Skift Take

SITA's solution lets smaller airlines raise their mobile game. But truthfully, there are plenty of big airlines (hello, United) that need help with mobile, too.

Forget everything you know about airline apps. As of today, those inadequate interfaces and half-useful features are a thing of the past.

Today aviation technology provider SITA announced a white-label solution for airlines that need better mobile apps.

According to SITA, its iTravel “future-proofed” solution will allow airlines to customize a mobile platform, eliminating the “cost and complexity of software development.”

Consumers will be able to book tickets on airlines’ versions of the new iTravel app, using geo-location to search for flights. Maps are somehow involved, which may or may not be the most efficient way to perform a flight search.

As this is an airline-powered app, it also may not result in the lowest fare for the route, but users will be able to book on flights with that carrier and, presumably, any of their partners.

SITA tells us that there is “not a ‘disruption management’ function.” The bookings feature is not designed for making quick changes when flights are delayed or cancelled. However, they also tell us that “full booking services are available on the mobile devices giving the passenger access at any time, anywhere.” Depending on whether luggage is involved, and on the particular airline’s policy, this might save time on re-bookings.

We can expect features like electronic boarding passes, check-in information, flight status, and other airline updates, including information on loyalty programs. This app platform covers the process right through to the end, allowing users to track delayed luggage using SITA’s WorldTracer program.

SITA points out that iTravel provides “valuable business intelligence on the customer’s behavior.” Airlines have yet to figure out the best way to reap the benefits of all the data they gather, but, with the right help, they might start putting it to good use.

SITA will take over the pesky updates to these apps. It also will ensure that both Android and iOS are supported.

Says Allison O’Neill, SITA Vice President, Passenger Solutions:

“Passengers want to use their mobile devices throughout their journey and 76% carry a smartphone but usage rates for services, such as check-in and booking, remain below 5%. More than three quarters of passengers list usability concerns and limitations of the device as reasons for lack of usage.”

“At SITA we have addressed this by making iTravel as user friendly as possible. We have also made it easy for airlines to implement so that they can have mobile as a strong channel in their distribution mix.”

Overall, leaving tech to people who know tech and flying to people who know planes is a good idea. However, a number of airlines have made big investments in hiring smart people to lead their in-house tech teams, and some now have apps which provide comprehensive solutions. SITA admits that their target customers are airlines who do not have those capabilities and who would welcome a “bespoke” platform.

“It is essentially a framework,” SITA explains, “and the airline simply puts their own brand/”skin”/presentation layer onto it.”

There are already some airlines who have considered going this route to improve service to their passengers. SITA tells us that many airlines names cannot be disclosed, but that Air India, S7, Jeju, Malaysia Airlines, Meridiana, Menzies Aviation, and Air Arabia are among those airlines taking a closer look at iTravel.

When we asked, SITA assured us that push notifications are on their to-do list.

Marisa Garcia has worked in aviation since 1994, spending 16 years on the design and manufacturing of cabin interiors and cabin safety equipment. She shares insights gained from this experience on Flight Chic and Tweets as @designerjet.


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Tags: android, ios, mobile

Photo credit: SITA's white-label airline app wants to deliver smarter booking solutions to smaller airlines. SITA

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