April 18, 2024

Covid checks slow down technology adoption at airports

More air passengers are embracing mobile and touchless technologies but Covid checks are hampering the rate of adoption, according to research by aviation IT specialist SITA.

Its 2022 Passenger IT Insights report, published this week, shows an increase in passenger use of mobile devices for booking, on board the airplane, and for bag collection in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2020.

Passengers are also more likely to use automated gates for identity control, boarding and border control.

But the report also found that health verification is a pain point that has slowed end-to-end automation.

Despite some uptake of technology, over half of passengers were still doing their own research on health verification requirements and manually submitting documentation.

SITA’s research also identified reduced technology adoption in the early stages of the journey – check-in, bag tag, and bag drop – in favour of manual processing.

It believes uncertainty about health requirements and travel rules means travellers are seeking more staff interaction when starting the journey.

The survey shows that the more technology there is during travel, the happier passengers are.

As many as 87% of passengers have positive emotions about identity control, up 11% from 2016. The same is true for 84% of passengers about bag collection (up 9%).

These are also the areas where technology adoption has risen the most, driven by mobile and automated gates, with half of passengers now additionally receiving real-time information at bag collection on time until delivery.

Asked about comfort levels with biometric identification throughout the journey, passengers scored an average of almost 7.3 out of 10 (with 10 representing most comfortable), most likely reflecting their desire for ease of travel moving forward from the pandemic.  

David Lavorel, CEO SITA, said: “It is exciting to see demand recovering and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels, not just for leisure but also for business travel.

“We are seeing that the technology-driven end-to-end passenger journey is becoming a reality, as the air transport community continues to digitalise its travel processes and industry operations, accelerated by the pandemic.

“We are also seeing that passengers are increasingly embracing mobile and touchless technologies across the journey, to make their travel as convenient and seamless as possible. The use of IT to help drive and sustain the recovery of air travel is vital today, and it is also critical to the post-pandemic digital journey of tomorrow.”

SITA’s Passenger IT Insights survey says passengers intend to fly more from 2023 onwards than they did prior to the pandemic, anticipating averages of 2.93 flights per passenger per year for business, and 3.90 for leisure.

When weighing up whether to fly or not, the main barriers are ticket prices, health risks, and geopolitical risks.