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Technology to make air travel less stressful in the future, study says

By 2018, 74% of airlines are expected to have luggage drop-off machines

Airline passengers are expected to rely more heavily in the future on smartphones and portable devices to make travel less stressful thanks to mobile check-in apps, automatic flight updates, mapping software to navigate airports and technology to locate bags.

That conclusion comes from a survey of dozens of airlines worldwide by SITA, a multinational airline technology company. The survey found that carriers worldwide plan to invest heavily in Internet-based technology over the next three years to help speed passengers through the airport and reduce traveler anxiety.

But airlines are investing in such technology because they know that passengers who enjoy their travel experience are more likely to fly again and remain loyal to their airline, said Nigel Pickford, SITA's director of market insight.

“Happy travelers spend more money during the journey,” he said.

According to the survey, about 9% of air travelers today use digital tablets or smartphones to check in before boarding a flight, according to the survey. By 2018, that rate is expected to climb to 24%.

Automatic luggage drop-off machines are also becoming more prevalent, with 74% of carriers expected to offer the service by 2018, up from the rate of 17% today, the survey said.

By 2018, 70% of airlines say they plan to have the technology to give passengers updates on the location of their baggage, up from only 10% today, the SITA survey found.

In the near future, more airports will also rely on so-called beacons that are placed throughout airports, according to SITA. The beacons use Bluetooth technology to sense the movement of travelers through their smartphones. Using special apps, travelers can open a map on their smartphones and, with the help of the beacons, navigate through an airport from the check-in desk to a gate.

Today, about 9% of airlines have experimented with beacons, with 44% of carriers saying they plan to invest in the technology by 2018.

“More and more, people regularly connect with real-time information,” Pickford said.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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