Today, almost every passenger is using a smart device as an essential travel tool and this is dictating the services they expect from airlines and airports. The good news is that when technology is used by passengers the investment pays off as their satisfaction levels rise.

In our 12th annual Passenger IT Trends Survey, co-sponsored by ATW, we asked passengers to rate their satisfaction at every step of the journey. The results paint a picture of “tech” users who are more satisfied with the experience than those using face-to-face services. This customer satisfaction has also led to a greater level of willingness among air travelers to use new tech services to have a more enjoyable trip.

Baggage and biometrics are two areas, in particular, where investing in technology can deliver a better passenger experience.

Technology is already supporting the passenger and their baggage as nearly half of are self-tagging their bags and many more would do so if the technology was available. They are also keen to get information about the status and location of their bag. This may be provided as more airlines get ready to meet the IATA Resolution753, which requires them to capture baggage information at key points of the journey.

Identity checks are a vital element of the passenger journey and often a pain point for travelers. Our survey this year shows that automated identity checks at passport control and boarding increase passenger satisfaction. It is encouraging that when passengers use biometrics they are even more satisfied with the experience. This demonstrates passenger acceptance of biometrics as a secure technology to deliver a seamless journey.

It is very clear that passengers are no longer deciding whether they should use technology but which technology they should use. They want to make each step of the journey as easy as possible. Our survey highlights where airlines and airports have the opportunity to offer services that will improve the passenger experience.

Barbara Dalibard


Karen Walker

Editor-in-Chief, ATW


Survey Report


Investments in airline and airport self-service technology boost passenger satisfaction.

By Anne Paylor

If airlines and airports needed persuading about the value of investing in passenger interface automation, a new survey provides clear evidence that self-service technology rather than human interaction has a greater positive impact on passenger satisfaction at all stages of their journey.

The 2017 SITA IT Passenger Trends Survey, co-sponsored by ATW, shows that when technology is used by passengers, both at airports and in the air, their satisfaction levels rise.

The survey shows that most passengers (98%) now travel with at least one mobile device, and 70% carry two or more.  Most are happy to use their devices throughout their journey, and there is a marked divergence in satisfaction levels between those who use technology and those who don’t.  Overall, tech users are happier at all stages of their journey than non-tech users, with the exception of bag drop, where satisfaction levels were largely equal.

SITA president Air Travel Solutions Ilya Gutlin said: “Passengers are increasingly comfortable with the use of technology in their everyday lives, and they are demanding more services as they appreciate the benefits technology can bring to their journey. Airports and airlines can take note that technology solutions can boost passenger satisfaction every step of the way.”

Clearly the highest adoption of self-service technology is in the booking stage, with 87% of bookings now made on-line.  Of the minority who booked face-to-face for their last flight, 40% said they would switch to self-service in future.

Just over half (54%) used self-service or automated check-in for their flights, with web and kiosk check-in the most popular. Of those who checked-in via an agent, 34% expect to use self-service or automated check-in on their next trip.

The report forecasts, therefore, that face-to face services will continue to be eroded by the take-up of self-service technology.

Self-bag options

The switch to self-service for baggage processing is also increasing and this is a key area where investing in technology can deliver a better passenger experience, according to the report.

Nearly half (47%) of passengers already self-tag their bags, up from 31% in 2016, and more would do so if the technology were more widely available. More than a quarter (27%) who had an agent assist them with bag tagging on their last flight are ready to switch to self-service tagging or a permanent tag. As more self-bag tag options are made available, passenger satisfaction at this point of the journey is expected to increase.

Only 18% of passengers used self-service bag drop facilities on their last flight (up from 14% in 2016), but the report points out that self-service bag drop stations are not yet widely available. A robust 43% of those surveyed said they would use it on their next flight if available.

“There are still too few self-service bag drop stations out there and there is clear evidence that passengers would use them if they were available,” Gutlin told ATW.

The survey points out that bag drop stations are increasingly user-friendly, automatically detecting and scanning bag tags and dispatching luggage into the bag handling system with minimal passenger input. The survey says that “more availability and increased usability should lead to higher levels of use in the coming years.”

