With delays, long queues and paper documents to lose, air travel can be a stressful experience, and with the number of airline passengers expected to reach 8.2 billion by 2037, this is only set to get worse.

However, this inconvenience provides the opportunity for a technological solution, with many passengers embracing the benefits of automation.

Innovative solutions are being trialed at various airports around the world, with Gatwick Airport in the UK recently announcing that this summer it is trialing an automated valet parking service, which will park passengers’ vehicles for them, and a robot on hand to escort late passengers to their departure gate at Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

Although it may be a while before these solutions become commonplace, new research has shown that passengers are more than willing to embrace the the more mundane uses of airport automation such as automated bag drops, check-ins and passport control.

Passengers welcome airport automation

According to the SITA 2019 Passenger IT Insights, airline passengers are using automated technology for passport checks at double the rate recorded in 2017 and are more satisfied when doing so.

The research showed that in 2018, 44% of passengers used automated passport control, compared with 21% in 2017. Those that used the technology had a largely positive experience, with passengers 3.85% more satisfied when they used self-scanning gates to verify their ID than those using agent-assisted controls.

The report released today, explores how technology is contributing to a smoother passenger experience at every step of the journey. At passport control, a point of the journey where passengers often experience long queues, self-scanning gates had a satisfaction rate of 8.36 out of 10.

Automated gates used at boarding are another area that have benefitted from automation. SITA’s Insights show that satisfaction is 2.2% higher when passengers scan their own documents to board.

Tech is key for customer satisfaction

Passengers are also confident when using technology to verify their identity. SITA reports that 59% are ‘very willing’ to use their smart phones for ID verification along the journey, with a further 33% open to the idea.

Passengers also respond negatively when they do not have the option of using technology during their travels. According to Travelport’s 2018 Global Digital Traveller Survey, 34% of UK travellers said they find it ‘very painful’ when they are not able to access their booking information on all of their devices, suggesting this is a key area for customer satisfaction.

Matthys Serfontein, SITA President, Air Travel Solutions believes that this is clear evidence for the use of airport automation:

“One of the standout findings of our report this year is that at every point in the journey, where passengers use technology, the rate of satisfaction is higher. Airlines and airports can see the benefit of their technology investments in making it easy for passengers, every step of the way.

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“Over the years, booking, check-in and bag drop have increasingly become automated and passengers like it. Interestingly, this year the report shows how introducing automated passport controls, in collaboration with government and border agencies, also increases passenger satisfaction.”

The key findings of SITA’s report are based on a survey of passengers from 20 countries across the Americas, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa, representing over 70% of global passenger traffic.