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Human touch still vital and travel agents essential

October 5, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Global airline load factor this month is running at the highest level since at least 1990 and 43% of all those travellers prefer to book through a travel agent, a travel management company or a corporate travel department.

Despite mobile connectivity and direct booking apps, the human touch is still important, according to research by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

IATA’s 2018 Global Passenger Survey shows that passengers are looking to new technology to give them more control, information and improve efficiency when they travel.

Yet tech is not enough. Based on 10,408 responses from 145 countries, passengers confirmed that “a human touch when things go wrong” is high among their needs.

When travel disruptions strike, 40% of all age groups of passengers want to resolve the situation over the phone and 37% via face-to-face interaction. What they want is a human being.

Overall, passengers want the following:

  • Real-time journey information delivered to their personal devices
  • Biometric identification to facilitate their travel processes
  • Automation of more airport processes
  • Wait times of less than 10 minutes at security / immigration
  • Their bags tracked throughout their journey
  • A human touch when things go wrong
  • Real Time Journey Information
  • Passengers want to be kept informed throughout their journey preferably via their personal device.

Receiving information on flight status (82%), baggage (49%) and waiting time at security / immigration (46%) were identified as passengers’ top three priorities after booking a flight.

84% of travellers prefer automated check in

Real-time baggage tracking throughout the journey was seen as a must for 56% of passengers.

Passengers’ preferred option for receiving information on their baggage and other travel elements was via their mobile device. Receiving information via SMS or Smartphone app was preferred by 73% of passengers.

Since 2016 there has been a 10% increase in passengers preferring to receive travel information via a smartphone app, IATA noted.

The majority of passengers (65%) are willing to share personal data for expedited security and 45% are willing to replace their passports with biometric identification.

Passengers want more self-service options. Automated check-in is preferred by 84% of passengers. Most (47%) prefer to check in online using a smartphone. Only 16% preferred traditional check-in.

Some 70% of passengers want self-service baggage check-in. Only one in three travellers prefers an agent to tag their bag. The electronic bag tag is growing in popularity – favoured by 39% of passengers (up 8% from 2017).

The overall experience with automated immigration procedures was rated favorably by 74% of passengers.  A similar percentage (72%) believe that automated immigration processes are faster and 65% believe they enhance security.

The human touch is still preferred by some market segments and for certain situations. For example, senior travelers (65 years and older) have a strong preference for traditional check-in (25% vs global 17%) and bag-drop processes (42% vs global 32%).

Some 43% of passengers prefer to use a travel agency, travel management company or corporate travel department to book their flights.


Passengers identified airport security / border control and boarding processes as two of their biggest pain points when travelling. The top frustrations with security were the intrusiveness of having to remove personal items (57%) the removal of laptops / large electronic devices from cabin bags (48%) and the lack of consistency in screening procedures at different airports (41%).

To improve the boarding experience, the top three desires of passengers are more efficient queuing at boarding gates (64%), the availability of overhead space on the aircraft (42%), and not having to queue on the air bridge (33%).

MEANWHILE, IATA said global passenger traffic data for August 2018 shows that demand (measured in total revenue passenger kilometres or RPKs) climbed 6.4% compared to the year-ago period. This was slightly above the 6.1% annual increase for July. August capacity (available seat kilometres or ASKs) increased by 5.5%, and load factor climbed 0.7% percentage point to 85.3%, which was the highest for any month since at least 1990. The load factor boom continues.

Written by Peter Needham

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