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The tech-savvy traveler (cover story)

Passengers welcome technology because it makes a big difference to their travel experience. They’re ready for wearable tech too, according to the latest Passenger IT Trends Survey.

Travel is better with technology. Passengers want to use it at every point of the journey, and many already do.

So says the ninth annual global survey Passenger IT Trends Survey, which interviewed almost 6,300 passengers across 15 countries worldwide, representing 76% of total global passenger traffic.

Highlighting the growing importance of tech-savvy passengers, the SITA / Air Transport World survey observes a strong correlation between technology availability and increased passenger satisfaction.


It finds that over half of passengers believe online channels have improved the passenger experience in areas such as flight search, as well as reservations and check-in.

Interestingly, it says passengers have no problem with airline or airport staff using wearable technology, such as smartwatches and glass. Nearly 77% of the 6,300 passengers surveyed would be very and quite comfortable with the use of wearable tech by staff to help them on their journey.


Nearly all travelers carry a phone, and they’re looking to use them to gain more control over their journeys. More often than not it’s a smartphone loaded with travel apps. Just over four in five passengers have a smartphone and 76% of them use airline apps; 43% say it’s made a definite improvement to their travel.

New services

“As new technologies such as wearable tech and NFC become commonplace in consumer devices, they present a great opportunity for airlines and airports to engage directly with their passengers to provide efficient services throughout the journey,” says SITA’s Chief Executive Officer Francesco Violante.

Tech-savvy passengers are keen to grasp this ‘great opportunity’. They’re strongly interested in newer mobile services and more personalization.

Wish list

Passengers have clear views about what new technology will make a big difference to their travel experience. Top of the wish list is making it easier to compare airfares: 54% think it should be a priority investment.

While some travel markets are well served by flight comparison websites, passengers elsewhere find airline by airline comparisons a time consuming process.

Coming next in the top three priority wish list are:

  • Real-time information and
  • In-flight Wi-Fi


More than half of passengers want real-time personalized alerts about any delays sent directly to their phones in the event of travel disruption.

Personalization expectations figure largely, with most passengers also expecting personalized re-arrangements, with automatic rebooking, to resolve the impact of disruption.

A significant percentage (45%) of them would expect to have access to self service options via a mobile or a kiosk.


In the air, when onboard connectivity services exist, such as OnAir’s, most passengers will use them.

The majority (56%) want connectivity so that they can use their smartphone, tablet or laptop for in-flight entertainment. Fifty-four percent want to able to send and receive emails and text messages and make and receive phone calls in-flight.

And 45% would use their connected device to purchase food and drinks or browse a virtual duty-free shop.

The trend allows airlines the opportunity for continuous engagement with the passenger throughout the flight and a good proportion of passengers (45%) would use their own device for purchasing food and drinks, browsing a virtual duty free shop and receiving promotions and offers.

You can download the 2014 survey and listen to the Passenger IT Trends Survey webinar here.

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