Jet-streaming to Better Business


In an industry fraught with intense competition and increasing operational costs, customer loyalty can be the key differentiator. Airlines are paying critical focus to reducing passenger efforts and enhancing their experience significantly. Many are turning to mobility-enabled personalized services to achieve this. The explosive growth in smartphones and apps presents a revolutionary opportunity for airlines to push the innovation envelope, boost passenger experience, and introduce employee empowerment.

Mobility in Airlines: Growing in Leaps and Bounds

Mobile technology is rapidly becoming integral to airline operations and the passenger experience. A 2015 study conducted by SITA, a global provider of aviation technologies and services, found that travel personalization has picked up momentum. This is driven by the rapid adoption of smartphones, which allow anytime, anywhere interaction with passengers. More than 75% of airlines will have major thrust on delivering passenger services through smartphones in the next three years. Such is the focus on mobile that in these three years, it is expected that 67% of airlines will offer a highly personalized smartphone booking experience to their customers.

Passengers are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to book tickets, reserve seats, and for web check-in. The SITA study forecasts that by 2018, 96% of airlines will provide flight status updates. Many customers are also using their mobile devices for self-service check-in, seating assignments and baggage tracking, and for real-time information on flight arrivals and departures and weather and traffic conditions. Airlines are also looking at mobile platforms to provide passenger merchandising of airline and ancillary airport services.

Airlines have long recognized the importance of the business traveler; in fact, business travel accounts for a majority of airline revenue. Therefore, key trends in enterprise are of great interest to airlines. A 2012 survey of ISG clients found that nearly 90% of companies surveyed have completed or are developing an enterprise mobile strategy. Large enterprises are recognizing the strategic importance of mobile technology, and are allowing employees to use mobile devices for both personal and professional use; many of these employees are frequent business travelers.

Some airlines have introduced or are preparing to introduce iPads for cabin crew to reduce complicated paper-based/manual operations in performing their day-to-day functions like meal distribution and passenger management. It is expected that almost 70% of airlines will provide tablets to cabin crew in the next three years.

Airlines and airports can use mobile channels to offer better service to passengers at various touch points along the journey, delivering real-time, relevant, and value-added information, offers, discounts, and personalized services that help build a trusted relationship. Another facility that travelers can expect in-flight is wireless Internet. The SITA study found that by 2018, nearly 70% of airlines will offer in-flight wireless Internet on passenger devices, compared to less than 30% today.

This whitepaper outlines how existing IT infrastructure as well as investment in new platforms is driving emerging mobile trends and enabling strategies to build business and drive customer satisfaction.

On the Move: Smartphones are Transforming Airline Travel

The airline industry has always been at the helm of adopting innovative technologies. The shift from paper-based ticketing to Internet-enabled bookings has allowed passengers to individually research, negotiate, and purchase tickets from different sources. This created a host of new and cheaper travel options and opened up the airline industry to a never-before, highly competitive environment.

With the rapid adoption of smartphones and mobility, and better access to information, airlines are investing in technologies to enhance the passenger experience and offer personalized services. The SITA study shows that almost 85% of airlines surveyed are increasing their investments in programs to improve personalization and customers’ airport and in-flight experience, over the next three years.

Airlines are building software tools to deliver individualized information to passengers on their smartphones. Emerging applications enable passengers to book tickets, obtain boarding passes, coupons for airport shops, and provide check-in and payments facilities on their smartphones and tablets. Through these services, airlines provide personalized communication and benefits to aid today’s 24x7 connected travelers.

The three top-priority IT investments for airlines are—to improve customer service, support revenue opportunities and reduce the cost of business operations. Airlines have also recognized the need for standardization of traffic documents, regulations, and procedures to support the growth of the industry. They face increasing pressure to invest in emerging technologies and to deliver efficient, cost-effective but differentiated services to customers. Mobile technology is clearly impacting every step of the travel process, providing a minefield of choices and potential risks and opportunities for airlines.

Making it Work: Developing Effective Mobile Enablement

Many airlines seek cost-effective mobile solutions to work in tandem with legacy IT infrastructure, without disrupting business operations. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) with Web-based services and business logic defined at the backend can help airlines leverage existing infrastructure for different channels, including mobile phones. In addition to optimizing infrastructure utilization, this approach can help airlines showcase a single view of services across channels.

