Air Travelers Are Truly Embracing Tech, Survey Finds

Passengers give high marks to real-time mobile phone updates, biometric screening procedures, and automated check-in services.

Air Travelers Are Truly Embracing Tech, Survey Finds

Since 2016, there has been a 10 percent increase in passengers who prefer to receive travel information via a smartphone app, IATA reported.

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For most international air travelers, technology is something to welcome rather than wince at, according to a recently released survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA’s 2018 Global Passenger Survey, the results of which were released last week, was based on 10,408 responses from travelers from 145 countries; it found that travelers are increasingly open to and opting for tech options throughout their air travel experience.

For instance, 73 percent of respondents said that they now prefer to receive information about their flights via a text or through a mobile phone app. Since 2016 there has been a 10 percent increase in passengers who prefer to receive travel information through a smartphone app, IATA reported, indicating that not only are digital updates becoming the preferred method for receiving information, but also that apps, specifically, are gaining in popularity.

As for the kind of information they want to receive via their phones, 82 percent want to get updated flight status information, 49 percent would like information about the whereabouts of their luggage, and 46 percent would like to be informed about wait times in security and immigration lines.

Interestingly, while they’re up for using their devices prior to boarding, once on the flight, 54 percent of passengers reported they prefer to watch digital content on a seatback screen, compared to 36 percent who said they would rather use their own device.

Air travelers aren’t turned off by the growing prevalence of self-service options when it comes to checking in for their flights—in fact, the vast majority prefer it. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they preferred automated check-in, compared to 16 percent who said they would still rather have a traditional check-in experience at the airport (read: a human).

Only one in three travelers prefers an agent to tag their bag, while 68 percent of passengers prefer some form of self-service baggage check-in procedure. Electronic self-service bag tagging was favored by 39 percent of respondents, up eight percentage points from 2017.

Travelers are also embracing newer technology, too. Nearly half of passengers (45 percent) reported that they would prefer to use biometric screening instead of using their passport for identification.

Automated immigration procedures were rated favorably by 74 percent of passengers, while 72 percent felt that automated immigration processes are faster than traditional in-person immigration procedures, and 65 percent said they believed they enhanced security.

There are still plenty of ways in which air travel can improve, survey respondents reported. Airport security and immigration procedures, as well as boarding processes, were cited as the biggest pain points when traveling. When asked what their main frustrations were with the security screening process, 57 percent of respondents said the intrusiveness of having to remove personal items, 48 percent said having to remove their laptops and large electronic devices from their carry-on bags, and 41 percent said it was the lack of consistency in screening procedures at different airports.

As for how the boarding process can be improved, 64 percent said more efficient queuing at boarding gates is needed, and 42 percent said greater availability of overhead space on the aircraft would help.

>>Next: 11 Ways Technology Will Make Flying Fun Again

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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