Airline passengers prefer to use self-service options for activities like checking in, but are hamstrung by their baggage.
SITA, the specialist provider of IT solutions to airlines and airports, says there is overwhelming evidence from passengers surveyed at six of the world's busiest airports across five continents, that self-service is fast becoming the norm for passengers from Atlanta to Moscow – but that the main challenge to even broader adoption of "do-it-yourself" travel management is baggage.
The SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey takes an in-depth look at the attitudes and habits of a representative sample of the 232-million passengers who use the following leading international airports: Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta; Mumbai International; Charles de Gaulle, Paris; Moscow Domodedovo; Sao Paulo Guarulhos, Brazil; and Johannesburg. The data is extracted from interviews with 2 143 passengers conducted at the departure gates earlier this year.
Dominique El Bez, SITA director: portfolio marketing, says: "This survey confirms that self-service is here to stay with potential for truly explosive growth in emerging markets. Despite low internet penetration in India for example, already almost 20% of passengers at the country's largest airport, Mumbai International, are using the web to check-in.
"Overall 57,6% of surveyed passengers used the web to book their flight and 36% checked in on the web or on a self-service kiosk. Willingness to re-use is very high.
"Baggage is the number one reason quoted by almost half passengers (48,4%) for not using self-service check-in options when available and this negatively impacts the passenger experience and limits the savings and efficiencies made possible by self-service technology for the industry.
"Addressing the baggage dilemma is a key milestone to achieving a target of 80% self-service check-in for the industry."
Among potential solutions, the survey found that 47,8% of travellers would be willing to use both remote check-in and bag-drop services in the future; while 42.2% of these travellers would even be actually willing to pay for remote baggage check-in services.
The survey, now in its third year but expanded to include airports across the globe, confirmed the travelling public's desire for greater autonomy when it comes to making their own travel arrangements. Only price (70,5%) and flight schedule (63,1%) rank above "ability to make your own arrangement on the web" (42,5%) when passengers were asked what they consider most important when making their travel arrangement and reservation.
Ease of use (72%) and time saved (60%) were the most popular reasons for online booking, followed by the fact that the web makes comparison of the various options easier (56%). The air travel market place is becoming increasingly transparent to price and schedule sensitive consumers, promising an even more frantic competitive environment.
Air travellers are, in general, techno-savvy with 93% of the passengers surveyed carrying a mobile device.
The survey confirmed that passengers would welcome the extension of their self-service experience online to functions that will allow them to modify their reservations, for example (66,7%). This is also evidenced by the quick penetration of web check-in with 60% of passengers stating they will be using it in future; the proportion of those willing to use it as frequently as possible is expected to double.
Passengers also had a positive view of the possible future expansion of kiosk use for flight transfers (53,.8%) and reporting lost baggage claims (41,8%).
Ancillary services represent a real opportunity for airlines to leverage their brand and market foot-print to act as trusted e-commerce travel service providers, with the proportion of passengers willing to use airlines' websites frequently to book hotel rooms for example, expected to almost double in the coming years. Present levels of usage among passengers surveyed for booking hotel/apartment/aar park/car rental, are 11,2% for frequent usage and 22,6% intermittently.
Automated border control and security processing was acceptable to 48,7% while a weighted average of 40% of passengers would accept that an airline/airport uses location sensing technology to locate passengers and guide them through the terminal. The highest acceptance was in Sao Paulo (69%) while the lowest was in Paris Charles de Gaulle (4%).
While there is a globalisation dimension to the spread of the self-service revolution, there are also important regional variations highlighted by the survey which impact on the effectiveness of the investment in this technology.
In Atlanta (95,4%) and Charles de Gaulle (98,6%), there is almost 100% awareness of the availability of self-service check-in but 45,4% of respondents in Sao Paulo could not tell if there was a self-service option available for their flight and lack-of-awareness numbers were also high for Johannesburg (44,7%); Domededevo, (33,6%); and Mumbai, (24,7%).