Travelers want faster lines from airports, not robots: survey

Airports may be overlooking simple ways to improve life for travelers as they look to add new technology, according to the results of a new survey.

OAG, a company that specializes in air travel data, surveyed more than 2,000 travelers through its FlightView app. They found that while many airports are testing out new technology with robots and biometrics, travelers are most concerned with getting through the lines quickly and knowing up-to-date information about their flights.

Nearly 60 percent of travelers said they’d be willing to let airports, airlines and other travel providers track their location through a mobile or wearable device if the data were used to redeploy staff to busy areas of the airport in order to cut down on wait times and lines, according to OAG.

Half of the travelers reported spending at least 45 minutes waiting in lines at airports, and 21 percent said they waited on average at least an hour. The majority of those travelers said they would like more information about wait times, real-time updates on expected boarding times or delays and cancelations and walking times between gates and terminals.

“Information and intelligence remain critical for improving the travel experience,” OAG said in its report on the survey.

The majority of travelers said turn-by-turn GPS directions for navigating terminals and gates would improve their experience, according to the survey results. Nearly half said they would also like airports to add self-service baggage drops, and 44 percent said they wanted biometrics-based self-boarding technology.

However, few travelers were interested in dealing with robots. Less than one-fifth of travelers said they would like interactive robots that can answer travel questions, and less than 10 percent said they wanted mobile robots to park their cars, which OAG said is being tested at airports in England and France.

Human interaction was preferred over automated customer service for most aspects of traveling through airports, including baggage, security, concierge, boarding, airport concessions and in-flight services. However, more travelers said they preferred automated customer service for ticketing and check-in.

OAG said it expects positive sentiment toward automation to increase until it’s the preference for most travelers. Millennials surveyed preferred automation more than the general population of travelers.

Travelers said they do anticipate new technology to help shorten lines for security, which most said was the longest wait they faced at the airport. According to the survey, passengers said they were most excited for advanced CT scanners that allow them to leave electronics and liquids in their bags, followed by 3D X-ray technology for reviewing bag contents and mat-based shoe scanners so passengers don’t have to remove footwear.


Forty percent of travelers said they believed airports could also streamline security by adding more zones for passengers to prepare their bags for scanning. Others said airports could list security wait times available or use biometrics-based identification.

All that time spent waiting in lines impacts the number of time passengers have to visit shops and restaurants at the airport, according to OAG. They found passengers were most likely to spend time while waiting for their flight at the gate, and that travelers would be more likely to spend money at airport shops and restaurants if they had more trustworthy and consistent flight status notifications and text message alerts 10 minutes before boarding.

“While the travel ecosystem continues to test high-tech investments – including robotics, biometrics, advanced security measures and more – it may be overlooking significantly easier and more affordable opportunities to delight travelers, boost efficiency and grow sales,” OAG concluded in its report.