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SITA Reports on What Technology Matters Most to Passengers

Aviation technology leader SITA has published its Passenger Insights Report 2023. It reveals the results of a comprehensive passenger survey conducted at the beginning of the year. These passenger insights suggest key focus areas for experience and technology investment for airlines and airports alike. 

This article is the first in a series of dominant trends revealed in the SITA report.

David Lavorel, CEO, SITA said of the report’s findings: 

“One of the good news stories of 2023 is that travel is back. Passenger numbers globally are close to 2019 levels and growing strongly. This year may well be a record year for travel in many parts of the world, while strong airfares have enabled airlines globally to get their balance sheets back into the black. 

“SITA’s 2023 Passenger IT Insights reflects this optimism, with travelers highlighting in this year’s report that they plan to travel more often than before.

“As the industry looks to ramp up spending on technology, they can rest assured that passengers will welcome automated, self-service options in the airport. It will also help airlines and airports grow without sacrificing the passenger experience.”

Increasing Adoption of Technology in Travel 

Passenger Technology Adoption infographic. SITA Report.
Source: SITA Passenger Insights 2023

Incorporating technology into different stages of air travel, from check-in to baggage collection, is experiencing a noticeable increase. The booking phase records the highest technology usage, a trend that has remained consistent over several years, with almost all flyers resorting to online booking channels.

Two sectors have recorded significant leaps in technology use this year. The ‘dwell time’ sector reports a 7% increase, and the ‘check-in’ sector a 6% hike. 

Other sectors such as ‘on-board,’ ‘bag tag,’ ‘bag drop,’ and ‘bag collection’ have also seen slight rises in technology uptake, with increases of 5%, 4%, 4%, and 3%, respectively. 

Technology Adoption, Passenger Preferences, and the Travel Experience 

Check-in and dwell time are areas where passengers have warmly embraced technology. Yet other areas, such as baggage handling and border control, lack technological availability and passenger comfort

A significant trend to monitor is whether this gap will widen further, with check-in and dwell time becoming universally tech-driven, similar to booking.

It will be interesting to see if areas like baggage management, identity control, and boarding undergo further digitalization. By digitalizing these less technologically advanced stages, airports and airlines could enhance overall journey efficiency for more passengers.

Technology Shapes the Passenger Travel Experience

Passenger Technology Usage Along the Journey, SITA Report.
Source: SITA Passenger Insights 2023

Within the past year, the adoption of mobile technology has experienced a significant surge, as evidenced by the following data: 

• A 7% increase in passengers using Wi-Fi during dwell time within airport premises,

• A 5% rise in Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity use during flight times.

Moreover, mobile engagement has steadily risen at various stages of the passenger journey: a 2% increase at the booking stage, a 3% rise during check-in, and a similar 3% increase at the bag collection point.

The growing trend indicates an unequivocal desire among passengers to incorporate mobile technologies into their travel experiences. However, the stagnation in the utilization of e-gates since 2022 suggests a potential area of focus and investment for airports to underscore their value to the traveling public. 

Over the past few years, most passengers have leveraged technology for trip booking. This year, however, has seen a shift in preference towards mobile usage, resulting in a slight dip in web bookings. The balance between web and mobile app usage, which was 77% and 8%, respectively, in 2019, has now tilted to 70% for web and a significant jump to 22% for mobile in 2023.

Passenger Information Preferences at Bag Collection 

Passenger technology adoption at bag collection. SITA report.
Source: SITA Passenger Insights 2023

Real-time screens for bag collection information have become increasingly popular among passengers in 2023, with an increase of 7% over last year. However, an 8% decrease in public audio announcements and mobile device notifications is noticeable. 

Mobile Device Usage 

Despite the recent decline in mobile device notifications, the long-term trend tells a different story. Passenger reliance on mobile devices for obtaining bag collection information has steadily increased. The percentage of passengers using mobile to collect their bags rose from 24% in 2020 to 32% in 2023. 

From 2017 until 2022, the average number of checked bags per passenger increased steadily. Despite a marginal increase this year, the figures remain subdued compared to 2019 and Q1 2020, which were pre-pandemic. This implies that changes introduced in the airline pricing models for checked bags continue influencing the traveler’s decision-making process. 

Long Term Preference for Checked Bags 

The number of passengers opting for checked bags has been consistently higher than in the period between 2015 and 2017. This shows travelers’ distinct and enduring preference to travel with checked bags.

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