Skift Take

In most cases, airlines have the technology to give passengers more control over their journey. Carriers should take advantage of this, and they should start by making their mobile apps a lot more useful than they are today.

Many airline passengers want to use technology to ensure they have more control over their journey, International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline industry group, reported in a recent traveler survey.

The data mirrors the trend elsewhere, with passengers under age 45 generally preferring technological solutions over a human touch. IATA, which interviewed 7,000 travelers from 140 countries for its annual survey, found travelers younger than 24 value onboard Wi-Fi more than any other factor, while travelers between 25 and 44 are most interested in receiving “timely e-notifications” from airlines on flight and baggage status. Travelers older than 45, however, said they valued service from aircraft crews more than anything.

Baggage is a pain point for travelers of all ages, according to the survey, with only about half of all respondents saying they were satisfied with the experience of checking luggage.

Almost 40 percent of travelers said they would prefer an electronic bag tag, or a 2-by-3-inch reusable plastic tag with e-ink screens, over a traditional paper tag. Another 33 percent of travelers said they were fine with a one-time use paper tag, provided they could print and tag bags themselves, either at home or at the airport. Only 29 percent preferred the traditional option, in which an airport agent tags bags.

Nearly two-thirds of travelers said they want to track bags from drop-off to pick-up. Delta Air Lines is one of the few airlines that offers real-time bag tracking via an app. About a quarter of passengers said they would prefer airlines to drop-off and pick-up luggage at their homes, but doing so would be a major logistical challenge for most carriers.


Bag collection is a major pain point for travelers, according to an IATA survey.

Another problem, passengers said, is security lines, with 59 percent of respondents complaining that they don’t like to take off shoes, belts and jacket, and 51 percent upset that they have to remove laptops and other electronics from bags.

About half of respondents also said they didn’t like the variation in screening across airports, with countries all having slightly different processes. Roughly 85 percent said they would volunteer more information about themselves if it could cut down on wait times. A majority of travelers said they want to receive security wait time updates on their phones.

Travelers who regularly fly connecting itineraries had similar concerns, asking airports to streamline transfers. They would prefer to go through security screening and passport control only once during their journey.

Some countries are better at facilitating transfers than others, with the United States a known laggard, in part due to security concerns. For example, a traveler starting in Europe and transferring in Houston en route to Mexico City must clear immigration twice — in Houston and in Mexico City. That traveler would also clear security in Europe and the United States.

On the plane, too, passengers would like more control over their experience. According to IATA, travelers are beginning to embrace a new trend in which airlines provide movies and television programs streamed to a passenger’s laptop, tablet or phone. About half of respondents said they would using a steaming service, an increase of 12 percentage points over the 2015 survey.

Airlines like streaming because it means they do not have to install heavy and costly screens in each seat-back. Watching movies remains popular, IATA reported, with 77 percent of respondents saying it is their favorite thing to do on long-haul flights.


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: iata, paxex

Photo credit: Alaska Airlines has been testing reusable luggage tags. More travelers would like to use them, according to a recent IATA survey. Alaska Airlines

Up Next

Loading next stories