Increases in thunderstorms, travelers and ticket prices mark the beginning of the summer travel season, which is only a few weeks away. Airlines for America is predicting packed flights for the July to August stretch due to a record number of people traveling internationally and a brighter economic outlook. Add in unpredictable and sometimes dangerous summer storms, and you’ve got a recipe for stressful travel. While there’s not much we can do about the ticket prices, we have a few tips to help you have a better travel experience this summer.
Summer Travel Tip #1
Do you Wi-Fi when you fly? On a flight from D.C. to Boston last weekend with our antsy toddler, I seriously considered coughing up the cash for in-flight internet service even though we’d only be in the air a short time. But the weird thing is, it didn’t cross my mind to purchase Wi-Fi until the flight attendant made the announcement that it was available. It seems I was on the same page as many of our respondents in a recent FlightView traveler survey where 71% of travelers hadn’t purchased add-on services like Wi-Fi via an airline’s mobile website or app, but almost 60% would consider it if a notification was pushed to their device before boarding.
In-flight wi-fi options
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%).
When you travel, do you download the airline’s own app, or do you use a variety of different websites and flight tracking apps to get the information you need, like flight information or airport maps? Airline apps do offer some benefits, especially in the pre-boarding stage of a trip like check-in reminders via push notifications, the ability to choose or change your seat, monitoring of stand-by status and flight delay or cancellation notifications. So if airline apps have the ability to provide all this information, why do 25% of the 3,000 travelers who responded to a recent FlightView survey “never” use the airline’s app, and 45% only “sometimes”?
An important aspect when traveling is speed, and one advantage for the airline apps is faster check-in via their apps versus their mobile websites since the apps can save your profile information. But speed can also be a strike against them, since 48% of the travelers FlightView surveyed complained about the poor usability of some airline apps, namely, not being able to find what they’re looking for quickly. Other areas of dissatisfaction were data inaccuracies (an issue for 29% of those surveyed) and lack of desired functionality (an issue for 23% of those surveyed).
Flying to Atlanta last week, it struck me that a familiar part of the airport experience was missing – the staff. There was a noticeable reduction in the number of agents on duty at ticket and gate counters, but their absence wasn’t causing chaos the way it would have in the past. The reason? Self-service is becoming status quo as travelers are increasingly comfortable using technology to navigate the airport. A passenger can use a kiosk to self check-in, then FIDS (flight information display systems), websites or mobile apps to check flight status which means fewer questions for gate agents to answer.
As it turns out, passengers aren’t only comfortable with self-service, they prefer it. A recent survey from SITA found that the most stressful part of a trip is fear of missing a flight, which is exactly what can happen when travelers have to wait in long lines at bottlenecks like check-in, bag drop and ID-check before going through security. Convenience and speed through processing checkpoints definitely help get passengers to the gate, but self-service options are valued at every point in the trip. The most welcome features among survey participants were flight status updates via mobile phone, self-boarding gates and kiosks for flight transfers.
While senior IT executives at the top 200 airlines worldwide were “cautiously optimistic” about IT investment in a 2012 SITA survey, this much is clear: economic uncertainty and unpredictable jet fuel prices aren’t dampening enthusiasm for upgrading passenger mobile services. In fact, it tops the lists of investments for the second consecutive year, with 60% of airlines planning major investments in mobile passenger services over the next three years. Here’s a look at where those IT dollars will go.
According to SITA’s 2012 Passenger Self-Service survey, 74% of travelers interviewed booked their travel online, but only 3% purchased tickets via mobile devices or social media. Airlines are looking to change that – 70% said that after 2015, mobile will be the second most important sales channel behind the Web. 90% of airlines plan to sell tickets via mobile and 83% will sell ancillary services via mobile. Passengers should be able to purchase ticket modifications and upgrades, preferred boarding access, choice seating, airline lounge access, in-flight amenities and pay baggage fees all via a mobile device by 2015.