of interviewed passengers booked their flights online when making their own arrangements. Passengers interviewed at Atlanta and Beijing are the most frequent users of online booking.
Actual usage rates of online check-in are now at 61% and kiosk check-in is at 71% i.e. the majority of passengers are experienced in using both.

At 3%, the percentage of passengers who had used mobile phone check-in on the day of the survey remained the same as in the 2009 survey but the percentage who stated they had used mobile phone check-in in the past grew from 14% to 23%. Overall, 58% of passengers are interested in using mobile check-in.

Close to half of the survey respondents who checked in at a desk rather than online or through a kiosk, did so because of the need to check in a bag. About 70% of interviewed passengers would tag their own bag if they could and about 75% would be interested in off-airport bag drop-off but only a third would be willing to pay for such a service.

Cathy Stam, SITA Portfolio Marketing Director, said: "On average, the availability of online booking is the third most important consideration when arranging a trip. Passengers are showing an increasing willingness to use self-service options when available, including for security and border control, as well as boarding. Two-thirds of respondents would use kiosks for booking/changing flights, printing bag tags, self-transfer and claiming delayed bags."

"Almost a quarter of all respondents claimed to have used mobile check-in at least once. However, the survey demonstrates that passengers are increasingly comfortable with using a variety of options whether online, kiosk or mobile check-in. The message from passengers is that airlines should implement a multi-channel approach to direct customer service not just for flights but also for ancillary services such as hotel bookings and car hire."

Another outstanding highlight is the emergence of passengers in Asia and North America as champions of carbon footprint offsetting through airline websites with 44% of respondents at Mumbai, 35% at Beijing, and 27% at Atlanta stating they do so. In contrast only 6% of passengers at Frankfurt offset their carbon footprint, a European trend confirmed by a recent UK survey1.

The survey data is extracted from interviews with 2,490 passengers travelling on 106 airlines, conducted at the departure gates earlier this year. Main nationalities interviewed were American, 17%; Indian, 12%; Chinese, 12%; Brazilian, 11%; German, 8%; South African, 8%, Russian, 7%; others, 25%.

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/aug/30/carbon-emissions-offset-civil-aviation-authority

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