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Published on Friday, June 23, 2006

‘560m make online airline bookings’ - survey

The number of people booking flights online has leapt by 40% over the last year, a survey claims.


The “dramatic rise” is detailed in a survey of airline IT trends by communications and technology solutions provider SITA.


The global average of online airline ticket sales stands at 28% compared to 20% last year - which means that an estimated 560 million of today’s two billion airline passengers now use the internet to make their bookings, SITA estimates.


SITA’s first Passenger Self-Service Survey carried out independently last month at three of the world’s busiest airports, Atlanta, Heathrow and Hong Kong, found that passengers using these airports have some of the highest rates of self-service in the world with 52% frequently booking their flights online, a number expected to rise to 73% in the near future. The three airports account for some 195 million passengers a year or almost 10% of the two billion passengers who will fly in 2006.


The PSS found that along with obvious factors such as price (66%), schedule (44%) and route (43%), the ability to make your own arrangements on the web is among the most important considerations for 39% of the survey sample, followed by the service offered by the airline, (31%), and previous travel experience, (25%), while airline loyalty was ranked by 23%.


Both the PSS and the Airline IT Trends Survey looked at trends regarding take-up of other self-service options made available to passengers such as web check-in and self-service kiosks.


The PSS found that while only  7% of respondents had actually used web check-in prior to travel on the day of the survey,  as many as 72% declared they will use it in the future (44% frequently and 28% occasionally). The Airline IT Trends Survey found that 42% of airlines are now offering web check-in and this percentage will rise to 72% by the end of 2007.


There was some commonality between the two surveys on the complexity of airline pricing for online bookings. The Airline IT Trends Survey found that this is the biggest business issue for airlines selling online. At the same time, 21% of PSS respondents who did not book online said they needed advice from travel agents and 11% said tickets were cheaper off-line.


The PSS also reported that 30% of passengers passing through the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta, Europe’s busiest airport, Heathrow, and Asia’s busiest airport for international traffic, Hong Kong, now use kiosk check-in regularly, compared with the global average of 23%.


When asked if they had used kiosk check-in on the day of the survey, the average of those who did ran at 13% but with significant variations between the three locations: Atlanta, 26%; Heathrow, 12% and Hong Kong, 6%.


The Airline IT Trends Survey also found great variances in take up of self-service kiosk check-in by region: North America, 39%; EU, 25%; Asia-Pacific, 18%; and Middle East and Africa, 7%.  Frequent kiosk use rates found by the PSS were: Atlanta, 47%; Heathrow, 26%; and Hong Kong, 19%. 


SITA CEO Francesco Violante said: “The online travel revolution has come a long way since SITA developed the first ever internet booking engine ten years ago. Enabling passengers to plan their own trips on the web is now fundamental to the air transport industry and on-line booking is becoming the norm.


“It is not surprising to see from our Passenger Self-Service Survey that 52% of passengers in three of the world’s busiest airports associate short queues with having a pleasant trip. Self-service helps eliminate congestion and queues in airports. One reasonable conclusion we can draw from these survey findings is that the successful deployment of self-service tools such as kiosks and web check-in, can have an impact on airline customer satisfaction.”


Report by Phil Davies 

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