Travelers Prefer Human Touch to Automation at Airport

New Delhi: OAG, the world’s leading provider of travel data and insight, today reveals its latest tech market analysis, The Airport Delight Report: Humans vs. Machines. Based on a survey of over 2,000 U.S. travelers, OAG offers new insight for airports leaders and tech providers looking to delight travelers, streamline operations and grow revenue.

The major takeaway: While high tech investments and automation improve the airport experience, they aren’t a cure-all. In fact, outside of ticketing and check-in, the market prefers human customer service over automation for almost every other travel function: baggage (54% human to 46% automated customer service), security (55% to 45%), boarding (64% to 36%), concierge (83% to 75%) and in-flight services (80% to 20%).
Additional takeaways from OAG’s analysis include:

• Travelers don’t mind being tracked – if it leads to a better experience: Nearly 60% of travelers would let airports track their location through a mobile or wearable device to redeploy staff to cut down on wait times.
• Forget robots. Practicality trumps flash: Only 19% of travelers said they see value in interactive robots that provide information and concierge services. Comparatively, 40% want more baggage loading zones to expedite security lines, 54% would value in-airport turn-by-turn directions for navigating terminals and gates, and 75% want real-time updates on expected boarding times.
• Momentum builds for automated airport retail: 54% of millennials, 37% of business travelers and 35% of all travelers reported interest in self-checkout retail options at the airport.

“We’re seeing that the market isn’t quite ready for a full-fledged automated airport experience – although we expect that evolve over time, with tech eventually becoming the clear preference,” said Vipul Nakum, chief product officer at OAG.
“While investing in emerging technology is smart, travel leaders need to remember the easy and simple wins, like consistent flight status updates, text message alerts before boarding, more baggage loading zones and in-airport directions and GPS. These simple improvements reduce friction and delight passengers.”

OAG also evaluated sentiment around two untapped airport revenue opportunities: on-demand, gate-side delivery and pre-ordering through mobile. OAG found that while only 6% of travelers have pre-ordered food or drink for pickup at a gate-side restaurant, 66% would consider taking advantage in the future. Similarly, while only 9% of travelers have ordered gate-side delivery of food and drink, 62% are willing to try it out.
“The easiest way to delight travelers – and get them to spend more gate-side — is through convenience and information,” added Nakum. “Travelers that feel truly informed, with consistent updates across all channels, are more comfortable and confident venturing away from the gate to patronize restaurants, retail stores and bars. For travel leaders looking to capitalize, the more proactive and prescriptive they can be with their updates – ‘Group A is boarding in 15 minutes, Group B in 30 minutes, last call in 40 minutes,’ the more valuable.”

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