Human Interaction Over Automation at Airports | OAG

OAG explores consumer appetite for on-demand gate-side delivery, automated retail, security innovations, robotics and more

OAG, the world’s leading provider of travel data and insight, today reveals its latest tech market analysis, The Airport Delight Report: Humans vs. Machines. Based on a survey of over 2,000 U.S. travelers, OAG offers new insight for airports leaders and tech providers looking to delight travelers, streamline operations and grow revenue.

The major takeaway: While high tech investments and automation improve the airport experience, they aren’t a cure-all. In fact, outside of ticketing and check-in, the market prefers human customer service over automation for almost every other travel function: baggage (54% human to 46% automated customer service), security (55% to 45%), boarding (64% to 36%), concierge (83% to 75%) and in-flight services (80% to 20%).

Additional takeaways from OAG’s analysis include:

  • Travelers don’t mind being tracked – if it leads to a better experience: Nearly 60% of travelers would let airports track their location through a mobile or wearable device to redeploy staff to cut down on wait times.
  • Forget robots. Practicality trumps flash: Only 19% of travelers said they see value in interactive robots that provide information and concierge services. Comparatively, 40% want more baggage loading zones to expedite security lines, 54% would value in-airport turn-by-turn directions for navigating terminals and gates, and 75% want real-time updates on expected boarding times.
  • Momentum builds for automated airport retail: 54% of millennials, 37% of business travelers and 35% of all travelers reported interest in self-checkout retail options at the airport.

“We’re seeing that the market isn’t quite ready for a full-fledged automated airport experience – although we expect that evolve over time, with tech eventually becoming the clear preference,” said Vipul Nakum, chief product officer at OAG. “While investing in emerging technology is smart, travel leaders need to remember the easy and simple wins, like consistent flight status updates, text message alerts before boarding, more baggage loading zones and in-airport directions and GPS. These simple improvements reduce friction and delight passengers.”

OAG also evaluated sentiment around two untapped airport revenue opportunities: on-demand, gate-side delivery and pre-ordering through mobile. OAG found that while only 6% of travelers have pre-ordered food or drink for pickup at a gate-side restaurant, 66% would consider taking advantage in the future. Similarly, while only 9% of travelers have ordered gate-side delivery of food and drink, 62% are willing to try it out.

The easiest way to delight travelers – and get them to spend more gate-side -- is through convenience and information,” added Nakum. “Travelers that feel truly informed, with consistent updates across all channels, are more comfortable and confident venturing away from the gate to patronize restaurants, retail stores and bars. For travel leaders looking to capitalize, the more proactive and prescriptive they can be with their updates – ‘Group A is boarding in 15 minutes, Group B in 30 minutes, last call in 40 minutes,’ the more valuable.”

To see the full findings, which cover security process innovations and traveler appetite for self-service amenities, gate-side delivery, flight information and more, download the analysis here: The Airport Delight Report: Humans vs. Machines.

About OAG

OAG is a leading global travel data provider, that has been powering the growth and innovation of the air travel ecosystem since 1929.

Every day, we support millions of journeys across the globe, enabling a simpler, seamless and more enjoyable travel experience. With the world’s largest network of schedules and status data, and leading-edge analytics tools, we enable our customers to make smarter decisions, better adapt to change and create exceptional customer experiences.

We partner with some of the biggest global brands, airports, airlines, travel operators and fast-growing start-ups to design the best services available today, and the finest innovations of tomorrow.

Headquartered in the UK, OAG has global operations in the USA, Singapore, Japan, Lithuania and China.

For more information, visit: and follow us on Twitter @OAG Aviation.

Media Contact:                               

Abigail Holmes
Corporate Ink for OAG
T: +1 617 969 9192 / E: