Digital travellers are demanding more automation and hands-on control over each step of their journey; they will make up more than two thirds of the travel market by 2025

Airport and airline IT executives believe that the growing number of tech-savvy travellers will have the biggest impact on their digital plans over the next six years to 2025. This is one of the key insights revealed in a new report published by IT provider to the air transport industry, SITA.

We are currently in the midst of a significant demographic shift from a pre-digital to a post-digital age, according to SITA, and it believes that within ten years, the majority of the global population will be post-digital generations – those that have grown up interacting with online technology and using it as a way to manage their lives.

This demographic shift brings with it “the expectation to use technology everywhere,” says SITA, including during travel. “This will have a profound impact on how passengers interact with airports and airlines, with these digital travellers demanding more automation and hands-on control over each step of their journey,” it adds.

The power of this shift is notable with more than four in five (83%) of the airport and airline IT leaders surveyed by SITA believing that this demographic change will be the most important influence on their passenger solutions strategy by 2025.

Its report, ‘2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age’, shows that by 2025, over two thirds (68%) of all passengers will be defined as digital travellers and they will expect to manage their travel in much the same way they do every other aspect of their daily lives – using their mobile phones.

CHART – The growing number of digital travellers are demanding the attention of airlines and airports globally – by 2025 this post-digital generation will comprise 68% of the global populationSource: SITA’s ‘2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age’ report

“This demographic shift has created digital travellers who are demanding more automation and hands-on control over each step of their journey,” explains SITA. In particular, it notes that they will expect to use their mobile phone to access services ranging from baggage location notifications, to boarding and payments.

They will also expect their trip to be delivered as a single, unified experience across airports, airlines, border control and other modes of transport – from the moment they leave home to when they arrive at their destination.

The SITA report suggests that this shift requires more efficient operations and collaboration between airlines, airports and other stakeholders responsible for delivering that experience. The journey of checked baggage from departure airport drop-off to arrival airport pick-up is one such example of where multiple entities taking ownership of processes and where the sharing of data would benefit all parties.

Obviously biometric technology is regularly highlighted one of the key enablers to delivering more automation as well as smoothly linking each step in the journey. This technology is already being used at airports for border control and boarding aircraft and that is set to grow significantly, both in terms of geographic spread and functionality. According to SITA’s research, more than over half of the industry’s IT leaders believe biometric travel tokens will be the key driver for the future passenger experience.

“To date, the focus has largely been on using biometric identity across a single journey or airport but more and more the industry is shifting its focus to providing a persistent digital identity that can be used across multiple journeys,” says the IT provider.

While it is too early to draw firm conclusions about differences in technology usage between pre-digital and digital travellers, SITA’s previous studies already show that a majority of passengers are already using technology across air travel journeys (web, mobile apps, kiosks).

Importantly, its research shows satisfaction is higher among tech-using passengers at every step of the journey, with a marked rise at dwell time, onboard and bag collection. Over the next few years, SITA anticipates passengers demanding more services and tools to help them throughout their journey. SITA’s research shows that 59% are ‘very willing’ to use their mobiles for ID verification along the journey, with a further 33% open to the idea.

CHART – Traveller satisfaction is higher among tech-using passengers at every step of the journey, with a marked rise at dwell time, onboard and bag collectionSource: SITA’s ‘2025: Air Travel for a Digital Age’ report

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