Passengers are increasingly preferring technology over people

6/1/2016
SITA, the airline industry's technology brain trust, conducted a survey recently that showed passengers are increasingly adopting technology to take care of their travel related needs. In fact, passengers are increasingly preferring technology's personal touch over actual people. The findings by SITA show that once travelers are successful in using websites, kiosks and other technology to help them book travel and check in, they rarely return to the human interaction that used to be the only way to make travel happen. According to SITA's survey which it conducted in conjunction with the publication Air Transport World, 91 percent of passengers who use self-service technology will gladly repeat the experience. The trends show that unsuccessful attempts at using self-service technology rarely lead passengers back to human interaction – they simply try different technological channels. There seems to be a snowball effect when it comes to travel technology. SITA suggests that once travelers successfully use one form of self-service technology, they are open to using other types instead of relying on a live person. For example, the ability to book online resulted in only 8 percent of SITA's respondents admitting that they used human assistance to book their travel. Quite often, desktop website usage migrated toward mobile app (application) for booking travel. Not only can travelers today book flights online or via their mobile devices, they can also check in, produce boarding passes and even pay for checked luggage in many cases. The adoption of technology for many pre-flight activities can have a major impact on airport staffing and facilities. With more kiosks at a passenger's disposal, lines at airports can be better managed, keeping travelers from crowded ticket counters. This requires technology that is user friendly in order to process people briskly, and also an airport infrastructure that can accommodate the changing behaviors driven by technology. Airlines still tend to keep staff on hand to assist first-time users with kiosks or to resolve other issues, so those who might miss that human touch won't have to search far and wide. Only about 11 percent of respondents said that they would use mobile boarding passes on their smartphones and 14 percent said they would use a bag-drop station. The ability to produce an electronic mobile boarding pass is most appealing to those who might not even have to stop at a kiosk to print a bag tag or paper boarding pass, so the lower numbers are not surprising. Then there is the traveler who must have backups to backups. Even with an electronic boarding pass, some travelers choose to print a backup boarding pass just in case their phone battery power is low or scanning equipment fails. SITA found that the more passengers were able to take care of their pre-flight necessities before getting to the airport, the better their journeys tended to be. From checking in to printing boarding passes and even printing bag tags at home, travelers are finding that technology is saving them time spent at the airport and that has led to a greater satisfaction with the travel experience – at least until it's time to board.