mobile technology

Airlines to become biggest investors in mobile services

Karl Flinders

By 2015, airlines will spend more than any other sector on technologies to help them engage digitally with mobile consumers, with annual spend reaching $37m, according to research.

The mobile consumer global trend study, carried out by ResearchNow and commissioned by Indian IT services firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), revealed that energy and telecommunications businesses were the other sectors investing heavily in winning business via mobile digital channels.

The spending will include investments in app development, customer service delivery through mobile devices, and mobile-friendly marketing campaigns. 

The New Digital Mobile Consumer report has shown that most industries simply cannot ignore the relevance of the digital mobile consumer,” said Satya Ramaswamy, vice-president and global head of mobility at TCS.

"The criticality of attuning products, content and services to a mobile consumption model is now business-critical. We perceive that the firms which best adapt to this increasingly prevalent and influential audience segment are likely to reap significant dividends."

According to the report in 2012, energy companies spent an average of $30.8m targeting mobile consumers, while the telecommunications industry was the second biggest spender at an average of $28.6m. Airlines were third, spending an average of $27.2m annually. By 2015, however, airlines are expected to become the biggest investors in digital mobile engagement.

High hopes for mobile technology

British Airways is an example of an airline investing in mobile technology to support and attract customers. BA travels 33 million miles around the world every year, and nine out of 10 flights carry more mobile devices than passengers.

BA made its first use of mobile technology in 2001, when it introduced mobile phone check-in. The arrival of smartphones has opened up new possibilities for the technology, Glenn Morgan, head of service transformation at British Airways, told IT leaders at a Computer Weekly’s 500 Club meeting last year.

The UK airline is also looking at ways to provide in-flight mobile services to passengers, said Morgan.

Under current rules, mobile devices have to be turned off below a height of 10,000ft, to minimise the risk of radio frequency emissions interfering with aircraft systems. But a major study is underway by the US Federal Aviation Administration, which could lead to wider use of mobile devices on passenger flights.

BA already provides mobile phone services on flights from London’s City Airport to New York.

United Airlines has fitted its first overseas aircraft with Wi-Fi, enabling long-haul travellers to stay connected in the air. It has kitted out a Boeing 747, which flies both transatlantic and transpacific routes, with Ku-band satellite technology provided by Panasonic Avionics.


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