The world’s airline passengers - 2.2 billion in 2006 - are demanding and obtaining more choice and control of pre- and post-flight travel processes, according to an independent survey undertaken at three major international airports earlier this year by SITA.
Dominique El Bez, SITA Director for Portfolio Marketing, said: “Technology is driving innovation and breaking new ground in passenger handling at both ends of the journey. It is clear that airport and airline managements which can deliver the autonomy their customers clearly want - through online booking, self service check-in and streamlined baggage handling facilities for instance - will benefit their business significantly.”
The 2nd SITA Passenger Self-Service Survey was conducted earlier this year at departure gates in Atlanta, Hong Kong and London Heathrow airports. It shows that 39% of passengers rate their ability to make travel arrangements on the web as an influencing factor in the booking decision. This ranks this factor ahead of airlines services (31%) and previous travel experience (27%), and closer to more traditional considerations such as routing and schedule in a category which is invariably dominated by price (65%).
As further proof that self-service check-in is taking off, the proportion of passengers who have never used self-service check-in kiosks has decreased from 41% to 37% since last year’s survey at the same three airports. There is also a growing willingness to use kiosks for lost baggage notification (up from 40% to 50% in 2007) and interline transfers. Web check-in continues to gain in popularity with frequent users doubling at London Heathrow (to 20%) and also rising markedly in both Atlanta (32%) and Hong Kong (13%).
The impact of tighter security is reflected in the survey, with more passengers having to check-in bags at Atlanta and Heathrow, where 18% of respondents identified security screening and 10% identified passport control and customs as the steps in the journey they would most like to change.
There was a jump from 37% to 44% in those respondents highlighting ‘loss of personal items’ in a list of travel-related incidents found most annoying - probably a sign of dissatisfaction with the stricter controls on hand-carried items.
El Bez said: “With 93% of respondents declaring they are positive towards online booking, there is a clear signal to airline and airport planners. Similarly, the growth in the preference towards using self-check-in, when passengers knew it was available to them (from 53% to 66%), is a critical pointer to the future, confirming that do-it-yourself travel is irreversibly changing the face of our industry.”