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Figure 1: Mobile Airline Operations

Know Better, Act Faster

Mobile-enablement or smart mobility should focus on an airline’s operational and passenger travel landscape. Let us look at the functions that could potentially be mobile-enabled and result in quicker decisions, improved efficiencies, and enhanced passenger experience and employee loyalty.

In the age of passenger-centric anywhere, anytime access, mobile technology is moving towards Near Field Communication (NFC), augmented reality and smartphone sensors (Figure 2). With technologies like NFC, airlines can offer a seamless customer service experience for mobile check-in and boarding, selfbaggage tagging, ancillary revenue sales and movement tracking. Augmented reality improves passenger navigation, provides personalized service, and displays other passenger feedback. As self-service kiosk usage at airports declines in favor of mobile services, the smartphone has clearly shifted the focus from e-commerce to m-commerce.

The always-connected traveler receives information and promotions on smartphones based on his status, location, personal needs, and specific situation. Airlines have the opportunity to utilize personalized ancillary purchase experience and match customer preferences with customer profiles to increase up-sell opportunities. Benefits such as seat pitch, boarding priority, and club room access can target specific travelers with amenities, influence traveler loyalty, and help differentiate the airline from its competition.

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Figure 2: Mobile Trendsimg

Airlines use destination, number of travelers, trip duration, and travel time to deliver relevant content. Information about the traveler’s destination can be used to offer destination-specific content (such as destination deals and offers, weather forecast, places to visit). The trip duration can be used to offer additional content. Information about groups of travelers helps airlines offer discount packages and deals. Figure 3 shows an example of how mobile apps can deliver relevant personalized content to travelers.

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Figure 3: Mobile Apps Delivers Relevant Content

Airlines can use personalized content to increase revenue flow and the mobile platform as a channel for advertisers, which can in turn help airports sell retail space configurations in a matter of seconds. Airlines are using mobility to improve operations, reduce costs, and enhance employee management, a key long-term goal for any organization. Figure 4 depicts the airline industry in the next few years and ties future success to new mobility products and innovations that transform business models and operations

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Figure 4: Airline Industry in the Next Few Years

Airline operations that can benefit from smart mobility:

Flight Operations: A hybrid solution—interoperable across desktop and mobile devices—to manage flight operations provides a complete overview of the business in real-time. Mobile devices provide pilots with flexibility to manage a number of tasks such as charting maps, capturing logbook information and reviewing manuals. At the touch of a button, pilots can access flight charts, fleet manuals, crew bulletins, and training material.

Crew Management: Smartphones and tablets provide the cabin crew with systems that deliver ready access to insightful passenger information, including a specific passenger’s requirement and preference. By permitting multiple crew-centric functions, mobility streamlines in-flight operations, resulting in improved productivity, customer service and brand value, as well as increased revenue.

When a customer books a flight, airline staff can use itinerary information to provide people-specific content including destination details, number of travelers, trip duration, and travel time. The information is also passed on to the crew along with the passenger preferences, thereby improving overall employee productivity. Ground staff members can use this information to track and deliver baggage. Airlines can use personalized content to increase revenue flow in a number of ways. Examples of how mobile platforms can be used include:

  • Provide baggage information to ground staff members in case of baggage mishandling
  • Improve communication with staff members regarding information such as rosters, training material, internal communication, and meal preferences
  • Offer partner services such as hotel or car arrangements
  • As a monetized advertising channel; this will also help airports sell their retail space offerings
  • Promote last-minute sales windows, upgrades and other deals
  • As an extension of inflight entertainment, whereby passengers create their own personal entertainment system by paying to download videos, music, movies etc. at the airport

New Horizons: Changing the Flight Path

With the spotlight on mobility adoption, the airline industry is focused on developing context-aware applications to transform their business models, enhance their relevance to customers, and provide passengers with greater control over every aspect of their travel— anytime, anywhere, through any device. Let us take a look at how this shift towards mobility is impacting the industry:

Return on Investment

Mobile applications help increase self-service activity and improve loyalty, enhance customer experience, and promote the airline brand. By initiating more mobile check-ins and reducing kiosk deployment, airline staff can concentrate on differently-abled or less technology-savvy passengers. Mobility also helps reduce FAQs about gates, departure times, and airline policies since everything is readily available on the go. By investing in mobile apps, airlines can compete against travel agencies and help passengers through the entire travel lifecycle.

Airlines can generate new revenues by offering smart mobility-enabled personalized services such as sale of perishable products, empty seats or overhead space through real-time auctions.

