More and more travelers carry tablets on their flights – some using them to accomplish work on the plane while others using them for entertainment or leisure browsing. Tablets are much friendlier devices to manage while sitting in a “compact” airplane seat than laptops. They are smaller and lighter and therefore more comfortable to hold in your lap. Even if you place your tablet on the seatback table, it is less awkward to move around when your neighbor wants to pass in front of you on her way to the restroom. Tablets are becoming so popular that a few airlines, such as Virgin Australia, have started to rent them to passengers as they board the plane while others, like Delta, deliver mobile in-flight portals for passengers to view on their tablets.
In addition to becoming popular travel companions, tablets are often used when searching for travel-related services – in some cases during the travel itself. In a recent FlightView survey, where responses from over 3,000 travelers were tallied, 69% reported owning and using a tablet to search for travel services. Of these folks, 62% had searched for flights, 45% had searched for hotels, and 26% had searched for ground transportation, all over the past 12 months. While almost 70% of people surveyed searched for flights, just under 50% actually purchased flight tickets on their tablets (49%). Why don’t they follow through with the booking? While in the past some folks might have said they were concerned about the security of mobile devices or that their transaction would get lost in-process, this is not the case today. The top two reasons for not purchasing their tickets on their tablets were the difficulty of entering all the required information on a smaller device (16%) and that people prefer using a laptop or desktop to make their final flight purchases (57%).
In the past, people planned and booked key services – flights, hotels, car rental, limousine services – required for their trip days ahead of time and then during the trip, they looked up local activities, events and tours in guide books and went to the kiosk or event desk to learn more as well as purchase tickets. So the big picture planning and booking was done ahead of time, at the point of ‘inspiration’ for the trip, via online search and booking or working with a travel agent. Then the day-to-day activities were determined and purchased while en-route after the traveler arrived at his destination and could walk up to the kiosk, learn more and make a purchase. This process was accepted and followed by most travelers, not necessarily because it was their natural inclination, but because it wasn’t feasible to do anything different.
Today, new mobile and big data technologies have broken the constraints of the past. Mobile solutions are enabling travelers to make reservations for key destination services, such as hotel rooms via HotelsTonight or booking.com or arrange car services with Uber, during their trips. Meanwhile, these technologies are also enabling travelers to view and book local destination activities and tours, for example with Viator, prior to walking up to the kiosk, while sitting at home or on-the-go. People can search and scan listings of small, family-operated local services on their mobile devices – view photos, read ratings and reviews, check out menus and other details, and make purchases. So now travelers have the ultimate in flexibility – booking any part of their trip, from their hotel room to the 1 hour factory tour they wander through one afternoon, while sitting on their couch prior to packing or while ordering a coffee from a local barista after arriving.