Smartphones are moving up the airline distribution chain

SITA’s annual survey of IT trends finds airlines have mobile on their minds

While airline websites will continue to dominate airlines’ direct sales beyond 2015, 70% of airlines responding to SITA’s Airline IT Trends Survey believe that smartphone sales won’t be far behind.

SITA chartNine out of 10 airlines said they plan to sell tickets via mobile phones by 2015.

The survey results, unveiled at the 2012 SITA Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels, also found a high level of interest in using the smartphone to sell ancillary services, with 83% of survey respondents planning some form of mobile ancillary sales by the end of 2015.

The nascent social media channel also will play a significant role in distribution, according to 13% of respondents.

Airlines also plan to step up their circumvention of the GDS channel: 64% of airline respondents said they plan to have direct connections with selected travel agencies by the end of 2015.

Kiosks will continue to play a significant role in the industry in the foreseeable future despite the explosive growth of mobile devices.

Three-fourths of airline respondents to the survey said they are increasing the number of check-in kiosks they deploy at airports. But only 39% of the carriers believe kiosks will remain a dominant channel in passenger processing in the future in light of the mobile channel’s growth.

The carriers are split on whether kiosks will be used for new functionality, such as flight transfers or reporting of lost baggage. Two-thirds believe the use of kiosks for printing bag tags will increase, but only 46% see an increased role for them in reporting lost luggage, and 37% believe the use of kiosks for flight transfers will increase.

The personalization of communications and service offers to customers are a major focus for the airlines, with 78% either engaged in the process or are planning to adopt such methods. Because personalization depends on the availability and analysis of data, about half of the airlines said they already share or are planning to share relevant data with third parties.

The social media phenomenon has yet to firm up its role as an airline channel.While 57% of airlines say it will play a more significant role in the communication and marketing of service offers, only 13% see a role for it in passenger processing and only 19% believe it will be a factor in travel searching.


Read about Sabre’s new defense in US Airways’ antitrust lawsuit in the Jan. 7 issue of TTU.

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