Line, line, everywhere a line. From baggage check-in to ticketing to security, air travelers must often languish in lines before they can jet off on their vacation or business trips. Now, with airlines striving to differentiate their services and passengers seeking a better travel experience, mobile apps, mobile devices and social networking sites are coming to the aid of both parties.
According to eMarketer, in 2013 nearly two-thirds of U.S. Internet users will research travel via online channels, and 40 percent of those will have planned their trips on a smartphone or tablet device.
In response, airlines and airports are looking for new ways to engage today’s connected traveler. For example, the Alaska Airlines Deals and Destination app for Windows 8 highlights the latest ticket deals on flights, while integration with Facebook gives customers the ability to flag deals for their friends to come visit.
Airports such as Boston Logan International Airport have developed apps that predict the length of time it will take people to travel from their location to the airport, through security checkpoints and to their gate. Once in the airport, dynamic signage helps them find their way through the terminal and identifies concessions stands along the way.
These efforts are just the beginning of a larger, industrywide initiative called Fast Travel, developed by the International Air Transport Association. The goal of Fast Travel is to further empower customers and eliminate the need to check in at the airport. Instead, customers can print out their boarding pass and luggage tags at home, leaving more time at the airport to get from the curb and through the concourse.
This also enables airlines to eliminate the traditional check-in counter and free up ticket agents to instead roam the airport concourse with a tablet device in hand, looking for passengers who need the most help.
Scenarios like this are becoming more common and are a great example of why mobile technology plays an important role in helping the airline industry reach its goal, says Matt Muta, Microsoft’s managing director of Global Hospitality and Travel.
“From rising fuel costs to the constant pressure for flawless service, airlines are buffeted by a range of pressures,” Muta says. “We’ve seen an accelerated adoption rate with airlines as they recognize the potential for Windows devices to help them become more agile in serving customers and getting flights out on time.”
While attending the Jeppesen Connect event in Miami this week, Muta discussed Delta Airlines’ decision to equip its 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 devices running Windows RT 8.1 and the Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro electronic flight book app, citing it as yet another example of how the role of technology in aviation is growing.
Perhaps most important, devices running Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 give the cabin crew access to enterprise apps that can help them deliver a premium level of service. In August, Delta also announced the rollout of more than 19,000 Nokia Lumia 820 handsets, which include the Microsoft Dynamics for Retail mobile point-of-sale platform.
“There’s a lot of stress associated with today’s air travel experience,” Muta says. “With the power of Windows devices, we can create an experience that reduces or eliminates that stress and lets passengers truly start their vacation when they step into the airport.”