Top Five Technologies That Airline & Airport Passengers Want

By Hélène Dubos | Technology

Feb 16

There’s a temptation for the marketing & technology teams at airlines and airports to create amazing, cutting-edge technology.

Many airports will have considered beacon technology. Airlines will be thinking about contactless payments. And all the players have big data on their minds.

But for consumers, it seems like ‘less is more’.


SITA 2015 Passenger IT Trends Survey.

The 2015 Passenger IT Trends Survey by SITA was carried out in 17 countries, at venues which represented 76% of the world’s passenger traffic.

And the five headline results – summarized below – show that passengers want simple solutions.

The bottom line is that people want everything on their smartphone, tablet, and PC … in that order.

The upside is that airlines and airports don’t need to invest so much in display technology, either in-flight or in-terminal, because the travelers have already purchased their own display device. Your job is to get your data on their BYOD (bring your own device) screens as seamlessly as possible.

Out of interest, SITA found that 83% of passengers travel with a smartphone, and 15% carry a smartphone and tablet and laptop.


Airports information systems. Push flight data to mobile devices.

72% of passengers want flight information on a mobile device.

72% of passengers want flight information on a mobile device.

You know what it’s like. When you’re waiting for your flight you find a seat in the terminal … then gather your bags to go find a departures screen … then go and find a seat again, etc, etc.

Little wonder then that 72% of passengers in the SITA study said they’d prefer flight updates to be pushed straight to their device. That way they can stay comfortable and eat or shop until their flight is ready.

Airports who consider developing an Android or iPhone app might also consider building mobile payments into their technology, but according to the SITA study that isn’t such a big deal for flyers.

However, airport infrastructures should enable passengers to use their smartphone for boarding planes and getting into airport lounges. 60% of passengers would like that capability.


Airline bookings. Android and iOS mobile apps are the way to go.

Mobile app bookings set to rise from 26% to 36%.

Mobile app bookings set to rise from 26% to 36%.

According to SITA, the majority of passengers – 62% – booked their flight on a PC in 2015. But that figure is expected to drop to 53% during 2016.

The rising star is mobile phone apps (as opposed to mobile-friendly websites accessed via browser). 26% of passengers used mobile to book their flight in 2015, but that figure is set to rise to 36% during 2016.

By the way, separate research by Compuware (see reference list at the end of this article) showed that 85% of consumers prefer apps to mobile web sites. Apps have the perceived advantages of being faster, more secure, and usable without an Internet connection.

For airlines who don’t yet have an app, their web-based technology will appeal more to tablet and PC users. Although Android and iPad tablets have app stores, users are still happy with websites thanks to the larger screen format of those devices.


Airports. Mobile boarding pass usage set to double during 2016.

Mobile boarding passes predicated to rise from 8% to 16%.

Mobile boarding passes predicted to rise from 8% to 16%.

There’s something comfortingly real about a piece of paper, which is why so many passengers nowadays opt to print their boarding pass at home, where that facility is offered.

SITA also found that 33% of travelers collect their boarding pass from an airport desk or 29% from a self-service kiosk.

But the writing is on the wall for paper. Just 8% of passengers used a mobile boarding pass in 2015, but that figure is set to double to 16% in 2016.

Mobile check-in is on the rise too. Up to 20% in 2016 from 11% in 2015.


Baggage drop. SITA found 77% of passengers like automated stations.

Well, just to clarify that figure, 77% of flyers liked the idea of an automated baggage drop … providing there was someone there to help. Without the reassurance of a human helper, the percentage dropped to 59% for an unstaffed baggage drop area.

The number of passengers using bag-drops and self-service facilities is predicted to rise from 20% in 2015 to 31% in 2016.

For airlines, baggage revenues are an important part of the bottom line. But the airport has to make a capital investment in automated baggage drop systems, so expect some sort of revenue share.

The good news is the SITA research showed that 81% of passengers check-in a bag. The average ‘bags per customer’ in 2015 was 1.2, and just 20% of passengers have a preference for carry-on luggage.


In-flight tech. 67% of passengers prefer to Bring Your Own Device.

60% of passengers would like in-flight email connection.

60% of passengers would like an in-flight email connection.

Any airlines thinking of retro-fitting their seatbacks with screens, or specifying seatback screens on new aircraft, can save themselves a bundle.

In the SITA passenger survey, 67% of passengers stated a preference for using their own device (smartphone, tablet or laptop).

So airlines could consider pushing entertainment and in-flight information to passengers via their own app. Out of interest, only 56% of travelers expect the airline to provide entertainment anyway.

The big in-flight option that passengers want is wi-fi connectivity. 60% would like email connection, and 56% would like to stream their own entertainment content.


Takeaway. The top five tech offers for airline passengers.

What’s our takeaway from the SITA 2015 Passenger IT Trends Survey? Here are the five top applications and services that airlines and airports could consider if they want to boost customer satisfaction.

1 – At the airport. Push flight information straight to a mobile device.
2 – Flight bookings. Develop a mobile app.
3 – Flight boarding. Enable digital, mobile passes.
4 – Baggage drop. Developed automated stations.
5 – In-flight. Offer wi-fi and push-to-mobile entertainment.


Reference used.

SITA. Passenger IT Trends Survey 2015.

Skift. Passengers Want Simpler Tech Solutions From Airports and Airlines.

Compuware. 85% of people prefer apps.