Tech adoption among air travellers on the rise

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The use of mobile devices to book flights has seen a significant increase since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is one of the biggest takeaways from aviation’s SITA 2022 Passenger IT Insights research. It reveals travellers’ use of mobile devices increased for booking, on-boarding and bag collection in Q1 2022, compared to Q1 2020, while automated gates saw increases in adoption for identity control, boarding and border control.

The key findings are based on an online survey of 6 448 respondents from 27 countries across the Americas, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

SITA is a multinational information technology company providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, passengers are showing pent-up demand for air travel and enthusiasm to further embrace the mobile and touchless technologies that will make the journey as convenient and seamless as possible,” says David Lavorel, CEO of SITA.

However, the organisation says health verification, still largely manual, is a pain point that has slowed end-to-end automation.

“Our survey finds reduced technology adoption in the early stages of the journey (check-in, bag tag and bag drop) in favour of manual processing. Uncertainty about health requirements and travel rules has likely led passengers to seek more staff interaction when starting the journey,” Lavorel says.

“Even so, it is clear that the more technology there is during travel, the happier passengers are.”

The research unveils that two journey stages have seen particularly significant increases in positive emotions since 2016 – identity control (up 11%) and bag collection (up 9%).

SITA notes these are also the areas where technology adoption has risen the most, driven by mobile and automated gates, with half of passengers now also receiving real-time information at bag collection on time until delivery.

Asked about comfort levels with biometric identification throughout the journey, passengers scored an average of almost 7.3 out of 10 (with 10 representing most comfortable), most likely reflecting their desire for ease of travel moving forward from the pandemic.

Passengers surveyed intend to fly more from 2023 onwards than they did prior to the pandemic, expecting averages of 2.93 flights per passenger per year for business and 3.90 for leisure. When weighing up whether to fly or not, the main barriers are ticket prices, health risks and geopolitical risks.

But before flying, passengers also consider sustainability, Lavorel says. “The initiative they would most value seeing from airports and airlines is the use of new IT to support sustainability, such as monitoring airport environmental performance to reduce emissions, and use of technologies to reduce fuel burn.”

Almost all passengers would pay on average 11% of their ticket price to offset carbon emissions from their flight, the survey found.

Asked if the air transport industry is doing enough to become more sustainable, more than half of passengers either think not, or don’t know.

“The key takeaway is that there is room for improvement in the communication of industry sustainability initiatives and actions,” Lavorel says.

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