Airline passengers happiest when using technology

Written by on July 13, 2015 in Features with 2 Comments

Man holding cell phone, passports and boarding passport at airport waiting the flightHappy passengers are the ultimate goal of airlines and airports and new research from global IT provider SITA proves that technology can help. Device connectivity is key to delivering what airline customers want, and the results of this survey bear remarkable similarities to those taken by telecoms’ operators.

In this 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent of passengers experienced positive emotions during dwell time and 91 percent 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 percent from 81 percent last year, while 15 percent 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 percent experienced these positive emotions using the app compared to 90 percent 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 percent) but more passengers had a positive experience when they used self-service check-in. In fact, 97 percent of passengers who used web check-in experienced excitement and happiness compared to 83 percent 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 percent at security when the negative emotions were mainly driven by anxiety, and 69 percent 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 percent of passengers doing this, it is expected to fall to 53 percent 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 percent now to 37 percent 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 percent of passengers use them and this expected to double to 16 percent 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 percent of passengers will do this, up from today’s 20 percent.
  • 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 percent) said they would “definitely” want access to their own devices for entertainment compared to 56 percent for airline-provided content. Passengers also want to stay connected so that they can send and receive text/emails (60 percent), as well as stream live content (56 percent).
  • 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 percent up to 42 percent 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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  1. Keith Russell says:

    Hmmm… So am I the only one that gets frustrated when I have to check myself in using a kiosk that doesn’t seem to recognise my passport and then asks for the locator and then the eTicket number before spitting out a boarding card?

    I think people only prefer this process to waiting 20 minutes in a queue for check-in. If there’s no queue, then going to a check-in desk is quicker, easier, and (call me old fashioned) the interaction with a friendly person who can add value (how far it is to the gate, where the lounge is…) is something that makes me happy.

    Likewise, fly a decent airline and you get a choice of 100+ movies and TV series and games on your PTV to keep you amused (for free). I only use my laptop when I need to work on flight.

    Basically, I think that some airlines have degraded the level of service they provide – on the ground and in the air – to the point that doing it yourself is a better option, but that doesn’t mean it’s good or the right way to go.

    This survey twists the reality of the situation to suit the goals of the airlines ultimately behind it; i.e. why should we pay our staff to do something when we can get passengers to do it themselves and dress it up as improved customer service. Kiosk check-in, watching movies on your iPad and bringing your own sandwiches for the flight should NOT be the happiest way to fly! The golden age of air-travel is surely behind us… 🙁

    • Tony Poulos says:

      Well said Keith. As I sit in yet another airport waiting for yet another flight I can say in all honesty that there’s nothing about air travel left that remotely appeals to me. I have learnt to minimize the agony somewhat by flying with one airline as much as possible that still has some empathy for regular flyers but if there is any other form of travel available I will take it. Airports are a lost cause and security screening a farcical joke in its inconsistency. You have problems with those kiosks, I manage to bring down check-in terminals just by approaching the desk. I hate it all.

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