Technology is central to the future of the air transport industry. So it’s very encouraging to see that travelers are actively adopting new technologies to put them more in control of their journey and time spent at the airport.
There are many ways that technology can now contribute to a smoother, more personalized passenger journey – from pre-travel arrangements to self-bag drop. But to me, one thing is clear from the newly launched SITA Passenger IT Insights 2019. The research shows that across the world, there’s a difference in the types of technologies being adopted, and that this is down to differences in services offered by airlines and airports, or regulatory issues, as opposed to passenger reluctance to engage with tech.
Passengers are happy interacting with technology
This year’s SITA Passenger IT Insights results show that technology is undoubtedly giving passengers more control over their journey, as well as providing them with more up-to-date information, improving efficiencies and taking them a step closer to the seamless passenger journey.
Technology use remains high at the pre-travel stage, which includes booking and check-in. The level of use by passengers is now at 85% and 54.5% respectively, as passengers are likely to find them easy to complete online. Some technologies have plateaued slightly – a good example being self bag-drop at 20.5% usage. Yet this is largely due to the lack of availability of this technology at airports, and not the passenger’s appetite for using it. Currently, there is, of course, a lack of self bag-drop availability in many airports across the globe.
Where technologies have been made available, passengers have been quick to use them. Take automated e-gates and passport control. Usage has more than doubled from 21% in 2017 to 44% now. This shows that if the technology is there, digital travelers across generations are confident in using it.
Percentage of passengers using technology in 2018
2019 Passenger IT Insights © SITA 2019
Always connected is always important
It’s hardly surprising that digital travelers prioritize connectivity. They typically consume a mix of free and paid services at dwell time. Wi-Fi is the most popular complimentary service with 55% of passengers taking advantage of the free connectivity available during their dwell time. A small proportion of passengers also pay for Wi-Fi connectivity access: some 7% spend $25 on connectivity and 1% are prepared to spend over $100. This equates to $10 billion worldwide annually.
SITA’s Passenger IT Insights research also shows that tech-enabled passengers are almost one and a half times more likely to consume paid-for services at the airport than non-tech users. What this says to me is that clearly this offers the industry the potential of an additional non-aeronautical revenue stream.
Technology makes for more satisfied passengers
One of the highlights I took from this year’s survey is that passengers feel more satisfied when they’re using technology. Many digital travelers are now so comfortable with technology that they choose to use it rather than interacting with people, such as by opting for automated check-in.
I’m especially interested to see that the contrast in satisfaction rate between tech-enabled digital travelers, and those using traditional face-to-face mechanisms, is significant during key travel steps. For passport control, the satisfaction rate is higher by 3.85%. During dwell time it’s +5.8%, and when collecting luggage at the carousel, it’s +8.6%. Technology usage and connectivity actively contribute to a positive passenger experience.
Passengers experience the most negative emotions (such as stress and anxiety) during security screening, passport control and baggage collection. We’ve already noted that passengers are happy using automated e-gates and passport control, which is helping to alleviate some of this stress. Baggage collection is also benefiting from the positive effect of technology. When passengers use services such as real-time baggage notifications their satisfaction is 8.6 % higher.
With passenger rates set to almost double to nearly 8 billion by 2036, airlines and airports are looking at improving customer satisfaction to enhance the customer experience and grow customer loyalty. In my opinion, technology is proving to be an effective tool in growing customer satisfaction and fueling the long-term growth of their businesses.
2018 passenger satisfaction rate
2019 Passenger IT Insights © SITA 2019
The future is digital
… and we must meet the digital traveler’s expectations
SITA’s Passenger IT Insights highlights the fact that once passengers are converted from person-to-person interactions to an automated experience along the touch-points in their journey, then there’s no going back.
My final observation is this. The technology for digital travel is ever more available, which will be clearly evident in the displays at this year’s Passenger Terminal Expo. We’ll see a bright spotlight on technology that impact the passenger experience across the journey. The challenge now is for airlines and airports to more rapidly deploy the technologies passengers are demanding to fulfill their digital travel expectations.