Airline passengers demanding better smartphone services

73% of those with a smart phone want to use mobile boarding passes

Airlines and airports will have to gear themselves up to support airline passengers demanding to use their smartphones to check-in online and get flight and airport gate information, according airline IT provider SITA.

The number of smartphones carried by airline passengers has doubled over the last year making them an important tool for travellers wishing to check-in remotely, access flight information on the go, or use an emerging range of flight-related applications, according to the company's annual Air Transport World Passenger Self-Service Survey.

Possession of a smartphone has jumped from 28% in last year's survey to 54% overall this year, and 74% of first/business class respondents and frequent flyers (10-plus round trips per year) were carrying one. At the world's busiest airport, Atlanta, 75% of survey respondents were carrying a smartphone.

Among respondents carrying a smartphone, 73% would like to use mobile boarding passes while 17% had already used them at least once. High service availability at Frankfurt Airport has generated the highest usage, with 25% of respondents having used mobile boarding passes once or more.

The survey found that 31% of smartphone holders use mobile check-in frequently or occasionally. But many airports don't have widespread facilities to process electronic boarding passes.

The Passenger Self-Service Survey is carried out using a "representative sample" of the 283.5 million passengers who pass through six of the world's leading airport hubs. These include Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Frankfurt, Atlanta, Mumbai, and Sao Paulo. SITA is an IT provider co-operative owned by the airlines and other players.

Francesco Violante, SITA CEO, said: "We are now entering the era of the mobile-centric passenger, who is not only able to manage his or her journey independently but also expects personal and timely communication from airlines, airports and other providers of travel-related services."

Over 50% of first/business class travellers and frequent flyers receive SMS notifications about their flights. Over 80% of all respondents were not interested in receiving information on shopping deals over mobile devices.

Over half of all checked-in bags are still dropped at a check-in counter and 20% of passengers state this as the main reason for not using self-service check-in.

Half of the world's top airlines are spending more this year on IT and telecoms, according to the recent annual SITA/Airline Business Airline IT Trends Survey.

Airlines said they would be spending more on areas such as mobile transaction systems, support for commercial social networking efforts, virtualisation technology and cloud computing. The total airline IT and telecoms spend predicted for 2011 is $20 billion (£12.5 billion).

This story, "Airline passengers demanding better smartphone services" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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