Smartphones, Automated Technology Could Smooth Travel

SITA’s research shows that 76 percent of air passengers are using airline apps, and 43 percent say this has made a definite improvement to their travel.

travel and mobility

Air travelers in the United States rank time-consuming baggage and security procedures as the top areas for improvement, according to a survey of 1,275 passengers conducted by air transport IT specialist SITA.

Passengers ranked in-flight wireless, better real-time flight information and better comparability of airline fares as their top three suggested areas of investment.

A majority of U.S. passengers said they would use new boarding pass services such as un-staffed boarding gates (67 percent) and self-service transfer kiosks at the connecting airport (52 percent).

"Despite the frustration we all occasionally feel with queues and processes, change is happening at security checkpoints around the world," Andrew O’Connor, portfolio director of SITA’s airport solution line, told eWEEK. "Airports and governments are increasingly sensitive to the impact that poor passenger experience at security and border checks can have. It is no secret that some people choose airports and even destinations based on the airport, security, and border experiences they expect to have, so airports and governments are making investments to improve the situation."

More than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents said they regularly use their smartphone to rebook delayed flights, but nearly double that number (50 percent) would do so if available over the next 12 months.

"Self-service is now increasingly possible via a smart mobile device or laptop for every element of a flight, from initial booking to destination border control and everything in-between," O’Connor said. "A growing number of passengers want to use technology at every point of the journey, and many already do."

SITA’s research shows that 76 percent of passengers are using airline apps, and 43 percent say this has made a definite improvement to their travel.

"Half would like to use their smartphone for boarding, and more than 90 percent are interested in automated immigration gates," he explained. "The demand is there and so are the means."

O’Connor also noted new technologies are being investigated all the time.

For example, SITA worked on a pilot project that allowed passengers traveling on Air France flights from Toulouse-Blagnac Airport to Paris-Orly Airport to use smartphones enabled with NFC to get from the airport entrance to their gates in a matter of minutes by simply tapping their phone on dedicated readers in the airport.

"In addition to saving time, they experienced a comfortable, stress-free journey, with no need to search for and display a barcode or a printed document even if their phone battery was dead," he said.

O’Connor said the use of biometrics through all touch points will become a feature of many airports soon.

"With biometrics, passengers can make their way through a series of self-service touch points, including security and border agency control posts, without queuing or the need to be vetted by a member of staff," O’Connor said. "We can expect to see more of these great passenger experiences in the future as airlines and airports trial new ways to improve passenger flow and self-service to better manage growing passenger numbers."