Abu Dhabi Airport turns to self-service
Self-service check-in at Abu Dhabi International Airport is growing at a rapid pace according to the latest figures from the seventh SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey. The 2012 results found that 17 per cent of passengers surveyed at the airport used self-service check-in; nearly double the rate of nine per cent recorded last year.
However, the region is still playing catch-up with other major international hubs. At a global level, self-service check-in now stands at 68 per cent of passengers, with other airports surveyed, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson at 85 per cent, a record level.
One reason for the lower self-service usage at Abu Dhabi is the strong cultural preference for the personal touch. There are signs however that passengers welcome the convenience and control that self-service technology offers. Nearly half of the passengers surveyed at the airport booked their ticket online, rising to 46 per cent from 35 per cent in 2011, although the majority (51 per cent) still prefer to book through an airline shop or high street travel agent.
Commenting on the results, Hamed Al Hashemi, vice president – Information and Communication Systems, Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC), said: “We still have a long way to go to catch up with rates of adoption experienced in other parts of the world, but the doubling of take-up over the past year is a strong endorsement that our self-service strategy is working.
“We want to reduce stress levels for our passengers and offering self-service is a proven way to do this. For example, we have introduced check-in kiosks and bag-drop facilities at a number of city centre locations so that passengers arrive at the airport in a much more relaxed state.”
There are also strong indications in the survey that many passengers from the region want to adopt mobile self-service throughout their journey. Nearly every passenger surveyed at Abu Dhabi (97 per cent) was travelling with a mobile phone and 49 per cent of these passengers had smartphones, which can provide access to travel-related mobile apps and services.
In particular, passengers at Abu Dhabi expressed high interest in receiving mobile flight updates (82 per cent) and performing flight searches (80 per cent), but they were also keen to store their travel itinerary documents on their phone (75 per cent) and use a mobile boarding pass (71 per cent).
Hani El Assaad, SITA president, Middle East, India and Africa, said: “The survey highlights a cultural shift in the region with passenger attitudes to self-service technology changing fast. Self-service check-in and online ticket booking are growing rapidly and this is just the start. SITA is working with airports and airlines, using advanced mobile technologies, such as near field communications (NFC), to give passengers more self-service functionality on their smartphones at each stage of the journey. This is something passengers are telling us they want through surveys like this.”
ADAC has been quick to grasp the potential provided by an always-connected travelling public. Hashimi said: “Mobile self-service is really the future we are working towards. As the survey confirms, the vast majority of our passengers carry a mobile device when they travel through the airport. This gives us an unprecedented opportunity to offer passengers a more personalised service and keep them informed. For example, we provide real-time information on available parking spaces and flight status, as well as airport maps and information on duty free shopping and dining possibilities.”
Personal service is something that resonates with passengers. Those interviewed at Abu Dhabi were the most willing of passengers surveyed at any airport to trade privacy for better service. Another new communications channel getting a lot of attention from travel providers is social media. However, from a passenger perspective the survey shows there is a long way to go before it becomes a mainstream channel. Nevertheless, passengers surveyed at Abu Dhabi were among those globally showing the highest interest in using social media sites for travel-related activities, so there is a growing opportunity for airlines and airports in the region to enrich their social media presence.