Eight ways smartphone native apps increase airline revenues and improve the traveler experience


With IATA forecasting USD 4.7 billion in net profits for airlines in 2023, things are looking up for the travel industry. And with the global online travel booking market expected to witness a 14.9% CAGR in the run-up to 2028, the challenge now shifts from staying alive to being competitive.

Nearly half of all digital travel sales happen via smartphones, and over a quarter of travelers use smartphone apps exclusively to make their bookings. With widespread and increasing smartphone usage, airlines simply can´t ignore the channel. Relying on mobile-supported websites and clunky app user experiences is no longer enough to be competitive.

Making the right investments in digital technologies helps maximize direct traveler engagement and bookings for airlines and reduce commercial dependency on intermediaries. Here´s how smartphone native apps help increase airline revenues and improve the traveler experience.

1. A unified customer experience

A big thumb´s down to having to manage your travel needs across different suppliers and tools. A unified app offers a one-stop solution for travelers to manage their end-to-end travel needs, from inspiration and search to taxi services, boarding, and servicing. Simplifying a seamless travel experience with the right self-service capabilities is critical to consolidating consumer loyalty.

2. Hyper personalization

Personalized engagement is a key pillar of modern, digital consumer experiences. Smartphone apps enable airlines to capture more data about customer preferences and shopping behavior and use it to deliver tailored experiences that drive more sales while ensuring regulatory compliance. Consumers have shown that they are willing to share personal data if they receive value in return. A unified app enables deep learning and personalization, which isn´t possible on traditional mobile-supported websites given the browsers´ restricted operating environment. Apps also provide more flexibility to design and tailor user experiences, leading to higher conversion rates than mobile-supported websites.

3. Real-time push notifications

One of the most useful features an app offers is the ability to communicate directly with travelers proactively and efficiently. Whether notifying a boarding gate change or pushing a promotion, in-app communications capabilities allow real-time information sharing and open new opportunities during prolonged layovers or flight delays. A key consideration is striking the right balance between useful information for travelers while on-trip and personal preferences regarding promotions.

4. Ancillary sales

A unified app with personalization and push notification capabilities enable airlines to maintain continuous communication and engagement with travelers through a dedicated channel, throughout the travel lifecycle. This allows airlines to offer different products and services before, during, and after travel, like upgrades, lounge access, or in-flight entertainment. A centralized engagement channel also opens new partnership opportunities, like destination services or the ability to redeem loyalty points and partner vouchers for in-app shopping.

5. Payment flexibility

With smartphone apps, airlines can offer numerous payment options to travelers. It could be via traditional payment gateway services, or they could build their own custom payment interfaces to allow a combination of payment options such as cards, loyalty points, and wallets. Apps give airlines more control over their payment infrastructure and inherent security.

6. Analytics and insights

Thanks to a dedicated smartphone app, airlines can collect information about travelers they don´t have access to in the intermediated sales channels. Airlines can leverage shopping and behavioral data with powerful analytical algorithms or AI to generate richer insights on their customers´ needs and preferences. This information can be used to nurture engagement, build loyalty, and drive personalized sales and value.

7. Offline connectivity

By downloading and storing important travel information and documents, like boarding passes, in an app, users can access these even when they don´t have mobile coverage. This is particularly useful in areas with poor internet connectivity that prevents mobile websites from loading on mobile devices.

8. Increased security

With more infrastructural control, apps enable enterprises to add custom security features and configurations for safer transactions. With the alarming rise of security threats in the digital landscape and their impact on brands and financials, security is one aspect that airlines can´t afford to ignore. Additionally, more control over systems infrastructure allows airlines to safeguard customer privacy, ensuring compliance and preventing regulatory penalties.

Towards a more customer-centric future

Within an increasingly demanding context for seamless shopping and traveler experiences, major breakthroughs in the technology space are helping airlines deliver new and innovative capabilities. AI, ML, AR/VR, and IoT are just some technologies whose adoption is fast accelerating and becoming mainstream.

Investing in smartphone-native apps allows airlines to revisit and establish a foundational infrastructure to help them integrate new technologies into their digital landscapes and offerings. Ultimately, adopting innovative capabilities helps airlines increase revenues and loyalty by delivering superior customer experiences.

Author info

Swamynathan Rajendran is a Senior Product Manager of Productized Services at IBS Software. 

His passion lies in driving transformative shifts within the travel industry, with a primary focus on harnessing cutting-edge technologies and AI to elevate operational efficiency and enhance the overall passenger experience. Swamynathan envisions a seamless future for air travel, fueled by customer-centric innovation and a dedication to providing an unparalleled journey for every traveler.


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