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New SITA survey charts self-service transformation at three major airport hubs

The world’s airline passengers – 2.2 billion in 2006 – are demanding and obtaining more choice and control of pre- and post-flight travel processes, according to an independent survey undertaken at three major international airports earlier this year by…

The world’s airline passengers – 2.2 billion in 2006 – are demanding and obtaining more choice and control of pre- and post-flight travel processes, according to an independent survey undertaken at three major international airports earlier this year by SITA, global provider of IT and communications solutions to the air transport industry.

Dominique El Bez, SITA Director for Portfolio Marketing, said: “Technology is driving innovation and breaking new ground in passenger handling at both ends of the journey. It is clear that airport and airline managements which can deliver the autonomy their customers clearly want – through online booking, self service check-in and streamlined baggage handling facilities for instance – will benefit their business significantly.”

The 2nd SITA Passenger Self-Service Survey was conducted earlier this year at departure gates in Atlanta, Hong Kong and London Heathrow airports. It shows that 39% of passengers rate their ability to make travel arrangements on the web as an influencing factor in the booking decision. This ranks this factor ahead of airlines services (31%) and previous travel experience (27%), and closer to more traditional considerations such as routing and schedule in a category which is invariably dominated by price (65%).

As further proof that self-service check-in is taking off, the proportion of passengers who have never used self-service check-in kiosks has decreased from 41% to 37% since last year’s survey at the same three airports. There is also a growing willingness to use kiosks for lost baggage notification (up from 40% to 50% in 2007) and interline transfers. Web check-in continues to gain in popularity with frequent users doubling at London Heathrow (to 20%) and also rising markedly in both Atlanta (32%) and Hong Kong (13%).

The impact of tighter security is reflected in the survey, with more passengers having to check-in bags at Atlanta and Heathrow, where 18% of respondents identified security screening and 10% identified passport control and customs as the steps in the journey they would most like to change.

There was a jump from 37% to 44% in those respondents highlighting ‘loss of personal items’ in a list of travel-related incidents found most annoying – probably a sign of dissatisfaction with the stricter controls on hand-carried items.

El Bez said: “With 93% of respondents declaring they are positive towards online booking, there is a clear signal to airline and airport planners. Similarly, the growth in the preference towards using self-check-in, when passengers knew it was available to them (from 53% to 66%), is a critical pointer to the future, confirming that do-it-yourself travel is irreversibly changing the face of our industry.”

Some survey highlights include the following:

Online Booking

The proportion of travellers purchasing their tickets online for the flights on the day they were questioned – i.e. actual usage – is slightly up overall at 49% for 2007 (47% in 2006), confirming that booking via the internet is becoming the norm.

There is a fall in the number of passengers who are aware of online booking facilities but will not use them. A critical reason among this group centres on lack of trust in the internet, coupled with negative perceptions of web security, which almost doubled from 7% in 2006 to 12% this year.

Nevertheless, the primary cause given for not booking via internet remains that a third party makes the travel arrangements (40%) – which could still have been completed online. Access to customer service advice (15%) and cheaper fares offline (9%) came in again at positions two and three.

Trip Planning and Experience

While most of the elements associated with a pleasant trip remain roughly similar – with some slight reductions on queuing and friendly ground staff – those selecting a ‘well equipped terminal’ rose from 23% in 2006 to 28% this year. The major factor in this increase emanates from Atlanta – where SITA recently installed WIFI connectivity – with a 35% outturn in this category, more than double the 16% recorded in 2006.

Leading the category for the step of the journey passengers would most like to change overall – as in 2006 – is ‘waiting for bags’, particularly among the leisure sector. In contrast business travellers nominated ‘security screening’ as did frequent self-service users.

Self-Service Check-in

The 2007 PSS highlights a sharp jump in the number of passengers who knew that self check-in was available and used it – up overall from 23% last year to 30% in 2007, with business/first class travellers opting for this facility more than their leisure counterparts.

The highest mobile phone usage for self-service check-in detected was in Hong Kong where the 10% drop in the web option (51%) was matched by a similar rise in those checking-in via their mobile phones (16%). In fact, 56% of those interviewed in Hong Kong and 63% in Atlanta expressed a positive attitude to this new technology, though there is a strong negative under-current at Heathrow with 69% of passengers currently opposed.

For the 2006 PSS, 19% of passengers questioned cited baggage as their reason for declining self-service, with a marked rise to 24% in 2007.

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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