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Airline Passengers Welcome More Digital Solutions to Common Travel Problems

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    Flyers want technology to improve their experience going through security checkpoints and when dealing with the nightmare of a travel disruption. Airlines need to do more to smooth over the pain points, and mobile technology can help them do it.

    Flyers want convenience, and many are willing to trade their personal information for a more seamless air travel experience. Airlines and airports, though, still have a long way to go to provide a better experience for travelers.

    The recent International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) 2018 Global Passenger Survey shows that customers want increased automation to smooth over the more stressful parts of a trip. The survey, which polled 10,408 global respondents, took place from April to June of 2018.

    The data show that travelers are less satisfied with their trip through the airport itself this year, from security to customs and boarding itself, while slightly more satisfied with airlines’ in-flight entertainment offerings. Airlines have spent the last few years beefing up their in-flight entertainment systems, and passengers have noticed, with many preferring watching something on their in-flight screen to whatever devices they bring onboard.

    In terms of sharing personal data with airlines, the wave seems to have crested in terms of willing adoption by travelers. In 2017, 70 percent of travelers were willing to share personal information to speed up processing at the airport; in 2018, 65 percent were.

    When it comes to biometric technology, 45 percent of those polled would choose biometric identification instead of having to carry a passport around.

    “As we move more and more towards digital processes, passengers need to be confident that their personal data is safe. IATA is working to establish a trust framework that ensures secure data sharing, legal compliance, and privacy,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s senior vice president for airport, passenger, cargo, and security.

    There are several other important insights from the data that are worth looking at, besides the battle between privacy and personalization.

    Here are three takeaways from the report.

    Hotel and Flight Together

    In an age when hotel brands are actively pushing travelers to book directly on their website, it seems like travelers themselves are still more than willing to take care of their air and hotel bookings at the same time.

    More than half of the flyers polled said that they purchased a hotel stay alongside their flight, and nearly as many purchased flight insurance for their ticket.

    Additional Products or Services Purchased Together With Flight Tickets
    Hotel53%
    Insurance40%
    Transfer to Final Destination32%
    Car Rental32%

    Source: IATA

    It is interesting that nearly a third of flyers still book their car rental alongside their flight, showing that the age of Uber isn’t changing traveler behavior too much.

    Flyers Want Better Information

    Mobile travel tools have redefined the travel experience, but that hasn’t translated to a better experience during a travel disruption. The survey found that travelers most desire real-time notifications during a disruption, which is certainly an area that airlines need to improve in.

    Services That Could Best Improve Travel Disruption Experience
    Real-Time, Accurate Travel Notifications54%
    Automated Flight Rebooking46%
    Face-to-Face Service Interaction39%
    Hotel Accommodation38%
    Meal Vouchers26%
    Airport Services/Purchases22%

    Source: IATA

    For the 46 percent who want automated flight rebooking, it’s unlikely that there will be a major change in the sector any time soon due to the complicated games airlines play when it comes to rebooking and partnering with competing airlines to resolve disruptions.

    Doing More With Wi-Fi

    The importance of Wi-Fi connectivity to passengers can’t be overstated, and we’ve seen airlines move to include free Wi-Fi offerings to capture demand from flyers. Yet in terms of what passengers want from their online experience, the ability to get a headstart on planning their arrival is most importance.

    Emerging Trends for Onboard Wi-Fi Usage
    Searching Connecting Flight Information29%
    Planning Your Onward Journey37%
    Filling in Customs and Other Electronic Forms33%

    Source: IATA

    Photo Credit: Travelers at New York's LaGuardia Airport the day President Trump's travel ban will go into effect on June 29th, 2017. David Williams / Bloomberg

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