Skift Take

We expect any sharing would be limited to alliances for now, and even that would be partial data exchange.

A topic of discussion at the SITA Air Transport Technology Summit in Brussels this week was whether air travelers now have too many airline and airport apps cluttering their smartphones and tablets.

Star Alliance CEO Mark Schwab suggested that passengers are best served through the consolidation and integration of individual airline apps under a single portfolio. The alliance already has a shared app which provides passengers basic information, such as the location of lounges and flight schedules for its alliance members, but through more integrated data exchange, a shared app could give passengers the same reservations, electronic boarding-passes, and other capabilities they rely on from individual airline apps.

Schwab told attendees that there are “too many individual airline apps for customer to deal with” all vying for passengers’ valuable screen space, but not effectively addressing passengers’ mobile travel needs in a flexible manner.

Instead, Schwab proposed, app hubs could make passengers’ digital connections to the various travel services one uses when flying simpler, in the same way that today’s airport hubs make physical connections easier.

The Star Alliance CEO acknowledged that the aviation industry can be fiercely protective of its passenger data assets, and that the full integration of passenger profile information required to reach the industry aim of a common digital interface would be complicated. But Schwab did promise “rapid deployment” of standardization for the group.

Other presenters at the SITA Summit shared the vision that full data and digital service integration could benefit air travelers. Further integration with airport apps might deliver greater value in the apps for flyers, presenters suggested. But concerns over logistical, competitive, and privacy issues, stemming from open passenger data sharing, limit progress on these proposals for now.

Both airlines and airports have introduced apps which work on a mix of platforms and devices, turning the design and introduction of the app into a marketing and branding asset–in the hopes that the apps usefulness might dive repeat customers. While app integration might ultimately prove useful to passengers, this differentiation benefit too could keep airlines and airports from agreeing to full integration.

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Tags: airlines, apps, star alliance

Photo credit: The current Star Alliance app on an Android device. Star Alliance

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