The perks of a pre-booked seat and a free in-flight meal hold no mettle against the tech demands of UAE air passengers, according to a new travel trends survey.
Greater connectivity in the sky or free Wi-Fi has emerged as the top take off choice for tech savvy customers, with 75 per cent of respondents in a Honeywell survey stating they would trade in the luxury of either pre-booking their seat of choice or a meal in favour of in-flight internet.
Emirates is one of the few carriers that launched Wi-Fi connectivity across its fleet of A380s nearly four years ago, along with its Boeing 777s.
The carrier stated in 2014 it invests over $20 million annually on installing and operating inflight connectivity systems which enable onboard Wi-Fi services.
The airline also has an aggressive retrofit programme, which will eventually see its entire fleet Wi-Fi enabled. Importantly, Emirates is subsidising or waiving the high cost of buying data for passenger use.
Meanwhile, an agreement between Honeywell and Inmarsat will allow passengers to soon be able to browse on their smartphones, tablet devices and laptops when in the air over both land and sea, at the same speed and quality as they would expect at home.
The diversified technology and manufacturing company is providing the airplane hardware for Inmarsat’s GX Aviation global high-speed, in-flight connectivity service, which is scheduled to come online in late 2015 and is capable of delivering up to 50MB per second broadband to the aircraft.
The survey, conducted by YouGov, further shed light on passengers demanding airports integrate technological advancements to save on time and flight delays, both of which emerged as deciding factors for passengers in their air travel choice.
According to the survey, the majority of passengers are taking advantage of new technologies to help them check in quickly and move through security more efficiently.
E-boarding passes, e-tickets and luggage location tracking are top of mind when it comes to improving time spent at the airport, with almost all passengers surveyed (97 per cent) agreeing that such systems reduce stress levels.
Travellers stated they wanted more time to enjoy a leisurely experience at the terminal, such as shopping and dining, before heading for the gate.
Over half of those polled (56 per cent) said they spent more time using amenities during their last airport visit than they spent going through security and queuing for baggage check combined.
When quizzed about impending flight delays hampering plans, 94 per cent of respondents stated that despite airports and airlines having taken the right steps to improve punctuality and minimise delays over the past 10 years, there remains more to be done.
Looking ahead, nearly half of travellers (47 per cent) believe improving the speed and efficiency of flights should be the industry’s top investment priority.
The survey also revealed the significant impact of delays on passengers’ travel experiences.
Flight delays, diversions and cancellations significantly influenced passengers’ perception of airlines with almost a quarter (23 per cent) saying they would not consider travelling with the same airline again after experiencing delays.
The most dissatisfied group was young travellers between 25 and 29 years old, among whom 29 per cent said they would not consider flying with the same airline in the future.
The survey was conducted across 500 respondents of different age groups in Q1 2015, who have travelled by air over the past 12 months. Sample questions included ‘while travelling, where do you most commonly experience delays’, ‘how did a flight delay, diversion or cancellation impact your option of the airline’ and ‘do you think the use of new technologies can improve your experience and reduce the stress of travel?’
“Efficiencies inside the terminal and on board the aircraft are crucial to passengers’ perception of air travel in the UAE,” said Norm Gilsdorf, president of Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, Honeywell.
He added: “With more people traveling through the region every year, this survey shows airports and airlines can increase customer satisfaction even further by investing in technology to minimise disruptions and stress, and create a smarter travel experience for passengers.”
The Mideast is experiencing the fastest growth in air travel, according to the International Air Transport Association, with the international body stating by 2034, 237 million passengers will travel by air through the region.