You can’t open an app and summon a commercial airplane to your front door – not yet any way. Even so, native mobile apps have done a lot of work to make air travel better, driven by the advent of affordable air travel for everyday journey-seekers. Apps have quickly become a way for airplanes to boost customer engagement and cement brand loyalty, improving the travel experience as much as possible. In the 1970s, only 50% of the US population had ever been on an airplane. Due to more affordable pricing, today 80% of the adult population has been on an airplane at least once in their lifetime. In the 90s, business was the biggest reason most individuals flew, accounting for nearly half of all trips – but today leisure is the primary reason we take to the skies.
Arriving and Leaving The Airport
Picking up and dropping off your friends from the airport can be a real chore – luckily, the rise of ridesharing apps has largely taken that burden off of our hands. United Airlines was among the earliest to integrate their business with ridesharing services, weaving Uber into their app in 2014. In some cases, customers can even earn bonus miles when hitching a ride. JetBlue has recently begun partnering with Lyft, integrating Lyft into their airline app to let customers earn JetBlue loyalty points when they use the mustachioed ride sharing service.
The majority of airline apps now let you check in when you arrive at the airport, requiring a front-desk visit only if you have luggage to check. You can easily change or upgrade your seat on the fly too, giving customers the opportunity to snag an exit row or even bump up to first class, generating a new boarding pass on the go so that you can make adjustments right up to the last minute. EasyJet, a European airline, has even added passport scanning to its app to help its customers more easily check in for international travel.
Real-Time Flight Updates
Flight delays are no fun, but they can be especially bad when you arrive at the airport to find that you’ll have to wait there for hours before you can get off the ground. Apps have opened up a space for people to get updates on their flight in real time, giving users room to make decisions about how to spend their time. Google even automatically scans their users’ inboxes, identifying upcoming flight data and pushing notifications automatically!
Getting Around the Airport
Getting around an unfamiliar airport can be challenging, especially when you don’t know where to find a map or who to ask for help. Many airline apps address this by providing access to maps of major airports, helping them get to their next terminal (or to the nearest lounge). In a pinch, ready access to maps can make a big difference in helping flyers navigate their travel plans without missing a beat.
Every customer who has a smartphone – which these days means most customers – walks onto a plain with an entertainment screen ready to go in their pocket. Rather than installing or upgrading the entertainment screens embedded in the seats of their airplanes, many airlines are increasingly relying upon complimentary apps to provide in-flight streaming services for their passengers. One report from IATA (International Air Transport Association) says that around 50% of respondents said they’d use a streaming service during their flight, up from a mere 12% last year).
Only about 3 out of every 1000 airline passengers complains about mishandled baggage, but even so the concern has been enough to drive technological innovation to solve this. Delta has begun attaching RFID tags onto checked luggage, allowing app users to monitor their bags’ progress through the app for maximum assurance. This information helps Delta optimize their baggage processing procedures, and also lets worried customers keep an eye on their bags at every step of the way.
Has an app made a big difference for you in your travels? Do you think we missed anything? Feel free to let us know!