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Industry Group Reports


Air travelers prefer automated and online services

Dec 13, 2007

(TVLW) - Air travelers not only embrace new technology, but are keen for more high-tech travel options and are demanding "opportunities to take more control of their travel experience," according to the International Air Transport Association's annual Corporate Air Travel Survey of more than 10,000 active travelers, published last month.

The survey shows that 89 percent of respondents prefer electronic tickets to paper tickets, 56 percent have used Internet check-in and 69 percent have used self-service kiosks instead of check-in desks. A majority, 54 percent, favored more self-service options.

Respondents ranked the self-service features they plan to use most often in future: Online booking (75 percent); online reservation changes (69 percent); online check-in (61 percent); e-mail notification service (60 percent); printing boarding pass at home (58 percent); common-use self-service check-in kiosks, or kiosks serving multiple airlines, (53 percent); re-routing of missed or canceled flights (41 percent); remote baggage drop-off service (33 percent); and post-arrival assistance (28 percent.

They also favored more self-service options online and at the departure gate. Wanted online options include the ability to: select or change seats (82 percent); change reservations (55 percent); update frequent flier information (49 percent); and purchase or request upgrades (45 percent). At the departure gate, hoped-for options include being able to: obtain last-minute upgrades (62 percent); make last-minute changes to seating (46 percent); get transfer information (27 percent) or updated frequent flier information (21 percent); and check in additional baggage (19 percent).

"The consumer has spoken and the message is clear," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA director general and CEO. "Self-service is part of full-service expectations."

Well, yes, although a cynic might say that travelers do not have much choice. Most airlines now charge a premium unless you book and check-in online. Printing your own boarding card is useful, but not everyone welcomes the disappearance of paper tickets which allow more flexibility if you switch to another airline en route and are more reassuring on multi-sector flights with several airlines, because carriers have different reservation systems.

IATA reports that the global penetration of electronic tickets is 88 percent, and is calling for paper tickets to be obsolete by June. Over 90 airlines are now using bar-coded boarding passes that anyone can print out; common-use kiosks are operating at 80 airports; and RFID (radio frequency identification) tags that help to solve the problems of mishandled, and lost, baggage are employed at four airports.

Zagat's 2007 Global Airline Survey, published last month, confirms travelers' deep discontent with the airline industry and especially with U.S. carriers.

The survey, the first since 2005, questioned 7,498 frequent fliers who rated 84 airlines and 46 major airports. Discontent is so high that 61 percent of respondents favored the enactment of an "Airline Passengers Bill of Rights," to ensure compensation for "bad air travel experiences."

Overall, Midwest Airlines was voted No. 1 for U.S. domestic economy service, followed by Virgin America, JetBlue Airlines, Frontier Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. Top for premium service was Virgin America, followed by Continental Airlines, Hawaiian, Alaska Airlines and Air Tran Airways.

Continental and Southwest Airlines were the only major U.S. carriers not to have their overall ratings drop since 2005.

Singapore Airlines retains its No. 1 rating among international carriers for both economy and premium service, followed by (for economy service) Emirates, Thai Airways, All Nippon Airways and Air New Zealand; and, for premium service, by Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and All Nippon Airways.

Singapore was first again for overall quality, followed by Emirates, Thai Airways, All Nippon and Air New Zealand.

Continental and Southwest Airlines were the only major U.S. carriers not to have their overall ratings drop since 2005.

Among airports, Tampa International and Hong Kong rate among the best, and New York's La Guardia and JFK among the worst in most categories, except security.

Full results of the survey are at www.zagat.com/airline.

The new Yotel Heathrow "capsule hotel," which opened on Dec. 6 inside Terminal 4, promises to be a refuge for travelers who want a cheap and cheerful place to lay their head for a few hours at any time of the day or night.

As I reported in this column in June, when the first Yotel opened at Gatwick Airport, cabins come with all the facilities you would expect from a comfortable hotel room, including 24-hour room service. Each cabins is also equipped with a desk, free Wi-Fi and a "techno-wall" entertainment system.

Prices for a standard cabin range from £25 - about $51 - for four hours to around £56 for an overnight stay, while a premium cabin costs £40 for four hours and around £82 overnight. Cabins can be booked online at www.yotel.com.

iht.com

Air travelers prefer automated and online services
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