Image via SITA

APEX Insight: According to SITA and Air Transport World’s 2017 Passenger IT Trends Survey, tech-forward travelers reported higher levels of satisfaction than those who prefer flying old-school. However, the majority of respondents prefer checking in with a gate agent over self-service, showing that face-to-face interaction remains a significant part of the air travel experience.

SITA and Air Transport World have released their 2017 Passenger IT Trends Survey, and it’s bullish on personal technology. SITA CEO Barbara Dalibard and ATW editor-in-chief Karen Walker note in the intro, “It is very clear that most passengers are no longer deciding whether they should use technology but which technology they should use.”

Ninety percent of travelers responding to the survey use self-service to book tickets and 92 percent are satisfied with the DIY experience. While only roughly one in five use bag-drop stations, 64% of those surveyed would use a real-time luggage-tracking app. IATA Resolution 753, which comes into effect in June 2018, requires an airline to track each piece of luggage from drop-off until destination or transfer.

Despite the risks associated with the collection and storage of biometric data, over half of surveyed passengers would prefer a biometric scan to a passport or ticket check during the course of their journeys. The report notes that “passport control has one of the lowest satisfaction ratings of all the stages of the passenger’s journey,” so the sentiment seems to be that anything which reduces that friction is at least worth a try, even though a third of respondents expressed privacy concerns around biometrics.

Biometrics are a key component of SITA’s SmartPath identity management system, as well as its iBorders border management suite. Which is why the survey’s next discovery is so striking: 46% of respondents chose to check in with a real-life gate agent – more than web check-in and airport kiosk users combined. When asked about how likely they’d be to change their habits, only 34%  would be willing to forego the human interaction and switch to self-service.

SITA’s and ATW’s results suggest that there’s still a place in this brave new world for a friendly smile at the airline check-in counter. When considering the evolution of its brand, an airline should remember that the human touch is still very much relevant.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.