Airlines can generate new revenues by offering smart mobility-enabled personalized services such as sale of perishable products, empty seats or overhead space through real-time auctions.


Mobile phones are transforming into mobile wallets at a rapid pace, with agreements between telecommunication companies, banks, and credit card companies. Mobile wallets offer a safer alternative to cash and can be used to pay for goods and services purchased at airports. For mobile payments to expand, airlines must ensure compliance with stringent industry security regulations that protect credit card and passenger information—from the device, right through to connectivity and applications.

User Experience Management

Airlines seek services to enhance the customer experience, improve revenue, and employee productivity.

Smartphones allow users to request and acquire useful information. For example, short messaging service (SMS) has been extensively adopted to disseminate updates on flight plans and irregular operations in emergency situations. Mobility has further enabled the airline industry by providing ways to inform passengers about public transport disruptions, assist in ordering taxis and booking parking lots, and suggest shopping choices based on customer purchase history and preferences.

Airlines are moving towards adopting a complete mobile check-in, using NFC to bypass human intervention and enhancing the boarding experience by saving time and shortening queues. Mobile technology’s footprint is growing rapidly in the travel space, with numerous apps available for users to book tickets, self-train and report, and perform a range of other functions.


Today’s tech-savvy employees and passengers are more comfortable with mobile technology advancements than airlines and airports. The rapid pace of technology evolution is matched by users eager to get the newest and latest technology. As tech-savvy users demand more and more, airlines need to constantly match technology and user needs to sustain a competitive advantage.

Technology Platform

Many airlines are looking to mobile-enable their services, and are taking their first steps towards implementing a mobile strategy. This involves choosing between a native, Web or hybrid development approach for mobile apps. This is a critical decision since most companies are increasingly allowing multiple mobile devices for both personal and professional use. ISG has found that nearly 80% of companies allow employees to use iOS and Blackberry devices; nearly 60% allow Android devices; and 55% allow Windows devices. Given the proliferation of mobile operating systems for corporate travelers, airlines cannot simply target one mobile OS—a multi-device strategy is critical.

Native Apps

Native apps are binary executable files explicitly downloaded and stored on the file system of the mobile. The most popular way to download a native app is by visiting an app store, such as Apple’s App Store or BlackBerry’s App World.

The airline industry needs to choose between the three mobile apps based on a number of parameters, such as budget, timeframe, internal resources, future of the market, required application functionality, and the growing needs of the customer. In choosing the platform to be used, many airlines face a tradeoff between user experience on one hand, and cost and time-to-market on the other.

Jet-streaming to Better Business

Mobile Web Apps

Mobile Web apps are developed using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The apps are rich, browser-based applications that are also available offline.

Jet-streaming to Better Business

Call in the Experts: Outsourcing Mobility Solution Management

An airline developing and implementing a mobile technology solution will likely require external resources and additional investment. This is one area where outsourcing can help. Outsourcing allows top management to address the core business and underlying value drivers, rather than focusing on technology and cost-cutting in the sourced areas. Not surprisingly, ISG research shows that airlines are heavy users of Application Development and Maintenance (ADM) outsourcing. The chart below shows that 90% of companies in the Airline and Air Courier vertical source some component of the ADM work, which is 29% more than the average of G2000 companies.

2011 Functional Area Under Contract-Airlines & Air Courier

Jet-streaming to Better Business

Airlines that source some or all of their ADM work should ensure that their partner understands these emerging mobile trends, and has the capability to rapidly adjust to customer expectations and emerging mobile platforms. Airlines that have not yet sourced should ensure that mobility is a key focus in ADM sourcing discussions. A service provider’s vision, capabilities, ability to execute and commitment to ongoing innovation should all be thoroughly vetted in any ADM sourcing decision.

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The Coforge Thought Board:

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Mobile’s Unstoppable March

Mobility is no longer an option. It is a critical business requirement to unlock productivity and achieve competitive advantage. However, organizations need to tread carefully and decide whether to expand existing resources or make capital investments and build new IT infrastructure. They need to balance the risks and rewards that co-exist with today’s business constraints and tomorrow’s demands for anywhere, anytime information access.

Organizations that delay embracing the inevitable proliferation of enterprise mobility may find themselves thwarted by inflexible legacy systems environments. To achieve the vision of a mobile future, airlines must invest in next-generation technology that automates manual tasks, shares information, and provides proactive communication to the passenger. This will transform the overall passenger experience and create dynamic improvements in operations.


ISG Research

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