Airline IT Survey Underscores Importance of Mobile, Self-service
By Sean Broderick
If airlines make good on their IT investment plans, passenger service offerings — from ticket sales to customer service — will continue to become more personalized, and the mobile
phone’s role in the process will only grow. These
are two takeaways from the most recent SITA
Airline IT Trends Survey that, combined with
similar efforts for airports and passengers, helps
paint an annual picture of where IT investment in
airline travel is headed.
As the first
of the three
each year, the
a jump on
what a key
carriers — are
be thinking about,” said SITA Senior Manager,
Market Insight Tom Knierim. The first: self-service.
Already familiar at check-in, airlines are eyeing
self-service options throughout the airport —
particularly for bag-drop and boarding, Knierim
said. Today, the few airlines that offer these
services have created customized programs, either
organically or through partnerships. SITA found
that 74 percent of airlines plan to offer self-service
bag drop by 2015. Wider adoption would receive
a boost from a shared-use approach and should
present opportunities for airports — particularly
smaller ones, Knierim said.
Baggage handling and boarding are part of every
passenger flight. But like other inherent functions,
such as ground handling, an airline’s activity at a
station is often proportional to its willingness to
set up in-house resources at that station. This is
why shared use works particularly well at smaller
airports, and why airport-provided services like
remote bag drop could.
The second big area where airport and airline
interests continue to converge is mobile, both in
terms of providing service and using related data.
Mobile is becoming a near-ubiquitous platform.
A recent Pew Internet report found 88 percent of
U.S. adults have cell phones, and 55 percent of
them use the devices to go online. Perhaps most
interestingly, 17 percent of all adult cell phone
users — roughly 40 million people —rely on their
phones for “most” of their browsing.
Airlines recognize this and are prioritizing
investment as a result. SITA found that 58 percent
of airlines plan to invest in at least one “major
program” focused on passenger services via
mobile by 2016, and 35 percent have a pilot in the
works. On the social media front, 35 percent have
program plans and 56 percent plan pilots.
“Mobile has become one of the dominant
channels for passenger interaction with the
airline,” Knierim said. “The survey told us that for
passenger processing, there is a strong desire to
make mobile a touch point. The mobile phone is
going to be a dominant channel, even as services
will be provided across all channels.”
While airports ponder mobile tactics like app
vs. mobile site, airlines don’t have that luxury
— they realize they must meet passengers on
all mobile fronts. Social media and mobile sites
are a given, and a quick search of an app store
like Apple’s pulls up dozens of official airline
applications for everyone from the biggest global
carriers to hyper-budget operators like Allegiant
The focus on reaching customers directly
through app or mobile site usage is
understandable; high eyeball and page view counts
can be leveraged for revenue. Big-picture, however,
Knierim suggested that the real gains will come
from airports, airlines, and other stakeholders
working together on the back-end.
“An airport needs to be aware of ‘big data’
and predictive analysis,” Knierim pointed out.