How Technology Makes Travel Enjoyable


Technology has proved effective for dealing with the growing number of passengers. But has it made flying more enjoyable? It’s a question examined closely in the annual SITAATW Passenger IT Trends Survey. The results indicate that a large majority of passengers have a positive attitude towards using technology at different steps in the journey.

For instance, booking the flight is one of the best parts of the travel experience. Over 90% of respondents experience excitement and happiness at this stage, while only 9% have a negative experience.

Check-in, which historically was always one of the pain points with flying, is today rated as a positive experience by nearly 90% of passengers. And it’s self-service channels driving up that figure: 97% of passengers who used web check-in, for example, had a positive experience, compared to only 83% using the airport desk.

It highlights that passengers are upbeat about self-service technologies in general. This is further underlined by the peaks in negative emotions which the survey shows occur at the security steps, and to a lesser extent at bag collection.

In fact, 36% of passengers are either angry or anxious at the security stage and 31% at bag collection. These steps are yet to have a significant technology makeover.

The survey indicates a strong preference for passengers to use their own technology when the option is available. The findings mirror the behavior of people at work where employees increasingly prefer to use their own devices rather than devices provided by corporate IT.

Today, passengers use an array of technologies from the booking stage to destination. Some, like the desktop PC, laptops and mobile devices, are their own. Others, such as kiosks, bag drop, and automated boarding-gates, are deployed and managed by the air transport industry.

However, adoption of mobile devices is growing at such a pace among consumers that it looks set to become the de facto unifying device that will allow passengers seamless interaction between industry and personal technologies. In doing so, it should provide a unique opportunity to link the different travel steps together into a continuous flow, end-to-end, throughout their trip.

Smartphone ownership among travelers surveyed edged up to 83% this year from 81% in 2014. The number carrying multiple mobile devices (smartphone, laptop, tablet) remained fairly static, dipping slightly to 15% of passengers from 18% last year.

The task-orientated nature and on-the-go capabilities of smartphones means they’re ideally suited as a travel tool. It is no surprise that the survey shows a clear migration to mobile usage from other channels available to passengers.

In particular, booking travel via a mobile device is expected to grow 39% over the next 12 months. The mobilization of other travel steps is growing even faster. Mobile check-in is expected to increase 79% and adoption of the mobile boarding pass will more than double over the next year.

Some of the take up of mobile is a change in habits by travelers moving from face-to-face or call center interactions. But there’s also a clear migration away from using other technologies, such as the desktop PC, laptop or airport kiosks.

With travelers increasingly using their mobile devices to complete travel tasks, what new mobile services do they see adding value along the journey?

High on the list are information services. For example, flight updates would ‘definitely’ be used by 72% of passengers, while 63% would ‘definitely’ want more details on bag collection at the destination airport, such as carousel and wait time.

Passengers are also positive about using their mobile devices to facilitate automation of their journey through the airport. Nearly 60% of passengers want to use their smartphones for access, including boarding the aircraft and airport lounges, with slightly fewer (59%) keen to use smartphones for identification purposes. Of less importance is using the phone for purchases and making payments.

During the flight more respondents indicated a preference to use their own devices rather than airline provided entertainment options. Two-thirds of passengers (67%) said they would ‘definitely’ want access to their own devices for entertainment compared to 56% for airline provided content.

It’s not surprising. Mobile devices, unlike airline provided in-flight entertainment systems, are closely connected to a person’s life and daily habits. They can facilitate passengers doing in the air what they do on the ground. In the survey, 60% of respondents wanted to send and receive text/emails, while 55% wanted to stream live content.

The fact that so many of the passengers are becoming connected on their travels, it has given rise to the phenomenon of the ‘connected traveler’. With that come great opportunities for airlines and airports to develop mobile services to escort the passengers through the journeys pain points.