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Imperatives of new technology for local aviation growth

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Muritala Muhammud International Airport, Lagos/ AYODELE ADENIRAN

New finding has shown that local air travel sector risks missing out on the global growth projection without adequate investment in technology across the board.

The 2018 Global Passenger Survey (GPS) revealed that passengers crave for more control, information and improve efficiency when they travel, and are to this end counting on new technology that are largely missing in the local environment.

President, Sabre West Africa, Gabriel Olowo, agreed that stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation sector might soon face crisis of relevance without embracing technology in their operations.

said this at a forum in Kano, to reward Sabre’s loyal partners in the Northern zone.

The new report, organised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), is based on 10,408 responses from 145 countries, with the survey providing insight into what passengers would like from their air travel experience.

What do passengers want?

Specifically, passengers demanded real time journey information delivered to their personal devices, biometric identification to facilitate their travel processes, automation of more airport processes, waiting times of less than 10 minutes at security/immigration, their bags tracked throughout their journey and a human touch when things go wrong.

Indeed, passengers want to be kept informed throughout their journey preferably via their personal device. Receiving information on flight status (82 per cent), baggage (49 per cent) and waiting time at security/immigration (46 per cent) were identified as passengers’ top three priorities after booking a flight.

Real-time baggage tracking throughout the journey was seen as a must for 56 per cent of passengers. Passengers’ preferred option for receiving information on their baggage and other travel elements was via their mobile device. Receiving information via SMS or Smartphone app was preferred by 73 per cent of passengers.

Since 2016, there has been a 10 per cent increase in passengers preferring to receive travel information via a smartphone app.

Again, passengers identified airport security/border control and boarding processes as two of their biggest pain points when travelling.

The top frustrations with security were the intrusiveness of having to remove personal items (57 per cent) the removal of laptops/large electronic devices from cabin bags (48 per cent) and the lack of consistency in screening procedures at different airports (41 per cent).

To improve the boarding experience, the top three desires of passengers are more efficient queuing at boarding gates (64 per cent), the availability of overhead space on the aircraft (42 per cent), and not having to queue on the air bridge (33 per cent).

Passengers want more self-service options. Automated check-in was preferred by 84 per cent of passengers. Most (47 per cent prefer to check in online using a smartphone. Only 16 per cent preferred traditional check-in.

Some 70 per cent of passengers want self-service baggage check-in. Only one in three travelers prefers an agent to tag their bag.

The electronic bag tag is growing in popularity – favored by 39 per cent of passengers (up 8 percentage points from 2017). 

The overall experience with automated immigration procedures was rated favorably by 74 per cent of passengers. 

A similar percentage (72 per cent) believes that automated immigration processes are faster and 65 per cent believe they enhance security. 

The human touch is still preferred by some market segments and for certain situations. For example, senior travelers (65 years and older) have a strong preference for traditional check-in (25 per cent vs global 17 per cent) and bag-drop processes (42 per cent vs global 32 per cent).

And when there are travel disruptions 40 per cent of all age groups of passengers want to resolve the situation over the phone and 37 per cent via face-to-face interaction.

The majority of passengers (65 per cent) are willing to share personal data for expedited security and 45 per cent are willing to replace their passports with biometric identification.

IATA’s One ID project aims to move passengers from curb to gate using a single biometric travel token (fingerprint, face or iris). But concerns over data protection must be addressed.

“As we move more and more towards digital processes, passengers need to be confident that their personal data is safe. IATA is working to establish a trust framework that ensures secure data sharing, legal compliance and privacy,” said Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security.

Projections

It will be recalled that IATA, the clearing house for over 280 airlines worldwide, had earlier projected 7.2 billion passengers in 2035; a near double of the 3.8 billion air travellers in 2016.

The prediction is based on a 3.7 per cent annual Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) noted in the release of the latest update to the association’s 20-Year Air Passenger Forecast.

The top 10 fastest-growing markets in percentage terms will be in Africa. They are: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Central African Republic, Benin, Mali, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Madagascar.

Olowo, however, wooed local airlines, travel agents among others to Sabre platform, saying Nigeria could not afford to be left behind in the technology-driven air travel industry and patronage growth.

While presenting to Sabre partners rewards, ranging from cash, refrigerators, screen touch laptops, air conditionals, and the grand prize of new KIA Rio car to Hamsyl Travels and Tours, Olowo said the company had grown to become the leading technology organisation in the world for airlines and travel trade.

Olowo explained that unlike other platforms where travel agents incurred Agency Debit Memo (ADM), after little errors in bookings, the reverse is the case with Sabre, the United States’ technology solution provider.

The Sabre boss noted that with improved technologies in the global aviation industry, it was pertinent for stakeholders in the sector in Nigeria to device a mean of relevance, warning that without this, most of them would be left behind in industry development.

He explained that Sabre would help to improve the services of travel agents, hoteliers, tour companies and airlines, stressing that Nigerian carriers had a lot to learn from their foreign counterparts in technology, especially those who have migrated to the network.

He said: “Our strongest partners and testimony seated at this forum include Ethiopian, Etihad, Emirate and Turkish Airlines to mention, but few.

“Azman Airlines and Max Air will come on board soon. Sabre is the best as it partners with the leading airlines in the world including start up airlines. The only assurance we are giving airlines and travel agents in this country is that once we partner with them, they will begin to do it right.


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