Research shows mobile phones have the potential to save the airline industry £300m a year in dealing with and reducing flight delays.
Research from airline IT provider SITA and Cambridge University shows that mobile phones could be transformed into indispensable air travel tools within five years.
If mobile phones were used as passenger tracking devices, they could save cash-strapped airlines up to £300m a year on reducing flight delays.
As personal travel folders, mobile phones have the potential to hold boarding passes, baggage tracking information and payment data, making travel truly paperless and location independent, says the research.
There is also the future possibility that they could be used to store visa and biometric information.
The report, distributed at this week's SITA Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels, shows that location-based technology in mobile phones could be used to track passengers, enabling them to be sent messages instructing them to move to changing gates more efficiently, improving turnaround times and reducing delays.
With mobile phones becoming increasingly sophisticated, airlines should get ready to take advantage. Jim Peters, chief technology officer at SITA, said, "These 'digital travellers' will have on-demand access to a range of mobile-enabled services, such as real time flight updates, self-service booking, check-in and boarding, and mobile payments.
"Some of these services are already available to passengers. For example, in Norway, Japan and Germany, paperless travel is a reality on some routes."
He said, "Our research shows that these mobile services will be available to all travellers worldwide over the next five years. In fact, by the end of 2010, 67% of airlines plan to offer mobile check-in. By then, 82% of airlines also plan to offer notification services on mobiles."
The report also demonstrates other areas where the air transport industry can gain from adopting these technologies.
Using mobiles as tracking devices, airports can not only move passengers more efficiently, but also market revenue-earning services.
During a recent trial at Manchester Airport, redemption of vouchers sent to passengers' mobile phones resulted in 45% higher spending than among other shoppers.