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%).
When you travel, do you download the airline’s own app, or do you use a variety of different websites and flight tracking apps to get the information you need, like flight information or airport maps? Airline apps do offer some benefits, especially in the pre-boarding stage of a trip like check-in reminders via push notifications, the ability to choose or change your seat, monitoring of stand-by status and flight delay or cancellation notifications. So if airline apps have the ability to provide all this information, why do 25% of the 3,000 travelers who responded to a recent FlightView survey “never” use the airline’s app, and 45% only “sometimes”?
An important aspect when traveling is speed, and one advantage for the airline apps is faster check-in via their apps versus their mobile websites since the apps can save your profile information. But speed can also be a strike against them, since 48% of the travelers FlightView surveyed complained about the poor usability of some airline apps, namely, not being able to find what they’re looking for quickly. Other areas of dissatisfaction were data inaccuracies (an issue for 29% of those surveyed) and lack of desired functionality (an issue for 23% of those surveyed).
Flying to Atlanta last week, it struck me that a familiar part of the airport experience was missing – the staff. There was a noticeable reduction in the number of agents on duty at ticket and gate counters, but their absence wasn’t causing chaos the way it would have in the past. The reason? Self-service is becoming status quo as travelers are increasingly comfortable using technology to navigate the airport. A passenger can use a kiosk to self check-in, then FIDS (flight information display systems), websites or mobile apps to check flight status which means fewer questions for gate agents to answer.
As it turns out, passengers aren’t only comfortable with self-service, they prefer it. A recent survey from SITA found that the most stressful part of a trip is fear of missing a flight, which is exactly what can happen when travelers have to wait in long lines at bottlenecks like check-in, bag drop and ID-check before going through security. Convenience and speed through processing checkpoints definitely help get passengers to the gate, but self-service options are valued at every point in the trip. The most welcome features among survey participants were flight status updates via mobile phone, self-boarding gates and kiosks for flight transfers.
While senior IT executives at the top 200 airlines worldwide were “cautiously optimistic” about IT investment in a 2012 SITA survey, this much is clear: economic uncertainty and unpredictable jet fuel prices aren’t dampening enthusiasm for upgrading passenger mobile services. In fact, it tops the lists of investments for the second consecutive year, with 60% of airlines planning major investments in mobile passenger services over the next three years. Here’s a look at where those IT dollars will go.
According to SITA’s 2012 Passenger Self-Service survey, 74% of travelers interviewed booked their travel online, but only 3% purchased tickets via mobile devices or social media. Airlines are looking to change that – 70% said that after 2015, mobile will be the second most important sales channel behind the Web. 90% of airlines plan to sell tickets via mobile and 83% will sell ancillary services via mobile. Passengers should be able to purchase ticket modifications and upgrades, preferred boarding access, choice seating, airline lounge access, in-flight amenities and pay baggage fees all via a mobile device by 2015.
Recent headlines, FAA chief: Flights at major hubs face 90-minute delays, USAToday 2/27/13, and Airlines Dispute Planned Air-Controller Cuts, WSJ 3/21/13, have trumpeted the inevitable air traffic delays which will result from layoffs due to budget cutting mandated by the infamous sequester exercise. Last week an FAA spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that air-traffic controller furloughs are unavoidable under mandatory federal budget cuts, and the FAA predicts flights could be delayed by up to 90 minutes at busy airports as a result.” Yikes! Does that mean travelers are relegated to a summer of missed connections and hours upon hours of heel-cooling in lengthy airport security lines and crowded gate areas?
At FlightView we make a business of tracking commercial airline flights around the world. We monitor delays at the top 179 airports in North America that service commercial flights; our homepage shows the major airports and the delays, if any, they are experiencing in real time. Visitors can check the status of any flight yesterday, today or tomorrow. We keep all the historical data, too, so we can look back at delays experienced by airports or specific flights. So we’ll have a pretty good handle on how delays evolve this summer. And if those threatened 90-minute delays happen (or even connection-breaking 30 minute delays), we will be the first to know.
Surprise surprise; The weather man was wrong! According to reports the night before, we were supposed to get nothing but rain and my flight to San Antonio would leave without any issues. The flight from BOS to DFW was set to leave at 11am and we’d have plenty of time to make our connection into SAT. When I woke up on the day of the flight, I found out that we had about eight inches of the fluffy type of “rain” and realized we probably wouldn’t be going anywhere. Having been through the weather-related flight cancellation experience a few years ago, I was dreading a day spent on hold listening to oldies, soft rock, or worst of all a continuous loop of the same new age tones. Just as I was bracing myself to make the dreaded call, my phone rang.
On the other end of the line was a very nice, very helpful, and very proactive computerized voice. I was informed that my flight was cancelled (This I already knew – I do work for company that brings you the FlightView Flight Tracker), I was informed that I had been rebooked on another flight for later that day and my connection had been rebooked as well.