Passengers are also keen to get information about the status and location of their bags. With the deadline for implementation of IATA Resolution 753 (requiring airlines to capture baggage information at key points of the journey) approaching, this should soon become more widely available.  This technology increases satisfaction ratings by 10% among the 22% of passengers who use their mobile phones to obtain real-time bag-collection information on arrival. For passengers not using technology solutions, baggage collection scored the lowest satisfaction rating of all stages of the passenger journey.


For all passengers, passport control has one of the lowest satisfaction ratings of all stages, and is the lowest point for tech users, followed by boarding. The survey shows that automated identity checks at passport control and boarding clearly increase passenger satisfaction, and the use of biometrics generates a particularly high level of satisfaction: 8.4 on a scale of 1-10 compared to 8 for face-to-face transactions at passport check and 8.2 at boarding.  This, the report says, demonstrates passenger acceptance of biometrics as a secure technology to deliver a seamless journey and 57% of those questioned said they would definitely use biometrics at passport control and boarding if available. 

However, 33% of passengers have privacy concerns about biometric recognition at airport borders and the proportion is higher among those already using automated ID control, possibly because tech savvy users are probably also more aware of its potential pitfalls.

“Uptake of biometrics is slow, but is following a similar adoption pattern as self-service kiosks did when they were introduced about 15 years ago.  Once airlines and airports see the success of implementation trials, they are willing to adopt the technology a lot more broadly. As the technology and the process improve, biometrics uptake will accelerate. Passengers are happy to use it, with some privacy concerns, but airports need to go through the change process of what it means for them and their overall infrastructure,” Gutlin said.

Airport time

The greatest difference between tech and non tech users’ satisfaction levels was during dwell time at the airport.  This is the highest satisfaction point on the tech users’ journey, and one of the lowest for non-tech users. In this context, a fundamental requirement for travelers carrying smart devices is access to the internet and, when it is available, 52% of passengers used Wi-Fi, compared to passengers filling their dwell time with more conventional restaurants and bars (46%) and shopping (44%) activities.  The report suggests that Wi-Fi usage might be higher if it was simpler for passengers to navigate through sometimes competing service offers and clumsy logging-on processes.

Satisfaction levels among passengers that used technology for entertainment while waiting for a flight on their most recent trip was high, with self-service media kiosks, massage chairs and movie theaters among popular distractions at the limited number of airports where such technology is available.

There is also a significant divergence between tech and non-tech users inflight, where passenger experiences in the air are an extension of relaxation at dwell time. Technology plays an active role in delivering services such as watching a movie, catching up on emails or keeping in touch with family and friends via social media, and even on some airlines, the ability to order snacks and drinks via the seatback screen. For non-tech users, this is a very low satisfaction point on their journey.

Overall, passenger satisfaction remains high - 8.2 out of 10 - but this is boosted even further when technologies such as mobile services and biometrics are used. “The ability to streamline and speed up journey processes or to improve the passenger experience will drive usage of self-service technology on future trips,” the survey says.

It also points out that, as passengers become more familiar using technology during travel, the more likely they are to switch to newer, more efficient platforms. The appetite for new services using technology is high: 74% of passengers said they would definitely use flight and gate alerts pushed to their mobile devices, and 57% would use airport wayfinding.

“Passengers aren’t deciding anymore whether they should use technology, but which technology to use,” Gutlin noted. They want to make each step of the journey as easy as possible. Tech adoption will be driven by both context and usability. For this reason, a clear focus on the end-users’ demands should shape the services airlines and airports offer. There are trials underway and there is technology available along all stages of the passenger journey, but the adoption rate is not as robust in some areas where satisfaction rates tend to be lowest, such as bag drop or passport control.”

Anne Paylor/ATW

This is the 12th edition of the SITA/ATW Passenger IT Trends Survey. It was conducted with more than 7,000 passengers from 17 countries across the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa representing almost three-quarters of global passenger traffic.

A dedicated SITA/ATW Webinar will be held to discuss key findings of the Passenger IT Trends Survey. Date and registration details will be posted on