Airlines Take Mobile Services Beyond Check-In

In-transit contact with customers opens new marketing opportunities

Digital check-ins are nothing new to air travelers. Online check-ins are showing signs of maturity, and mobile check-ins are gaining ground quickly, according to J.D. Power & Associates’ 2012 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. As of June 2012, nearly half of all check-ins for North American airlines were conducted either online or through a mobile device, with mobile increasing from 5% of all check-ins in 2011 to 11% in 2012.

A February 2012 study from SITA and Airline Business, “Airline IT Trends Survey 2012,” showed that only half of surveyed airlines worldwide provided mobile check-in service. (The senior airline executives who responded came from airlines representing 53% of global air passenger traffic.) As more airlines allow this expedited service, consumer check-ins on the go will increase, freeing up more time for customer service interaction at the airport.

The deeper story from the SITA survey is the ancillary services that these senior airline executives are either evaluating or planning to implement by 2015. Some of these services include missing baggage communications or re-booking flights.

The ability for mobile to make consumers’ lives easier will have a dramatic effect on their travel experience. One of the most interesting responses dealt with access to on-board entertainment via their own devices, which provides new interactive advertising opportunities. Nearly 45% of survey respondents had no plans to offer this type of entertainment service, but a third of the respondents were evaluating it.

In-flight entertainment packages, while wildly popular with consumers, are expensive for airlines to install and update, and therefore have varying adoption rates, even within individual airlines’ fleets. Allowing customers to access curated entertainment through their personal devices opens the lines of communication in flight beyond a purely utilitarian interaction with flight attendants. This allows airlines (and advertising partners) to target messages based on what individuals are doing at that particular time (i.e. traveling to Paris, watching a live sporting event, etc.).

The value of mobile devices to the travel experience lies in their ability to create unprecedented touchpoints throughout the customer travel journey. Customers interacting with mobile devices in transit—and specifically, in-flight—are a captive audience in what previously was a black hole for customer communications.

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