Once they try self-service travel technology, frequent business travelers not only like it, but demand more. That's according to more than 10,000 frequent business travelers surveyed by the International Air Transport Association. However, survey results also indicated that while travelers might say they want technology, they don't always use it, opting instead for human interaction. In fact, 90 percent of respondents said they had used a ticket counter in the past year.
More than half of the 10,281 business travelers surveyed in September and October by IATA said they would favor more self-service options from airlines, such as the ability to change a seat online (82 percent), or change a reservation online (55 percent). The self-service features that more than half of respondents ranked as those they would most use are online booking, reservation changes, check-in, email notification service, printing boarding passes at home and common use self-service check-in.
At the departure gate, the traveler wish list included self-service options to obtain last minute upgrades (62 percent), seat selection (46 percent) or obtain transfer information.
IATA noted that 89 percent of survey respondents preferred e-ticketing over paper tickets, 69 percent said they had used self-service kiosks and 56 percent said they had experienced Internet check-in. Only 14 percent said they had used curbside check-in. Only a few reported using mobile check-in, with 5 percent by phone and 3 percent via SMS or text messaging.
But a separate survey of technology executives at the world's 100 largest passenger carriers indicated substantial investment in mobile check-in options. About 20 percent of those surveyed said mobile phone check-in is offered, and 56 percent more said it would be available within two years. In that survey, conducted by SITA and Airline Businessmagazine, 53 percent of respondents said they already offered Web check-in and within two years, 90 percent said they would do so.
"The consumer has spoken and the message is clear. Self-service is part of full-service expectations," said IATA director general and CEO Gionvanni Bisignani. "Airlines are responding with technology that gives travelers greater convenience and more options to control their travel experience."
IATA is a Geneva-based trade organization representing 240 member carriers and 94 percent of scheduled international traffic. As part of its "Simplifying the Business" plan introduced in 2004 to save the airline industry $6.5 billion a year, IATA established standards and adoption goals for common-use self-service kiosks, bar-coded boarding passes, trials of radio frequency identification for baggage and e-ticketing. IATA had asked members to convert 100 percent of ticketing to e-tickets as of year-end. However, with e-ticket levels reaching only 80 percent by April, IATA's board agreed to extend the deadline for e-ticketing until May 2008. As of September, IATA said e-ticketing had reached 88 percent.
As many of the original goals have been reached--or are within reach--IATA next month is expected to detail new standards and goals. In October, IATA issued new guidelines for mobile phone check-in based on two-dimensional bar codes that by 2010 are to replace magnetic stripes.
In gate departure lounges, free food and drinks edged out wireless Internet access as the most important service selected by IATA's survey respondents, followed by "relaxing atmosphere, decor and ambience," washroom/shower facilities and comfortable seats.
For an itinerary that involved different airlines, more than half of all respondents from the European, Africa/Middle East and Asia-Pac regions and nearly half from the Americas, said they would prefer to have just one boarding pass. Support for a single boarding pass for a multi-leg itinerary was even greater, as more than 65 percent of European, Africa/Middle East and Asia-Pac respondents and 57 percent of respondents from the Americas favored it.
Nearly 58 percent of Asia-Pacific respondents and over 60 percent of those from the Americans, Europe and Africa-Middle East said they wouldn't care if a self-service kiosk was shared by multiple airlines.
By region, demand for "more self-service options" was greatest at 64 percent among business travelers surveyed from Africa and the Middle East, 7 percentage points higher than the 57 percent of travelers in the Americas who said they favored more self-service options. Respondents in Asia expressed the least demand for (51 percent) and highest opposition to (28 percent) more self-service tools.
While 81 percent of all respondents said they would always or frequently print boarding passes online in the future, fewer than half had actually done so in the past 12 months. Among respondents from Africa and the Middle East, only 8 percent said they always or frequently printed boarding passes online, while 72 percent had never done so, and 9 percent said they tried it once. In Asia-Pacific, 58 percent said they had never printed their boarding pass, compared with 43 percent in Europe and 28 percent in the Americas.