Travellers increasingly comfortable with self-service but choice remains crucial

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2016 sita passenger it trends survey shows travellers comfortable adopting self service and mobile technologies
The 2016 SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey shows that travellers are increasingly comfortable adopting self-service and mobile technologies. For instance, it shows that for every 100 passengers, 92 would be happy to book flights without interacting with another person, 57 would use self-service check-in, and 76 would happily receive real-time baggage notifications on their mobile device.

The 2016 edition of the SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey shows that travellers are increasingly turning to technology, with self-service options continuing to gain popularity throughout the travel journey. Among the key findings from the study is that 55% of the 9,000-plus passengers surveyed used some form of self-service technology during their journey, while 85% reported having a positive travel experience – an increase of 5% on last year’s survey.

Speaking at the Air Transport IT Summit in Barcelona this week, Christelle Laverriere, Research Expert, SITA Market Insights, explained that the survey also highlights the fact that passengers are generally happier at the steps of the journey where they have more choice and control over how they manage their trip. For instance 93% reported a positive booking experience, but negative emotions are most likely to be felt at the security checkpoint or baggage reclaim – two parts of the journey where passengers have little control.

The findings of the survey also suggest that once passengers are converted from person-to-person interaction to using self-service technology during their journey, few want to go back. In fact, 91% of passengers who use self-service check-in said they will do so again and again, and even those not satisfied with one form of self-service technology tend to try an alternative form, rather than revert to human contact.

However, the report shows that the industry has not yet reached a tipping point when it comes to on/off-airport check-in. Of those surveyed 43% said they had performed web or mobile check-in for their last flight, with 57% checking in at the airport.

In terms of passenger frustrations, baggage remains high on the list for the majority of passengers. 79% of those surveyed said they would make use of mobile-based bag update notifications, 67% would report mishandled baggage by mobile if given the option, and 65% would like to receive baggage collection information directly to their mobile device.

Responding to the findings of the survey, Eric Schneckenberger, Director IT Strategy Development & Execution, Air France-KLM, accepted that “mobile is increasing” as a self-service tool among travellers, but “web and kiosk will remain” for the foreseeable future. “We need to cope with all the channels to ensure each customer finds the right way to interact with us,” he said.

Building on this point, Marc-André Bédard, Vice President IT, Quebec International Airport, said it is clear that one size does not fit all, and airports and airlines must provide multiple options to travellers. An ongoing terminal expansion at the Canadian airport will create a largely self-service facility, he said, but human agents will be on hand to ensure those who are not comfortable using technology to complete certain processes will have the support they need. He added: “When most people go through self-service it can actually give you a better service, because the agents are really focused on those that need assistance.”

So, while self-service technology is helping to empower passengers and create more seamless air travel experiences, finding the right balance with person-to-person interaction remains crucial.