More and more travelers carry tablets on their flights – some using them to accomplish work on the plane while others using them for entertainment or leisure browsing. Tablets are much friendlier devices to manage while sitting in a “compact” airplane seat than laptops. They are smaller and lighter and therefore more comfortable to hold in your lap. Even if you place your tablet on the seatback table, it is less awkward to move around when your neighbor wants to pass in front of you on her way to the restroom. Tablets are becoming so popular that a few airlines, such as Virgin Australia, have started to rent them to passengers as they board the plane while others, like Delta, deliver mobile in-flight portals for passengers to view on their tablets.
In addition to becoming popular travel companions, tablets are often used when searching for travel-related services – in some cases during the travel itself. In a recent FlightView survey, where responses from over 3,000 travelers were tallied, 69% reported owning and using a tablet to search for travel services. Of these folks, 62% had searched for flights, 45% had searched for hotels, and 26% had searched for ground transportation, all over the past 12 months. While almost 70% of people surveyed searched for flights, just under 50% actually purchased flight tickets on their tablets (49%). Why don’t they follow through with the booking? While in the past some folks might have said they were concerned about the security of mobile devices or that their transaction would get lost in-process, this is not the case today. The top two reasons for not purchasing their tickets on their tablets were the difficulty of entering all the required information on a smaller device (16%) and that people prefer using a laptop or desktop to make their final flight purchases (57%).
One might guess that these responses would win on smart phones, and they do (52% of respondents do not like entering information on small devices and 55% prefer laptop or desktop devices), but why are they so true with tablets that have big screens and keypads? Is it that physical keyboards on laptops/desktops are that much easier for quickly entering information – something missing from most tablets? Is it that apps and websites are not really optimized for tablet screens, so forms and text boxes are too small for data entry or the page layout is not intuitive? Or is the navigation on tablets too much like that on smart phones – where users have to tap through screen after screen of entry forms (because so little can be shown on a single smart phone page), which annoys users? What do you think?