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Passengers in USA are planners - happy when using self-service

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SITA survey shows up to 90% of US air travelers experience positive emotions when using self-service

New research from IT provider SITA shows the majority (58%) of US air travelers are “careful planners” who double check their travel documents and turn up at the airport early. These passengers are happy to use technology for planning and throughout the journey. Nevertheless, they like to carry printed documents and welcome interaction with airline agents to confirm everything is on track and going to plan. .

SITA’s survey was based on 1,411 passengers traveling through 46 international airports across the US, which in total represent 75% of US passenger traffic. It also included interviews and observations of passengers at US airports to assess their emotions and how they use technology.

The analysis showed four different personas or types of travelers: • Careful Planner
• Independent and hyper-connected
• Pampered
• Open-minded adventurer

Most US passengers (58%) perceived themselves as a ‘careful planner’. The remaining were fairly equally divided between the other three personas, although slightly more saw themselves as ‘Independent and Hyper-Connected’ travelers (18%) who like efficiency when they travel. Thirteen per cent identified themselves as ‘Pampered’ travelers who are willing to pay extra for the services that will enhance their journey, while 12% thought of themselves as an ‘Open-minded Adventurer’ - excited by the prospect of their journey. US passengers are happy; 80% exhibited positive emotions throughout the journey with high peaks when they used online check-in (90%) and self-service check-in (89%).

Paul Houghton, SITA President, Americas, said: “This year in the SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey, we have taken a close look at the different types of passengers and their emotions to get a good picture of passenger behaviors throughout the journey. US passengers have a very positive experience when they use technology for travel tasks and are ahead of the rest of the world in rates of adoption for self-service booking and check-in.

“The results reveal opportunities for airlines and airports in the US to further improve customer satisfaction. Passengers want to use technology more - in particular their mobiles - to get up-to-date information on such things as flight status and baggage collection. Providing these updates should particularly appeal to the expectations of the careful planners and help to make the US passenger even happier.”

The survey showed that US passengers had higher levels of positive emotion when they used self-service technology options. In total 90% of passengers rated online check-in as a positive experience, compared to 82% of passengers using an airport counter. Checking in for a flight on a mobile or kiosk was also a hugely positive experience, with ratings of 89% and 83% respectively.

Not surprisingly, the highest number of respondents in the US showed positive emotions when they are able to relax, so dwell time before boarding and onboard the aircraft received strongly positive ratings of 95% and 90% of passengers, respectively.

Dragging down the feel-good factor is ongoing frustration with security and, to a lesser extent, passport formalities. In fact, 43% of US passengers had negative emotions at the security stage and 29% at passport control. Both figures were higher than the global average of 36% and 25%, respectively.  These results demonstrate the opportunity to introduce more self-service technology to improve passenger satisfaction at these points of the journey. For example, some US airports and airlines are already enjoying the benefits of automated passport control (APC) kiosks which use sophisticated biometrics to speed passengers through the immigration and customs procedures on arrival in the US.

Mobile is the future as more US passengers expect to use their mobile devices for travel-related services. The survey shows that 19% intend to use mobile check-in for their next flight, compared to 13% who used it for their last, a growth of more than 40%. Booking flights with a mobile is also projected to increase, growing from 29% of passengers today to 38% within a year.

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