Airlines in the future could feature seating sections arranged by function – families, business travellers, sleepers and those who want to watch or listen to entertainment – and lots of new technologies like biometrics and robotics that could make negotiating the travel process a whole lot easier.
But even many of those people who dare to dream of such refinements to the currently hassle-filled and and uncomfortable world of travel are sceptical about the technologies that could play a key role in making them possible.
Biometric identification systems like this Dermalog fingerprint scanner are increasingly being adopted worldwide for functions as diverse as banking and elections. Could they make the travel process smoother?
A number of airlines, hotel companies, rental car agencies, restaurant chains and other travel service providers – and the technology firms that support them – are tinkering with biometric technologies that could allow them not only recognize individual travellers so that they can pass through security checkpoints with ease but also perhaps be assigned the exact type of rental car they prefer, or have their hotel room arranged and equipped exactly as their preferred auto. Being able to provide those special touches without consumers having to request them or make special arrangements is seen by some travel industry marketing experts as the Holy Grail of revenue- and loyalty-enhancing techniques.
But results of an intriguing survey conducted recently by Boxever show both great longing among travellers for a smoother, more human and less frustrating travel experience – and deep cynicism among those same travellers that such improvements in the travel process will come about, or even be worthwhile. Boxever, based in Dublin, Ireland, is a predictive analytics and marketing advisory company that specializes in studying consumer’s interaction with travel companies.
For example, in Boxever’s recent survey of more than 500 travellers: 57% said airline cabins of the future would be improved by segregating travellers by the nature of their travel. Business travellers would be seated together. Families travelling together with children would be seated in their own section. Those who wish only to sleep would be segregated from the rest. And those who want to watch movies or TV, or listen to music would have their own seating section.
55% said the use of biometrics such as fingerprints and retina scans for check-in, passing through security checkpoints and boarding would make the entire travel process smoother and easier. Nearly a third – 31% – said the use of robotics would make the check-in, security and boarding processes better.
38% said the travel process would be improved by the use of self-driving cars that would drop off and pick them up at the terminal doors.
Yet: Fewer than half of those same survey respondents say they trust airlines and other travel service companies to properly handle, store and protect their unique identifying biometric information such as fingerprints and retina patterns. As a result, concern about the protection of their biometric data is shaping up to be a major hurdle that travel service companies will have to overcome if they are to succeed in offering much more customized travel experiences – and generating extra revenue as a result.
Of that majority who are uncomfortable with the idea of airlines having and using their biometric information, two-thirds said they simply don’t trust airlines to handle such sensitive data. 56% said they are not comfortable with any company handling their biometric data.
And nearly half – 49% – of those who are uncomfortable with airlines’ use of biometrics said they are sceptical that the use of biometrics would actually improve the travel experience in the first place.
Perhaps most surprising, millennial travellers – those between the ages of 19 and 33 – are the most cynical when it comes to airlines potential use of fingerprints, retina scans, facial recognition software and cameras, and other biometric identification technologies. One might assume that millennials, who have never lived in a world without the Internet, who grew up using cell phones and playing complex video games, and who today tend to post lots of information about themselves and their thoughts online would be most comfortable with the use of biometric technologies.
Instead, 51% of this most tech-savvy of the groups surveyed said they are wary about potential security lapses among travel companies that would expose their data to hackers or others who would use it in harmful ways.