The Asian carrier Malaysia Airlines is using functionality based on Apple's iPad and iPhone to boost self-service, as well as revenue.
Malaysia Airlines claimed a world first by repurposing its iPhone application for iPad tablets, supporting self-service stations at KL Sentral, Malaysia's largest transit hub.
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The airline will trial kiosks for a period of three months to allow passengers to book tickets, pay and check-in whenever they are in the building.
Five iPad-based stations, developed in partnership with airline IT supplier Sita, are currently being trialled.
However, the resilience of iPad devices for such services is a concern for other IT leaders in the airline sector.
"I am not sure iPads will withstand five-year-olds bashing them at an airport," Jay Fredericks, managing director IT infrastructure and operations at Delta Air Lines, told delegates in a separate session at the Sita air transport IT summit in Brussels today.
Sita's innovation arm also started a trial around its iPhone app and is using augmented reality to allow travellers to see deals from the airline when they point their handsets in the direction of a destination.
According to Stephane Cheikh, innovation manager at the Sita Lab, several other airlines have shown interest in adopting both technologies.
"[Clients] are very excited about these new tools. These are new channels for companies to promote their deals in a fun and different way," Cheikh added.
As an early-stage trial, the application has some drawbacks - it does not work very well for long-haul destinations where the angles would be too narrow and the distance too great, for example. It does not work very well with airlines with global coverage - such as British Airways - for the same reason.
Trends in airline IT spending unveiled
The airline industry was among the worst hit by the recession and IT budgets were slashed across the sector as a consequence. British Airways, for example, suffered a 30% budget cut last year and had to freeze a series of projects, including a roll-out of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform that, had it gone ahead, would have been one of the world's largest implementations of its kind.
A year later, IT supplier for the industry Sita has released a survey that suggests the sector may be over the worst. Despite a tiny increase of one per cent in technology spend in relation to last year, companies are more confident that spending levels will rise. Long-term strategic projects and those that increase customer satisfaction and retention, as well as improved partnerships with suppliers are more likely to be at the top of IT decision makers in airlines worldwide.
This report, carried out by Sita and Airline Business, shows the key trends for the future in airline It, as well as key developments in technology strategy that have taken place over the last year.