Tech to ease stress of fly­ing

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Hugo Martin hugo.martin@latimes.com Twit­ter: @hugo­martin

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 f light 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 f ly 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 f light, ac- cord­ing to the sur­vey. By 2018, that rate is ex­pected to climb to 24%.

Au­to­matic lug­gage dropoff 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 so­called 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 re­al­time in­for­ma­tion,” Pick­ford said. Bob Hope Air­port tweets nicer to TSA

If you read any Twit­ter posts that men­tion the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, most of the com­ments are go­ing to be neg­a­tive for nearly ev­ery air­port in the coun­try.

Ex­cept for one: Bob Hope Air­port in Bur­bank.

Trav­elmath, an online trip cal­cu­la­tor, eval­u­ated 7,377 Twit­ter posts that men­tion the TSA dur­ing the first four months of the year. Based on the terms used in those tweets, Trav­elmath de­ter­mined whether the posts were pos­i­tive, neg­a­tive or neu­tral.

The most com­mon words ac­com­pa­ny­ing Twit­ter posts about TSA were “search,” “con­fis­cate,” “grope,” “rude,” “took my,” “de­lay” and “stole.”

The web­site also iden­ti­fied the air­ports that were the tar­get of the Twit­ter com­ments based on geo­tag­ging and other meth­ods. The study found that the ma­jor­ity of Twit­ter posts were neg­a­tive at al­most ev­ery ma­jor air­port in the coun­try, with the most neg­a­tive Twit­ter posts aimed at TSA agents at Oak­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

But Bob Hope Air­port, the 85-year-old com­mer­cial fa­cil­ity in Bur­bank, was the only air­port in the na­tion where online Tweets about the TSA were mostly pos­i­tive.

“The lone out­lier — Bur­bank, CA — was not only the most pos­i­tive air­port; it was the only pos­i­tive air­port,” the study con­cluded.

A TSA of­fi­cial de­clined to com­ment on the study, but said the agency val­ues in­put from the public.

Although Bob Hope Air­port is small com­pared to most fa­cil­i­ties, it is de­signed to zip trav­el­ers through quickly, mak­ing the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence pos­i­tive, said Vic­tor Gill, the long­time spokesman for the air­port. That may ex­plain the pos­i­tive Twit­ter com­ments, he said.

Af­ter the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Gill said, Bob Hope Air­port ex­panded the ter­mi­nal by about 4,300 square feet to make sure that the TSA had plenty of room for check­point scan­ners and pas­sen­ger queues.

“This has pre­vented, for the most part, a buildup of pas­sen­gers,” he said.

Robert Alexan­der Getty Im­ages

A MAN AND HIS CHIL­DREN use their smart­phones, tablets and other mo­bile de­vices as they wait for their f light in the board­ing gate area at LaGuardia Air­port in New York City.

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