Passengers passing through the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, are setting the pace for the rest of the world when it comes to passenger self-service technology, according to the results of the latest SITA / Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service survey of leading international airports.

Atlanta passengers have always been ahead of the digital pack, and this year’s survey shows an even greater appetite for self-service technology. The survey illustrates an increase in those who would like to use online check-in frequently from 29% last year to an impressive 72% in 2010; 57% of those interviewed stated they already use online check-in frequently – the highest percentage recorded in this year’s survey.

Overall, 76% of Atlanta respondents had used some form of self-service check-in, including online, kiosk and mobile check-in. Almost 90% of those stated they use kiosk check-in either frequently or intermittently.

This enthusiasm for digital tools is also matched by the highest recorded use of online booking in this year’s survey among passengers at Atlanta, 79% use it to make their travel arrangements frequently, and primarily because of the control it gives them.

American travellers are more receptive than most when it comes to using airline websites to offset their carbon footprint; 27% of Atlanta passengers declared having done so compared to a global survey average of 25%.

Atlanta was the only airport where more female than male respondents were interviewed. Over 90% of the Atlanta passengers surveyed were domestic travellers; 65% were on leisure trips; 81% were on short-haul flights; and 53% checked in a bag compared to the survey’s global average of 70%. The low percentage checking in bags can be partly attributed to the high number of interviewees on short-haul flights and avoidance of baggage fees.

The 5th annual SITA / Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service (PSS) survey is an in-depth look at the attitudes and habits of a representative sample of the 287.6 million passengers who use Atlanta and six other leading international airports: Beijing International Airport; Frankfurt; Moscow Domodedovo; Mumbai International; OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg; and Sao Paulo Guarulhos, Brazil.

Robert Kennedy, interim deputy general manager, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said: “This year’s survey underlines again the important role that self-service technology plays in the smooth functioning of a large airport environment. Here at Atlanta we are delighted to host the world’s most enthusiastic users of self-service and to be able to meet the needs of both passengers and airlines to such a high degree whether on or off the airport campus.”

There is also considerable interest in the introduction of self bag-tagging at Atlanta; 84% of the respondents said they would print their own bag tags from a kiosk if they could, compared to 70% worldwide. Over 80% would be interested in printing their bag tags remotely at home or in the office.

Passengers at Atlanta ranked security screening as the main area for improvement in the passenger journey and 79% expressed interest in the use of automated border control and security processing. Globally, the top three main areas for improvement were: dwell time at airport before departure flight; waiting for checked baggage on arrival; and the check-in process.

Sandra Girona, SITA regional vice president for North America, said: “It is great to see Atlanta maintaining its lead position as a global showcase for the benefits of self-service technology. Passengers at Atlanta value control over as many aspects as possible of their journeys. The survey found that 46% of passengers passing through Atlanta had smart phones – a higher rate than elsewhere – and we expect that the demand for passenger self-service technology developed around the mobile phone will be a growing trend in the years to come. Worldwide, mobile check-in is used a little more than 20%, however more than 50% of survey respondents would like to manage their air travel using their mobile phones.”

The survey data is extracted from interviews with 2,490 passengers travelling on 106 airlines, conducted at the departure gates earlier this year. Main nationalities interviewed were American (17%), Indian (12%), Chinese (12%), Brazilian (11%), German (8%), South African (8%), Russian (7%) and others (25%).