Here’s What Passengers Say They Want Most; Will Airlines Deliver?

Passengers come in all sorts of “flavors” that vary from the once-every-few years leisure traveler to the business people who fly several times per week for work. All have their own priorities of what makes their travels a satisfactory experience, but can those desires come to fruition? For that matter, short of a well-worded tweet, how can they even let the airlines know?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines. They represent about 82% of total air traffic and their mission is to represent, lead, and serve the airline industry.

Part of IATA’s overall goal is to find out what passengers do and don’t like, so fixes can be made. This is done via annual surveys. The surveys act as the voice of the passengers, providing objective and in-depth insights into the preferences and behaviors of air travelers around the world, which, in turn, assists in guiding industry initiatives.

The focus of their 2019 survey was on processes and technology in the travel experience and was based on the feedback of 10,877 passengers across 166 countries around the world.

Based on the survey results, passengers want more control and less waiting. Their top priorities include:

  • Having more personal control over their journey via their smart phone
    Although 39% of travelers still preferred making reservations on an airline’s website, 51% of passengers said that smart phones were their preferred method of check-in. 72% of respondents also liked to be kept informed throughout their journey via travel notifications sent to their personal device and SMS is the preferred notification option for 39% of passengers.
  • Being able to use biometric identification to speed up travel processes
    The survey suggested that 70% of passengers are willing to share additional personal information including their biometric identifiers, if it will stop hassles and help speed up processes at the airport (not surprisingly, the interest in using biometrics directly increases with the number of flights taken per year. The largest amount of support for this (76%) is among fliers who travel for business, more than 10 times per year. Furthermore, 46% of passengers would rather use biometric identification instead of a paper passport for their international travels and 30% would be willing to use a biometric token to board the plane. The 53% who would not want to use biometric data said they were hesitant due to security concerns.
  • To be able to track their baggage
    53% of passengers said that they would be more likely to check their bags if they were able to track it throughout the journey. 46% said that they would like to be able to track their bag and have it delivered directly to an off-airport location, if that service were available.
  • Maximum wait times of 10 minutes for baggage collection and immigration/customs
    Passengers are tired of waiting. 80% of us want to wait no longer than three minutes to drop off a bag and 74% of us don’t want to wait more than 10 minutes to pick it up at baggage claim. A 10 minute wait for queuing at immigration/customs would be the max for 79% of travelers (only 2% would accept a waiting time longer than 20 minutes). The survey also indicated that for 74% of passengers, speed was the main benefit of using automated immigration gates/kiosks.
  • Access to Wi-Fi onboard at 34,000ft
    Passengers want onboard Wi-Fi, but how much we want it appears to depend on what country you’re from. Only 59% of passengers from North America want onboard Wi-Fi, but for those from Africa (71%), Latin America (68%) and the Middle East (67%), it’s much more of a priority.

But can/will the airlines follow through?

That’s the million-dollar question. We see some tricklings of fixes, including the advent of Global Entry, as well as innovations at Auckland International Airport, a pilot program in Canada & The Netherlands, etc. But the airline industry undoubtedly is years, if not decades behind making air travel genuinely pleasant.

But at least they still ask us what we think.

Click here for a PDF of the highlights of the 2019 IATA survey.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

5 thoughts on “Here’s What Passengers Say They Want Most; Will Airlines Deliver?”

  1. Interesting that only one of the listed items is actually about the flight. For me, leg room is the absolute priority, with everything else coming in distant second. Since I’m tall, that saves my knees and somebody else’s back.

  2. Hmmmm….seat size not listed? I see one comment above about leg room, but nothing in the article. That really surprises me.

    1. The focus of their 2019 survey was on processes and technology in the travel experience. They may not have asked about leg room.

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