The number of smartphones carried by airline passengers has doubled over the last year making them an important tool for travelers wishing to check-in remotely, access flight information on the go, or use an emerging range of flight-related applications, according to the 2011 SITA - Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey published today.
Possession of a smartphone has jumped from 28% in last year's survey to 54% this year; 74% of first/business class respondents and frequent flyers (10+ round trips per year) were carrying one. At the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta, 75% of survey respondents were carrying one.
Among respondents carrying a mobile device 73% would like to use mobile boarding passes while 17% had already used them at least once. High service availability at Frankfurt International Airport has generated the highest usage with 25% of respondents having used mobile boarding passes once or more.
The rising influence of the smartphone is a key finding from the sixth annual SITA - ATW Passenger Self-Service Survey carried out with a representative sample of the 283.5 million passengers who pass through six of the world's leading airport hubs. For the first time, a major hub in the Middle East, Abu Dhabi International Airport, has been included alongside regular participants: Beijing International Airport; Frankfurt International Airport; Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta; Mumbai International; and Sao Paulo Guarulhos.
Francesco Violante, SITA CEO, said: "We are now entering the era of the mobile-centric passenger, who is not only able to manage his or her journey independently but also expects personal and timely communication from airlines, airports and other providers of travel-related services. Smartphone penetration is opening up new frontiers for passenger self-service across key steps of the passenger journey from check-in to boarding. Technology on mobile devices, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, can be used to improve passenger flow, alleviating areas of passenger concern such as queues at border control and security."
Overall, 23% of departing passengers stated that they had Bluetooth on at the airport. The lowest level of activation was at Frankfurt (11%) but even that is sufficient to monitor passenger flow, measure delays and take corrective action. Among frequent flyers and first/business class passengers activations levels were higher at 36% and 37% respectively.
Smartphone users are at the forefront of the adoption of mobile check-in. Some 31% of smartphone holders use mobile check-in frequently or occasionally, while 36% of interviewed first/business class passengers do so.
SMS flight information is also growing in popularity. Over 50% of first/business class travelers and frequent flyers receive SMS notifications; the 2011 SITA Airline IT Trends Survey suggests that the service is available to 76% of passengers, although it may not cover all flights.
Over 80% of respondents are not interested in receiving information on shopping deals over mobile devices but there are regional variations. Interest level is higher in Abu Dhabi (34%), Beijing (32%) and Mumbai (30%). Generally, those who fly less frequently and younger passengers are more interested.
Three out of four smartphone users would connect to a free airport Wi-Fi network, giving an opportunity to provide real-time information through mobile applications to passengers. They want access to trip-related information with 23% willing to pay for these services. The most popular are flight information, 77%; wait times at security, 50%; time to reach departure gate from current location, 40%; location of nearest lounge, 21%; and airport parking, 21%.
Mobile check-in, off-airport check-in and roaming agent check-in are growing in use and complementing the continued popularity of airport kiosks and web check-in. The relentless trend towards self-service check-in is well illustrated by Frankfurt where it has gone from 41% to 61% in the space of a year and in Mumbai, where it has almost doubled, from 36% in 2010 to 63% in 2011.
Overall, the number of passengers checking in at a counter continues to decrease and the survey concludes that the check-in counter is destined to become dedicated to non-standard check-in, staffed by agents trained to handle complexity.
However, over half of all checked-in bags are still dropped at a check-in counter and 20% of passengers state this as the main reason for not using self-service check-in. Lessons can be learned from Abu Dhabi International Airport where 13% of interviewed passengers used off-airport bag check-in.
The survey found that interest in new self-service options is high with passengers eager to adopt new offers such as self-boarding gates, bag drop-off belts and bag tracking applications.