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Airline passengers happiest when using technology
Location: Geneva
28 May 2015

Survey shows that technology is helping put enjoyment back into flying

Happy passengers are the ultimate goal of airlines and airports and new research from global IT provider SITA proves that technology can help. In a ground-breaking survey, SITA investigated the connection between a passenger's use of technology and their emotions to discover how passengers around the world feel at every point of the journey. The results reveal that airline passengers are happiest and most excited when using technology for travel tasks. It is now clear that technology is helping make flying more enjoyable.

The 10th annual SITA/ATW Passenger IT Trends Survey was conducted in the first months of 2015 across 17 countries, representing 76% of the world’s passenger traffic and forms a guide on overall levels of passenger satisfaction. It indicates that for the vast majority of passengers most steps of the journey were a positive experience and passengers were happiest using self-service.

Nigel Pickford, Director Market Insight, SITA, said: “As passengers become more connected and airports more crowded the move to providing additional self-service continues. However, at SITA we wanted to get a better understanding of the connection between a passenger’s emotions at different stages of their journey and the technologies that have been used. Our survey shows that not only are passengers willing to use technology throughout their journey, but they have a clear preference to use their own technology when they have the choice.”

Participants were asked to review each stage of their journey and identify their range of emotions with an emotion scale tool adapted from Plutchik. The intensity of four emotions - happiness, excitement, anger and anxiety - at each of nine stages of the journey from booking to bag collection were recorded.

Booking the flight is one of the best parts of the travel experience in fact, 91% of respondents experienced positive emotions at this stage. During the journey when they are able to relax, such as dwell time before boarding and onboard the aircraft, were the other times that passengers felt the most happy and excited. An impressive 95% of passengers experienced positive emotions during dwell time and 91% while onboard.

SITA’s survey shows that technology is playing an increasing role in the passenger journey. This year the proportion of passengers carrying smartphones has nudged up to 83% from 81% last year, while 15% travel with three mobile devices (mobile phone, tablet and laptop). And these ‘connected travelers’ are happiest when using their own devices throughout their journey.

When booking their flight the technology that makes passengers the most happy and excited is an app on their smartphone - 94% experienced these positive emotions using the app compared to 90% booking at a travel agent or an airline office.

Looking at check-in it is clear that technology is also making the experience more enjoyable. Overall, check-in is rated positively by the vast majority of passenger (86%) but more passengers had a positive experience when they used self-service check-in. In fact, 97% of passengers who used web check-in experienced excitement and happiness compared to 83% using the airport desk.

Not surprisingly, the least popular stages of the journey were at security, and to a lesser extent bag collection. The majority however, still felt positive at these stages; 64% at security when the negative emotions were mainly driven by anxiety, and 69% at baggage collection.

Pickford added: “Armed with the knowledge that technology helps passengers to experience positive emotions while traveling, airlines and airports now have the opportunity to look at security and baggage collection to see how technology can further improve the passenger experience. For example, increasing the use of automated border control kiosks and gates may reduce the anxiety passengers feel at this stage of the journey.”

SITA’s survey also showed some interesting trends for the use of technology at different points of the journey with significant changes expected over the next year:

  • Booking flights – Though booking flights on a PC remains popular with 62% of passengers doing this, it is expected to fall to 53% over the next 12 months. At the same time there is a move to using tablets and smartphones with the proportion of passengers booking flights on these devices rising from 27% now to 37% by 2016.
  • Check in – Passengers are increasingly using a combination of self-service on phones and computers to check in rather than at a desk in the airport. The biggest change over the next year will be an increase in the use of mobile apps for check-in – currently 8% of passengers use them and this expected to double to 16% by 2016.
  • Baggage – Self-service has made traveling with carry-on bags the quick and easier way to fly and SITA’s survey indicates nearly one in five passengers now travel this way. In addition, passengers are moving away from staffed check-in counters and happy to use dedicated bag drops and self-service areas. Within a year, 31% of passengers will do this, up from today’s 20%.
  • On Board - Passengers are keen to make better use of their time during the flight with a preference to use their own devices. Two-thirds of passengers (67%) said they would “definitely” want access to their own devices for entertainment compared to 56% for airline-provided content. Passengers also want to stay connected so that they can send and receive text/emails (60%), as well as stream live content (56%).
  • Boarding Passes – Passengers are making the move to printing their own boarding passes or having them on their mobile phone – the trend is a rise from today’s 30% up to 42% by 2016.

More details on the results of the 2015 SITA/ATW Passenger IT Trends Survey are available here, including an outline of the methodology, regional and demographic coverage and information on the emotional scale tool.

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