Expert Speak

Ready To Shape The Future of Tech-Savvy Traveller?


Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President – India and Subcontinent at SITA

Travel is better with technology. Passengers want to use it at every point of the journey, and many already do. The fact that so many of the passengers are becoming connected on their travels, giving rise to the phenomenon of the ‘digital traveller’. With that comes great opportunities for airlines and airports to develop mobile services to escort the passengers through the journey’s pain points.

There’s no doubt that technology has helped the air transport industry cope with increasing growth in passenger numbers. Airlines and airports have capitalized on self-service, common-use, mobility, and other technology trends.

Highlighting the growing importance of tech-savvy passengers, the SITA / Air Transport World Annual Passenger Survey observes a strong correlation between technology availability and increased passenger satisfaction.

It finds that over half of passengers believe online channels have improved the passenger experience in areas such as flight search, as well as reservations and check-in.
This year smartphone penetration among flyers surveyed has nudged up to 83% of passengers from 81% last year, while 15% travel with three mobile devices (mobile phone, tablet, laptop).

Nearly all travellers carry a phone, and they’re looking to use them to gain more control over their journeys. More often than not it’s a smartphone loaded with travel apps.

New services
As new technologies such as wearable tech and NFC become commonplace in consumer devices, they present a great opportunity for airlines and airports to engage directly with their passengers to provide efficient services throughout the journey.

Tech-savvy passengers are keen to grasp this ‘great opportunity’. They’re strongly interested in newer mobile services and more personalization.

One potential next step might be wearable technology for agents in busy check-in halls to answer passengers’ enquiries on the spot, instead of making them queue up to see an agent at a desk.

Passengers welcome technology because it makes a big difference to their travel experience. They’re ready for wearable tech too, according to the latest Passenger IT Trends Survey.

Passengers have clear views about what new technology will make a big difference to their travel experience. 97% of passenger who used web check-in had a positive experience compared to only 83% using the airport desk.

While some travel markets are well served by flight comparison websites, passengers elsewhere find airline by airline comparisons a time consuming process. 26% of passengers booked their last flight via a mobile device, but this could grow to 36% over the next 12 months. Interestingly, booking travel through tablets is growing much faster than through smartphones, but with tablets, respondents prefer to do the booking via a browser, while smartphone users prefer to use a mobile app.

More than half of passengers want real-time personalized alerts about any delays sent directly to their phones in the event of travel disruption. Personalization expectations figure largely, with most passengers also expecting personalized re-arrangements, with automatic rebooking, to resolve the impact of disruption. Forty-three percent of passengers surveyed still used a check-in counter, but the majority of passengers (57%) are using a self-service option – online, kiosk or mobile.

In the air, when on board connectivity services exist, such as SITA OnAir, most passengers will use them.
Passengers want to be proactively informed throughout their travel to reduce their stress levels, including updates on flight delays and baggage collection.
Despite the high penetration, mobile devices have yet to figure highly as a travel tool beyond entertainment for most of the passengers surveyed. Nevertheless, it is clear from the direction of the results that there is a growing base of people who see their travel needs better served by their mobile device and consequently the findings anticipate an increasing use of mobile at more steps of the journey.

Connected world
The industry is preparing for a future of increasingly connected travelers, as they rely more and more on mobile devices that sport dozens of apps to help them stay in touch, find a hotel, check out best deals and generally stay linked to their own universe of friends, colleagues, appointments, schedules and itineraries.

For airports, the ability to tap into that level of connectivity is a potential gold mine for improvements to services, customer commitment and operational productivity gains.

With those trends comes a need for investment by airlines and airports into information and communications technology (ICT). The industry needs to commit to focusing resources on technology investment for the future, as the phenomenon of the connected traveler increasingly permeates the travel industry.

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