Air travellers want more self-service – SITA study finds

Sunday, 10 October 2010 22:32 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Geneva (Reuters Life!): International airline passengers want self-service extended from online booking and kiosk check-in to security and passport control and boarding their flights, an industry report said last week.

The report, based on surveys taken at seven major airports on five continents, said most travellers also want more automation for handing in baggage and paying excess fees, reporting missing luggage and switching flights.

The surveys found that on-line booking and check-in have well overtaken the traditional methods of visiting an airline office or travel agent and collecting boarding passes from registration desks at the airport.

“People just want more self-service at every step of their journey,” said Quentin Browell, spokesman for the airline industry’s leading information technology supplier SITA which issues the report annually.

The report said an average of 71 percent of passengers surveyed at the seven hubs had booked in online or at automated airport kiosks for their flights, and many more would be ready to do so if they understood the process better.

But checking in on mobile phones was much less common, with only 3 percent of those questioned on the day of the survey having used the method.

The Geneva-based SITA recorded a sharp growth in passengers using airline websites to book hotels – up from 21 percent of those surveyed in 2009 to 38 percent this year – and to rent cars – up from 19 to 35 percent.

There were similar increases in use of carriers’ websites for other services like buying travel insurance, bus and train tickets and for ordering duty-free items in advance, SITA said.

The surveys were carried out on a single day among what SITA said was a representative sample of the millions of travellers using the seven airports – Atlanta, Beijing, Frankfurt, Johannesburg-Tambo, Mumbai, Moscow Domodedovo and Sao Paulo.

The report did not identify exactly how passengers saw automation working in security and passport control, or in baggage check-in, but methods of easing these processes are understood to be under study at SITA.

The survey also found that travellers in North America and Asia were increasingly willing to pay a small extra fee to offset the carbon footprint of their flight.

Some 44 percent of those questioned at Mumbai already did so, 35 percent at Beijing and 27 percent at Atlanta said they already did so, according to SITA. But at Frankfurt, one of Europe’s largest hubs, the figure was only 6 percent.