SITA research shows pent-up demand for air travel, and an appetite for technology


The latest research from SITA, released in its 2022 Passenger IT Insights report, has identified pent-up demand for both business and leisure travel emerging post-pandemic, and a growing demand from passengers for mobile and touchless technologies that help make the journey more convenient and seamless. The report is based on a survey conducted in Q1 2022 of respondents from 27 countries across the Americas, Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Collectively, the respondents represent over 85% of global passenger traffic.

The report highlights an increase in passenger use of mobile devices such as smartphones during travel in Q1 2022 compared to Q1 2020, which were used for booking, on board the airplane, and for bag collection. Automated gates at airports also saw increases in adoption for identity control, boarding, and border control. SITA says the results reflect the accelerated digitalisation of air travel since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and passengers’ willingness to adopt technologies.

As the recovery of aviation gathers pace, the survey fund that 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.

Passengers also increasingly consider sustainability before they choose to fly. Around half of passengers would value airports and airlines putting in place new IT solutions to support sustainability, such as monitoring airport environmental performance to reduce emissions, and flight path optimisation to reduce fuel burn.

Almost all passengers said they would pay on average 11% of their ticket price to offset carbon emissions from their flight. Asked if the air transport industry is doing enough to become more sustainable, more than half of passengers either think it is not, or that they don’t know, suggesting there is room for industry improvement in communicating sustainability initiatives and actions.

However, SITA’s report adds that health verification is a pain point that has slowed end-to-end automation. In Q1 2022, despite some uptake of technology at this stage, over half of passengers were still doing their own research on health verification requirements and manually submitting documentation. SITA’s research also found reduced technology adoption in the early stages of the journey (check-in, bag tag and bag drop) in favour of manual processing. Uncertainty about health requirements and travel rules has likely led travellers to seek more staff interaction when starting the journey, to ensure they will not encounter administrative issues during their journey.

SITA says that 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 about how long they will have to wait for delivery.

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

David Lavorel, CEO of 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.”

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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