Online booking is rising steadily in South Africa, but use of self-service check-in ranks behind global rates as the country’s airports gear up to handle the large influx of fans expected for next year’s FIFA World Cup.

This is according to a new survey by global aviation IT company SITA of passenger self-service use at major international airport hubs. Awareness of the availability of online booking was at 94,2% among passengers using OR Tambo International Airport, and 41% chose to use it – up from 37,4% last year but still behind the global weighted average of 63,7%.
The fourth annual SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service (PSS) Survey is an in-depth look at the attitudes and habits of a representative sample of the 232-million passengers who use six leading international airports: Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta; Mumbai International; Charles de Gaulle, Paris; Moscow Domodedovo; Sao Paulo Guarulhos, Brazil; and OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg.
The data is extracted from interviews with 2 193 passengers conducted at the departure gates earlier this year. This was the second successive year that OR Tambo has been included in the survey.
Despite a 20% surge in self-service check-in worldwide, there was a drop in Johannesburg where only 8,9% of passengers used the self-service check-in option compared to 15,2% in last year’s survey. This was in part due to changes in the airport layout and new positioning of self-service kiosks but almost one-third of passengers interviewed did not know if there was a self-service check-in option available for their flight.
The survey found that the number one reason for people not using the self-service check-in option in Johannesburg, when they knew it was available, was that they had bags to check-in (35,5%), closely followed by reasons like “habit, prefer the old way” (28,4%) and preference for “the human interface” (18,7%).
While the proportion of passengers having checked-in on a kiosk the day of the interview remains stable compared to last year, there was a notable drop from 6,7% to 0,8% among those using Web check-in despite the fact that 40% of passengers had used online booking.
Khodr Akil, SITA regional vice-president: Africa, says: “Online booking will grow further in Johannesburg as awareness of its availability increases. This is good for the future of self-service check-in as experience tells us that on-line bookers are almost three times more likely to use it. We are confident that self-service check-in will grow in South Africa.
“Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport will benefit greatly from a $34-million check-in upgrade which SITA is carrying out across 10 of the country’s airports. This will be accompanied by a concerted effort to raise awareness among the traveling public about the advantages of self-service check-in options whether on kiosks or on the web.”
On a positive note, the survey does report that more passengers in Johannesburg are experienced in using self-service check-in options: 34,9% now report that they have used kiosk check-in at least once (up from 30,6% in 2008); and 18% reported having used web-check-in options at least once (up from 16,8% in 2008).
When asked about future use, the survey reports a growing positive attitude towards using self-service check-in options with 70% of the respondents being positive about using kiosks for check-in (up from 56% last year), and 43% have a positive attitude towards web-check-in (up from 38% last year).